Resumes & Cover Letters

6 Ways to Handle Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Written by Peter Jones

Have you had to bounce around a bit? Worried your recent job history will appear a bit erratic to potential employers? Though job hopping is becoming less and less stigmatized, and more and more employers and recruiters will be sensitive to the particular challenges of the marketplace and the current economy, there are still some situations wherein it’s best to downplay all your job activity.

Here are 6 ways to minimize the damage of having employment gaps on your resume

1. Summarize

If you don’t already have a summary paragraph at the top of your resume, now’s the time to add one. Use it to define yourself, and then to guide the recruiter through the bullet points and information she’s about to take in. Use it to show how best to interpret your multiple recent job changes, and what narrative to take away from that. If you give a recruiter a greater narrative, that should stick with them. And, if you’re worried that recruiters might think you’d be a flight risk? Emphasize in your summary that you are looking for a long-term position, or to be somewhere for the long haul. Get out in front of the story, as they say in the media.

2. Focus

On three or four of your recent jobs and flesh them out in more detail than you normally would. Then make a more summarized section on previous employment, including multiple jobs within those dates, to minimize the feeling of having hopped around from job to job during that time.

3. Find coherence

If you can find a through-line to connect all of your hopping, then you’re golden. Perhaps these were all positions within the same field, or in hopes of rocketing up the ladder, or learning new skills. Or if you’ve hopped from industry to industry, emphasize instead the work you do, and how you’ve been trying to hone in on the perfect niche for it. Make your job hopping an asset by making it tell a story.

4. Be honest

If you were laid off as the result of a merger or acquisition, or you were a contract worker, then some of your hopping was not at all your fault. It is totally okay to explain this on your resume. A quick parenthetical (formerly X Company) next to the company name will be a good start. Your summary paragraph will also help here.

5. Fudge the months

If you can get away with taking out the months in your dates, and just leaving the years, then you can give the illusion of having worked at a place longer than you did. Using years only helps you to smooth over short-term gigs. You can also put the dates to the right of the job headings, rather than the left, to deemphasize them.

6. Try a hybrid

If all else fails, the hybrid resume might be for you. This is a new way of thinking about the resume, emphasizing your skills first, and your bulleted, chronological history second. Choose four to five responsibilities or skills or job facets that you’ve excelled in, across all of your jobs, and sell yourself as a primo candidate. By the time the hiring manager gets to the second page with your list of actual job experience, she’ll already be convinced you can do the job.

About the author

Peter Jones