This is a post written by guest blogger Rachel McDonald - a professional and experienced writer with deep interest in issues about career, education and travel. She shares her knowledge by writing articles for a variety of leading blogs.
Whether it's due to a competitive job market, prolonged illness, or the decision to stay at home and raise children, many job seekers find themselves jumping back into the workforce with an employment gap to contend with. Gaps in a candidate's work history may be a red flag for employers, but there are many ways to deal with this issue for job seekers and recruiters alike.
Tips for Job Seekers
The average unemployed American job hunts for 34 weeks before finding a new position, while over one third of job seekers in the UK are unemployed for over 12 months. As the weeks turn into months, it can render that carefully crafted resume obsolete. If it has been several months since your last job ended, it's important to address this or your resume will get overlooked by employers. You can reduce the attention paid to your employment gap by keeping these tips in mind.
- Address the issue head-on. You should already be writing individualized cover letters for each employer, which gives you the chance to include a brief explanation of your employment gap. Keep it brief and to the point.
- If you get to the interview stage, this also provides you with the opportunity to explain your gap in employment. Recruiters can be more understanding if you take ownership of this gap and can provide proof that your skills have not been rendered obsolete during this time.
- Provide additional focus on skills and training on your resume if your experience is lacking. Although the job search itself may feel like a full-time job, spend some time volunteering or taking a professional course to keep your skills sharp. This shows employers that you're willing to take initiative.
- If you've taken on temp jobs to make ends meet while looking for a full-time position, include this on your resume as well. A retail job may not fit neatly into your work history, but it shows that you were still a part of the work force during this gap.
Above all, honesty is the best policy when explaining a gap in employment.
Tips for Recruiters
Recruiters are often told to look at gaps in employment as an automatic red flag. When presented with a functional resume or one that only provides dates of employment in years, it's natural to view the candidate with some degree of scepticism. Long or frequent gaps may render a candidate unsuitable for the position, but if the gap is explained in the cover letter or resume it can be well worth asking for more information. If a candidate seems like a good fit aside from the employment gap, try using these tips.
- Conduct a telephone interview first. Ask for an explanation for the employment gap straight away before investing more time in an onsite interview.
- Evaluate whether or not the candidate has used their gap time in a constructive manner. Did they spend it volunteering or taking a course to upgrade their skill set?
- Be on the lookout for additional red flags. You may be willing to overlook a four-month gap in employment, but if the resume is riddled with spelling errors and there's no cover letter, it's probably not worth time to follow up.
Gaps in employment are inevitable in a fluctuating economic climate. Recruiters may approach employment gaps with some degree of understanding, provided that all other conditions of eligibility are met. It's up to the job seeker to prove this, making a well-written cover letter more important than ever.