How Do I Handle Unemployment on a Resume?

by on August 16, 2010

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Are you sitting at the computer ready to create the stellar resume, yet scratching your head figuring out what to do with burdensome employment gaps? Life is stressful enough without worrying about how to explain that time of unemployment to the interviewer.  The current economy doesn’t help matters, either.

A few missing weeks, months or even years in the job chronology can be enough to keep some up at night. The reasons for employment gaps vary. Valid reasons like death, illness, children and newborns, travel, layoffs, personal care or education can be factors. Incarceration and other more severe problems can be more challenging to explain. And let’s be honest, some choose to remain jobless.  As comic Leslie Nielsen observed “Doing nothing is very hard to do…you never know when you’re finished.”  But more than worrying about the gaps, I would recommend coming up with a strategic plan to make yourself a marketable candidate and reduce concern from potential employers.

Whatever the case may be, you’re in your present predicament and it doesn’t need to stop you. Yes, employment gaps can stand out to job recruiters, but don’t let that be an excuse for failure. It’s better to be honest with yourself and accept this reality, even if it means not getting the job. Never resort to lying, that doesn’t help you or show respect to the person taking the time to interview you. Take courage and do the best you can.

First, decide what type of resume you want to use. The most traditional is the Chronological Resume. This format may not be appropriate for those who have severe employment gaps or completely changing careers. You want to minimize any potential red flags recruiters notice due to employment gaps. Although you don’t want to be dishonest about your unemployment, you want to avoid emphasis as well. You can demonstrate the ways you will benefit the company using a Functional Resume. The Functional resume will give more emphasis to your skills, strengths, education (if applicable) and some major accomplishments. Understand that some recruiters are biased against the functional resume and will pass your resume by, but you could have other opportunities.

Use the time of unemployment to your advantage, rather than a handicap. Think of skills you developed or activities you participated in during unemployment that could strengthen your chances of getting a job. If you stayed home to have a baby and raise children, you could emphasize the responsibilities of supervising young children. If you were forced into retirement through layoffs you can demonstrate your ability of self initiative and need for little supervision by stating that you immediately went to work looking for a new job and the resources and tools you used to do so. If incarceration was the culprit (no pun intended), this will be more challenging, but show the recruiters in a sincere way the steps you’ve taken to learn from the error. If you haven’t been involved in anything during your unemployment, change that now!

I wouldn’t bother adding short periods of unemployment. Most of the time employers don’t look down if the time has been brief or a while ago. You may be required to answer for longer periods. You may even want to address the issue in the form of a cover letter. Just include essential details; You can discuss further if brought up in the interview.

Remember the importance of self confidence when dealing with this. You don’t need to be proud of unemployment, but don’t let it be the thing that holds you back from getting a job if you can help it.  Show that you have confidence in your abilities, that you are the right person for the job. Whether your unemployment was a choice or a mistake, show sincerity and ability in your possible future role!

Take the personal initiative to show your skills and talents in your resume, be prepared to explain employment gaps and don’t be deceitful with the information you put on your resume. Happy hunting!

References:

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Roberto Garcia Espinosa Sr May 30, 2011 at 9:48 am

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Sincerely,
Roberto Garcia Espinosa
Texas Certified Teacher

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Jon Wittwer May 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

Thanks, Roberto – very glad you like them. I used Excel to track grades when I taught my first class, but it wasn’t until my sister started teaching and needed a grading system that I created the Gradebook templates. [About Me]

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dhwani August 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

the resume formats n samples are gud

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pre employment testing September 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Great guides you have here. Definitely very useful for job seekers.

But I reckon that even if you use functional resume, I’m pretty sure employers would end up asking you on your employment gaps too. Just my personal thought though (if I were an employer).

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