Five Tips for Minimizing Employment Gaps on a Resume

Woman sitting at the edge of a large canyon, trying to determine how to minimize employment gaps on her resume

Maybe you’ve been out of the workforce caring full-time for kids or loved ones, or maybe you’ve experienced a recent lay-off. In many cases, knowing how to craft your resume to minimize employment gaps is key to landing your next job.

Re-vamping a resume can feel overwhelming during a stressful transition. You might be drawing a blank regarding which skills and accomplishments to highlight. Well, you’re not alone. According to Forbes magazine, 74% of professional women rejoin the workforce after taking time off.

As daunting as it can be to start the process of updating your resume during a career transition, this article will help you learn five key resume tips that break the process down into simple, easy steps:

Tip #1: Determine your career goal(s)

Are you looking for full-time, part-time, and/or contract work? If you aren’t sure, spend some time reflecting on which job situation will best meet your current needs. If you are a mom caring for young kids, for example, you might want to find a job that is family-friendly and flexible. Keep in mind, for each person flexibility means something different. For one person it might mean working primary from home. For another individual it could mean arriving early into the office and leaving early.

If you are thinking of making a transition into a different field but you’re not yet sure where you want to go, writing your resume will be challenging. You can conduct research on sites like FlexJobs, LinkedIn, Indeed, and Simply Hired, to find out which types of positions are available in your field of interest.

Pay attention to the qualifications. Do you need to attain additional training or certifications? What is the nature of the work? Is it appealing to you?

Tip #2: Target your resume to a specific position

Once you determine your career goal, I recommend tailoring your resume to every position you apply for. You might be thinking: why do I have to tailor a different resume to every job? What if I am applying for many jobs within the same industry?

Even if you are applying for similar jobs, every job has a very specific list of skills and qualifications. These include keywords, that you want to match with skills and qualifications from your own background.

Print out the job description and highlight all the keywords and qualifications the employer is seeking. Next, do a “background check” of all of your related skills, qualifications, and accomplishments and be sure to include these items throughout your resume.

Tip #3: Only include the most relevant information

I’ve been writing and editing resumes for nearly 20 years, and one of the most common questions I get asked is: how long should my resume be? My answer is always the same: let the job description be your guide. The employer tells you exactly which information they want to see on your resume in the job announcement. If a past position or skill set doesn’t relate to the job for which you are applying, leave it off.

The golden rule for experience on the resume tends to be that if a position dates back longer than ten years, remove it. However, let’s say you are applying for a position in the tourism/ hospitality field, and you have experience working at a hotel that dates back 12 years. Should you include it? Absolutely!

See related: How to Pick the Best Resume Template

Tip #4: Use a combination resume format

If you have an employment gap or you are planning to change career fields, using a chronological resume format, or a format that emphasizes your most recent work experience, will make your employment gap stick out like a sore thumb.

Alternatively, a combination resume format (also called a functional resume) places emphasis not on your work history, but instead on your relevant skills and qualifications.

If you decide to use a combination resume format, I suggest doing the following:

  • Emphasize transferable skills throughout your resume if you lack job-specific skills or related work experience. Transferable skills are skills that can be used in any industry like written and verbal communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.
  • I suggest including a category titled “Related Experience” or “Relevant Skills.” Here you can highlight your qualifications and skills that pertain directly to the job. This especially helps if your most recent work experience (either paid or unpaid) is not related to the position for which you are applying
  • Underneath this category you can create another category titled something like “Additional Work Experience” to list additional, less-relevant positions. Note, if space is an issue, I recommend not going into detail describing less-relevant positions. Instead, just list your title, company name, and dates of employment).
  • Highlight volunteer, freelance, part-time, and / or contract experience. Depending upon their relevance to your targeted industry or job, you can either list these experiences under a “Skills & Qualifications” section, or under “Work Experience.”
  • If you have an employment gap of a year or more (and you don’t have volunteer, contract, or part-time experience to list), I suggest addressing it head-on rather than trying to pretend it’s not there. For example, you can use a title like “Full-Time Stay at Home Mom,” “Full-Time Caregiver,” or “Full-Time MBA Student” and the corresponding dates. This way an employer or recruiter doesn’t have to guess what you were doing during the gap and there are no red flags raised.

Did you know The Career Counter offers affordable combination / functional resume templates?

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Tip #5: Craft a compelling cover letter

Try not to not just repeat information from your resume in your cover letter. Research the company and find out their mission, goals, projects, as well as current challenges. How does the company’s mission relate to your work philosophy or goals? What specifically can you do to assist the organization?

The cover letter is also a place where you can talk briefly about your employment gap. You can write something like:

“During my hiatus from the paid workforce, I honed my project management and communication skills through volunteering for organizations like the PTA and Girl Scouts of America.”

See related: The Four-Step Process to Addressing Gaps in Your Cover Letter

In Conclusion:

Regardless of how long you have been out of the paid workforce, highlight your relevant skills and qualifications on your resume. Make sure you also tailor your documents to each position you apply for.

By taking these critical steps, you minimize your employment gaps on your resume, communicate your most relevant attributes to an employer and set yourself apart from thousands of other job seekers.

  • Lee Cristina Beaser

    MS, CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer)

    Lee brings over two decades of expertise in guiding individuals towards career success. Having helped thousands of professionals in a wide variety of industries, she has a deep understanding of the intricacies of the job market. Lee founded The Career Counter, a platform dedicated to providing busy people, especially moms returning to the workforce, with tools and services tailored to their unique career goals.

    Our Founder has over 20 years of experience helping people like you

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