Being out of work is difficult, and sending out resume filled with employment gaps can present a huge hurdle to ending that unemployment.
However, human resources professionals say having employment gaps on your resume doesn't necessarily mean your resume will be passed over.
"It does not automatically send up a major red flag, especially these days," said Tonya Fight, human resources specialist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital. "Unfortunately, over the last few years, the economy has taken a toll. There are many more people recently who have been laid off or downsized because of the economy, so gaps are increasingly more common."
Explaining those gaps to a potential employer is still often necessary, however.
“I would say there are no hard and fast rules for this issue,” Joe Frank, communications director with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. “If you do have an employment gap, especially of 6 months or more, you need to be prepared to address concerns and answer questions in a positive way.”
Here are some expert tips on how to best weather the storm and come out on the other end employed.
Be prepared to explain
For Fight, it’s less about the length of the gap than the reason for it. That’s why she recommends being prepared to explain anything more than a small period of unemployment.
“If there is a gap of more than a few months, there really needs to be some reason or explanation that is communicated to the recruiter,” she said.
Applicants should attempt to account in their resume any significant gap, she said.
“I concentrate on resumes much more than cover letters, so gaps need to be filled in the resume,” Fight said. “I want to see what you were doing while you were out of work. It helps judge circumstances, interests, motivation, etc.”
Whether someone was laid off, returned to school or took off work to raise a family, be honest with employers, said Sharese Dudley, director of career services at Indiana University Northwest.
“Due to current employment circumstances, employers have been understanding with regard to gaps of employment due to the extended length of time that it may take to secure employment opportunities,” she said.
One very important rule to remember is always act and speak positively during an interview, Frank said.
“If you can explain your situation in an upbeat manner and have something to show for your time away from employment, such as volunteer work, education or training, they will be pleased and understand you didn’t just sit on the couch and surf the Internet all day while you were unemployed,” Frank said.
This also shows initiative – another positive quality in an applicant, he said.
Anything applicants can do to show how they are using their time to improve themselves, their skills and experience is a good thing, Fight said.
“I like to see continuing education and volunteering filling gaps,” she said. “Community service and service organization involvement are very good things to note when accounting for unemployed time.”
Internships and job shadowing are other ways to help fill those resume holes.
“These activities will also help with building skills and experience, and can be added to their resume,” Dudley said.
Take advantage of classes
With several locations in Northwest Indiana, WorkOne offers free training and education programs to help residents work toward a new job or career.
“We also offer volunteering opportunities to help your community during your time of unemployment,” Frank said.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development oversees all WorkOne locations. More information and a list of WorkOne locations can be found at workoneworks.com .