Most of us have done things we’d rather a future employer didn’t know about. It may be that we made stupid mistakes when we were young. Perhaps we got in with a bad crowd during our impressionable years. Either way, these aren’t exactly things we’re in any rush to put on our resume.
You may be surprised to find out that most successful people had a circuitous journey to get where they are today. I’m still a doctoral student, but knowing that I’m interested in an industry position after graduating I regularly conduct informational interviews with people who do what I want to do. Not only do I learn about the day-to-day of their job and the culture of their company, but I learn about how they got there. And like myself, their journeys are almost never a straight path down the middle.
Sometimes a curly-cue career path means you’ve done things that aren’t always relevant to your dream job. Leaving out those experiences may leave your resume looking patchy. So what do you do? Do you include them, or leave it blank and cross your fingers you can talk it out in the interview?
If you choose to leave a position off of your resume, be prepared with a positive, straight-forward answer for the interview (phone or in-person). If you took time off to travel, go back to school, health reasons, or family commitments, come up with a strong statement that you’re comfortable with. Luckily there are great resources online to help you explain your resume gaps the right way.
The number one rule when it comes to resume gaps is not to brush them under the rug. Make a decision to address them up front in your cover letter, or be prepared to answer questions about gaps in an interview. You can’t go wrong either way as long as you’re prepared.
In most cases, it’s possible to turn setbacks into positives. Of course, this scenario is a classic interview question.
But it may be that your resume gap represents a tough time – but one that you overcame and has influenced how you have succeeded to find yourself in that interview chair. For example, if you took time off for an alcohol detox program think about the positive impact that decision to take control of your situation has had on you.
How did you harness personal strength to see the program through? Skip the details, and finish letting your potential employer know that you’re ready to dedicate yourself to your career again.
room to grow
Did you know that a job description is a perfunctory list of things an employee in that position would be expected to complete but the job specification after the job description is the employer’s “wish list” for an ideal candidate? We often read the job specification portion as a continuation of expectations, and if we don’t meet every check box we don’t apply.
Apply anyway, and you’ll learn a key aspect of job searching: technical skills can be taught, but interpersonal and intrapersonal skills cannot. That means your ability to work with a team, to lead professionally, to perform under pressure are more valuable to a potential employer than your technical skills.
You can spin your resume gaps positively in this way – show how you’ve grown, made tough decisions, taken responsibility and how that will translate into a flexible employee who can rise to expectations.
share your personality
Nothing can improve your employability better than the chance to bring your personality into the mix.
Remember that employers sometimes have to interview over 50 candidates in short succession.
Personality is usually the thing which makes people stick out and make it to the next round. The trick is to keep it professional – showing your personality by pretending you’re meeting an old friend over coffee isn’t the way to go.
By crafting your responses to difficult questions beforehand, framing them in a positive way with strong wording, will demonstrate confidence and positivity that will sit well with the interview committee.
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