Given the dot-com meltdown, frequent corporate downsizing, family situations, and the never-ending parade of mergers and acquisitions, more leadership professionals than ever are presenting a gap in between jobs to their next employer.
If this situation applies to you, you’re in good company! I would estimate that nearly a third of my clients have experienced a period of unemployment at one time or another.
Your best bet in this case is to meet the challenge head-on by preparing to address the gaps directly. This will make it much easier to market your skills for an executive or management role.
I have compiled three highly effective tips you can use when presenting an interruption in your work history to a potential employer:
1) Remember that hiring authorities see gaps all the time… but they will also expect to see career progression, PLUS an explanation. This is a critical point! In order to deflect questions about short-term gaps, ensure that your résumé shows some strong areas of growth throughout your professional history. This can make the gap seem more like a blip in your career.
Also, be prepared to explain the gap itself by pointing to an activity that filled it, such as volunteer work, caring for an ill family member, or launching a business, in order to explain time in between jobs.
2) If possible, give a name to the gap itself. Give readers of your résumé an idea of what you did to fill your time by using a between-jobs “title” such as Consulting, Sabbatical, Leave of Absence, or Family Management.
But what if the gap was short enough that you were merely searching for work? You can just leave it “as is,” while still preparing your explanation. This leads to the next tip, which is…
3) Don’t point out a gap that you can’t name. Essentially, your best strategy when dealing with any potentially negative information is this: focus more on the RESULTS you can bring to your next employer than anything else.
In other words, if you don’t have a plausible explanation for being out of work, then simply move on to communicating your unique value—and save your explanation for an interview.
I have actually included a step-by-step plan in both of my books, including 21 Insider Resume Secrets to a $100K+ Job, that deals with this exact situation.
My personal philosophy is that everyone has something POSITIVE to offer their next employer. The more focus you put on your strongest contributions for a six-figure position, the less you—and hiring managers—will need to emphasize any shortcomings in your career history.