If you’ve changed jobs frequently or have sizable gaps between jobs, you’ll probably be a little concerned on how this could impede your prospects when applying for a position. These fears are certainly valid.
Hiring is an expensive and time-consuming process. Employers are keen on getting it right from the get-go. As recruiting managers go through numerous resumes, they will be looking for any reason to trim the stack.
Job-hopping is often viewed as a sign of incompetence, irresponsibility, dishonesty, unreliability, instability or indecision, all attributes that employers frown upon. Gaps on the other hand allude to the candidate’s lack of ambition, dearth of competitive skills and overall unemployability.
Yet, these negative tags might be an unfair representation of your value as a potential employee. You have no means of making your case unless you develop a resume that gives you a shot at securing an interview. Here are some tips on creating a resume that addresses gaps and job-hopping.
1. Shorten Your Resume
Brief resumes are always a great idea. Recruiting managers hardly have time to scroll through a 10-page resume. But also the longer your resume, the greater the risk that you’ll bring up things that will be perceived negatively. A short resume is also useful for blunting the impact of job-hopping and employment gaps.
The resume should make a good first impression by focusing on your values and accomplishments, as opposed to where and when they materialized. Have a one- or two-page resume that dwells on your abilities, skills and the specific projects that are most pertinent to the position you’re applying for. Demonstrate your tangible contributions in the places you worked irrespective of the time you spent there.
2. Group Project and Contract Work Together
If the gaps and short tenure was because of contract work or a project-based role you took up, you should group all these under a single heading such as ‘Project Work’ or ‘Contract Work’. List the contract work you did for large time blocks such as January – December 2017, January – December 2018, etc.
Grouping projects under one section creates the illusion of continuous employment.
3. Tone Down Dates
Emphasizing dates might be the convention when writing a resume. Don’t do it. Instead, de-emphasize dates. Avoid having them in bold, in separate columns or as headings. Whether you use online resume makers like Resumebuild or create the resume manually, adopt a different format that treads lightly when it comes to dates.
If you must have dates, tuck them at the end of job description. Better yet, use years only as opposed to days, months and years. This might seem misleading but as long as you are consistently using years throughout the resume, it’s something you can defend if it comes up during an interview. The goal after all is to secure a chance to present your position and explain the gaps or job changes. Explicitly indicating gaps and short tenure only diminishes your chances of an interview.
4. Explain It
If the short tenure was as a result of high-level decisions such as a merger, product discontinuation, business bankruptcy or global reorganization, it would help to mention the trigger event next to the job mention in your resume. This gives the hiring manager reassurance that you weren’t job-hopping.
That said, explaining will only be helpful if you only do it once on your resume. If you seem to always be on the wrong end of downsizing and reorganization processes where you work, then you’ll be considered someone who didn’t add unique value to past employers.
5. Show What You Did During Gaps
Large gaps are difficult to hide from your resume without being blatantly dishonest. Yet, just because you were not employed doesn’t mean you were on the couch watching movies all day for an entire year.
Perhaps you were volunteering, traveling, working from home, studying or raising kids. Highlight the skills you acquired and experiences you gained during this time and how these will be useful for the position you are applying for.
6. Omit It
You don’t have to list every single job on your resume. For example, internships are only relevant if you are in the early phase of your career. Feel free to leave out short term jobs that wouldn’t provide any leverage for the position you are applying for. A job that lasted just 2 months will perhaps not provide any positive impact. You cannot, however, omit a role you worked for one year or more unless you have another way of filling this gap in your work experience.
It’s possible that during a reference or background check, a recruiter may discover you left out a role you held. If that happens, you must be prepared to explain during the interview why you thought it wasn’t relevant.
Your resume should dissuade the hiring manager from thinking you are a high risk candidate. Play up your accomplishments while downplaying gaps and job-hopping. If you can show you are a hardworking and talented candidate, you can make your work history a non-issue.