Five Ways to Explain your Employment Gap on your Resume

by Beth Yarzab – CareerFit Mom

There are lots of circumstances where women are out of work for a period of time. My resume clients include moms who’ve been at home raising kids, women who relocated to support their partner’s career to a city where they weren’t legally able to work, and people who’ve been downsized or had their companies fold.

Employment gaps happen and you can recover from them. The first step is being confident in your skills, experience, and all that you have to offer a new company. You can portray that confidence in your resume by being transparent about why you were away from work.

Here are five ways I’ve used with clients who are returning to the workforce. Each one is suited to different job functions, sectors, and company cultures. Try one that feels comfortable to you for your own situation,but don’t be afraid to try something else if you’re not getting the results you want.

  1. Lay out the Gap in your Summary:

Nail your reader with a compelling opening paragraph (3-5 sentences) that brings together your professional background, your values, and your strengths. Write it for the job you want next, not the job you had. You can find keywords and context by reviewing job postings for your future career. The last line in the Summary can align your time away from the workforce with what you intend to do next. For example,

“After working contract and as a volunteer while raising a young family, is motivated to rejoin the workforce in a program coordination or project management capacity.”

“Now ready to re-enter the workforce after staying home to raise children, is keen to utilize project-based experience and technical design knowledge within the interior decorating industry.”

“Ready to re-enter the workforce after raising a family.  Will bring the strategic thinking and knowledge required to create branding programs that build trust and emotional connection with target markets.”

 

  1. Functional Resume:

Focus on your skills instead of your career history. In a functional resume, you bucket your competencies and place related accomplishments underneath. The chronological section (position titles and dates) appears after this section and is brief.

I’ve heard many times that recruiters don’t like functional resumes. As a recruiter myself, I scan to the companies and dates on your resume so I can quickly evaluate your related experience to the position I’m trying to fill. A functional resume is an option to “hide” your employment gap but when you use it, the viewer may think you have something to hide!

 

  1. Hybrid Chronological Functional Resume:

This is one of my favourite resume formats. You highlight your related accomplishments to the position you’re going after within the chronological flow of your resume. Using formatting to make the skill set pop off the page, such as bold text or shading, will draw the employer’s eye to what you really want them to know about you: your skills, not the dates that you held positions.

Here’s an example from one of my clients who wanted to get into a sales/marketing role with a medium sized organization. She was coming from a small shop where she did everything so we carefully chose competencies to highlight the skills she would use in a more clearly defined role.

Company

SENIOR DIRECTOR, SALES MANAGEMENT, OPERATIONS & PRODUCTION (2014-PRESENT)

Business Development:

– Accomplishment 1

– Accomplishment 2

Marketing:

– Accomplishment 1

– Accomplishment 2

 Project Management:

– Accomplishment 1

– Accomplishment 2

Leadership:

– Accomplishment 1

– Accomplishment 2

This client successfully transitioned into a more progressive role where she’s using these skills in a larger company.

 

  1. Capture your Stay-At-Home time as a Position:

Your experience at home is so valuable – why not create a position on your resume to highlight the skills and experiences you’ve had as a stay-at-home mom? One of my clients was home with her kids for over 10 years and chose to put her most recent position as something similar to this:

The Yarzab / Brown Household (as the company)

House and Family Manager, aka “CEO” (for the position title)

Know your audience. If you think the industry you’re moving into would appreciate you explaining your experience this way, then go for it. Some more buttoned down organizations might think this method is flakey. But maybe you don’t want to work for them!

Resumes don’t always have to be serious. In fact, one of the hiring managers I was working with on a recent recruiting assignment interviewed a candidate for a Enterprise Sales Director role because he respected the way the candidate poked fun at herself on her resume.

 

  1. Visually Summarize your Resume Content:

A one-pager, written in the first person, and with visual features can draw attention away from your employment gap. The one-page graphic resume went viral when Marissa Mayer, former president and CEO of Yahoo!, published her take on resume innovation. You may need a more sophisticated program than Word to create a colourful resume with charts and graphs or consider hiring a graphic designer to make your resume content stand out visually. I’ve used Canva for some clients who need a one-pager for more creative positions such as interior design and animation. It’s easy to use and has low-cost templates.

 

“Content that is Key for Your Return-To-Work Resume”

Lay out the professional development and volunteer work you’ve done during your time away from the workforce. If you don’t have anything you think is meaningful to add to your resume, take action. Enrol in a course or get involved in volunteering so at least there’s something you can include that’s recent. The bonus is, you’ll begin expanding yourself and networking now.

You don’t legally have to disclose that you’re a mom or any other personal information on your resume. However, the recruiter and hiring manager are wondering why you have some unaccounted years. If you tell them straight out on your resume, you stop them from wondering and start them focussing on why you’re the right candidate.

Be selective in your job search so you end up in working for a company that respects your stay-at-home decision or circumstance and values how you grew as a person during your time away from the workforce.

 

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Beth Yarzab is a Career and Fitness Coach for moms, at any age or stage.

With a background in Executive Recruitment and Human Resources, Beth reinvented her own career after having twins in 2006. Facilitating a community of women in pursuit of personal growth and professional achievement, Beth works with both individuals and groups of other mothers in career transition. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email beth@careerfitmom.ca to book a complimentary consultation.