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Fixing a Hole: Addressing Gaps in Employment

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There are a host of reasons why you may have experienced a gap in employment. They include being laid off and spending time looking between positions, taking time off to raise a child, enrolling in classes, or recovering from an accident or prolonged illness. Although you have a chance to explain the time off in an interview, addressing the gap on a resume requires tactical and practical thinking. Here are tried and true methods for handling employment gaps on resumes and during face to face interviews.

Try a Functional Resume
The reverse chronological resume is the most common format, but when you have significant chunks of time unemployed consider using a functional resume. The functional format allows you to highlight a wide spectrum of skills, specific talents, and work experiences. It should still be tailored to the specific position and includes a brief Summary of Qualifications, along with sections devoted to Areas of Strength, Professional Experience, and Additional Experience.

Address it in Your Cover Letter
Because a cover letter is the first impression you give your prospective employer, many choose not to mention gaps in employment that may jeopardize moving forward. However, if handled correctly, your cover letter is an ideal spot to address an absence in employment. Because it is succinct by nature, you can briefly touch on the subject then segue into writing about your skills that are relevant to the specific position. Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is to present your intentions, qualifications and availability. Mentioning an employment gap is acceptable, but don't dwell on it.

Make the Personal Professional
When you were between jobs there's a chance that you kept busy by volunteering or you improved your personal skills in an area. Translate your personal self-improvement into professional improvement. Did you spend time traveling and learn a new language, work on your negotiating skills or take a class? Odds are you can take your experience and make it relevant to the position you seek.

Be Direct in Interviews
Again, the rule here is to briefly address the topic if it is raised and then to move on. It's a good idea to rehearse how you will answer so that you don't appear evasive or uncertain of your working status at a specific time. Be direct by saying "Due to downsizing, I've been out of (your industry) for the past nine months. But I've taken advantage of the time to become active in professional organizations (name specific ones) and to continue my education (name specific school and classes)." This way, you are turning a possible negative into a positive and showing your prospective employer that you have kept busy and productive.

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