How to explain tricky resume gaps

by K B , updated on October 5, 2010

This guest post is brought to you by: Jorgen Sundberg aka The Undercover Recruiter

Sometimes a resume will look like the person has had more jobs than hot meals. This is a sure fire way to make any potential employer run for the hills. Big gaping gaps on a resume will bring attention to you for all the wrong reasons. Job hopping indicates a lack of stability in your career. The worry is that you get fired too often, you easily get bored or you just can’t seem to pick the right job for you. You can be regarded as you being a quitter and not committing to any career.

As hiring and firing is both time consuming and expensive, the last thing anybody wants is to have to redo it all in 3 months time. Employers are snowed under with applications nowadays and looking for reasons to rule people out, just to get through their stack of resumes for the day. This is why you need to work on your job hopping profile and try to turn the attention away from your gaps and on to you as a person.

Turning these resume gaps into a positive is a hotly debated subject in the resume writing world. The good news is that more and more people will have gaps in their profiles as we’ve been in the midst of a recession and many of us have had our positions made redundant, at least once.

Here are some hot tips on how you can put a positive spin on your job hopping resume:

1. Turn attention away from your employment dates

Avoid putting employment dates in prominent places on your resume, making them bold, including them in the headings or any other way that will bring the reader’s eye to it. Try putting the dates at the end of the description of the job. You can also skip months and simply put years on there. Some recruiters and HR people will insist on the exact dates, some won’t. You can always try using years only at first.

2. Put all short term assignments together in one group

Lump any short term, interim, contract, freelance work together in one. You can use a collective header such as “Consulting Work” in which you list all your short term assignments until today. The aim of your resume is to demonstrate your skills and experience for a particular company and job. It’s not a document listing all tiny events of your life.

3. Omit anything irrelevant on your resume

Omit any jobs that aren’t relevant to this job search and the company you are applying for. There is no rule saying you have to include all jobs you ever did on your resume. You decide what goes on there, it’s not an autobiography.

4. Be open about why you left your previous employment

Be prepared for questions about why your previous employments ended. One acceptable reason for job hopping could be that you were exploring different jobs to see what you were meant to do. Based on that experience, you now know that the job you’re applying for is perfect. In case you left a job due to legitimate reasons such as cut backs, mergers or outsourcing, make certain you say this in the resume already. Being made redundant is something out of your control and happens all too often in this economy.

5. Use online networking and personal branding

Having a strong personal brand and using this to network across the many online platforms that are available out there will also help to bring the focus on you as a person instead of your resume document. If you make a good first impression while networking, chances are the company will scrutinize your resume less and you will get a personal interview. Update your online profiles on LinkedIn and other social media, some employers will even spend more time checking you out online than reading your resume.

6. Write a great cover letter

Make sure you write a fantastic cover letter that will stand out (to outweigh the resume). The cover letter must indicate your knowledge of the company you are applying for as well as how you are going to add value to your prospective new company.

Bottom line

Your aim here is really to bring the focus away from you being a risk to hire. By demonstrating your achievements and experience as opposed to what is missing, you could get away with your job hopping history and land a new job.

What are your best tips for job hoppers?

Jorgen Sundberg is a Personal Branding Consultant based in London. He helps sales people, entrepreneurs, business owners and executives to create, build and promote magnetic brands to attract more business online.  After 7 years of marketing people in recruitment, he  started Personal Branding UK and he blogs at The Undercover Recruiter and JorgenSundberg.net. You can connect with him on Twitter @jorgensundberg.

K B

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

InterviewIQ October 23, 2010 at 2:25 am

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tekiebelu October 24, 2010 at 7:15 am

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tekiebelu November 3, 2010 at 2:24 am

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InterviewIQ November 3, 2010 at 1:55 am

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StacyZapar November 8, 2010 at 2:52 am

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murray_tracy November 8, 2010 at 2:58 am

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InterviewIQ November 8, 2010 at 1:25 am

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jcascone November 19, 2010 at 3:22 am

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InterviewIQ November 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

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adilsyed December 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

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InterviewIQ December 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

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tekiebelu December 20, 2010 at 4:21 am

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Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) April 24, 2013 at 6:31 pm

How to explain tricky resume gaps http://t.co/TS2ERR5NdJ #resume

Kristy Hesse (@kristylbh) April 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm

“@InterviewIQ: How to explain tricky resume gaps http://t.co/sbXOK4BHb2 #resume” Be honest. Tricks tend to cause further distrust.

Kate Elizabeth (@katelohutko) April 24, 2013 at 6:54 pm

How to handle resume gaps. http://t.co/Pka86XMW2q

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