How to Get a Job after an Employment Gap
Applying for jobs is like exercising for many of us — it’s painful at first, but we know it’s necessary so we grin and bear it. Dealing with the added weight of a recent gap in employment makes it feel even more taxing too. How can you find a great job after spending a year or more outside of the workforce?
There are several ways to improve your chances of landing work after an employment gap. By employing the use of some expert resume writing tips and interview tactics, you’ll be able to downplay your period of unemployment, and even make it work in your favor.
Resume writing tips
Hiring managers can literally go through stacks of resumes looking for a candidate worthy of interviewing. Competition in the 21st-century job market is fierce, and it all begins during the resume screening process.
Some companies will see your work history absence as a red flag, but if you manage to mask or de-emphasize these areas, you will get more interviews. Here are some ways to do so:
1. Use a “functional” format for your resume.
A functional resume helps divert attention away from employment gaps and keys the reader in on your most marketable abilities. By placing work experience at the bottom and highlighting your achievements and skills at the top, you can redirect the hiring manager’s focus toward what makes you a viable candidate for their company. This will boost your chances of getting to the interview stage, where you can address work experience questions directly.
2. Try a resume profile.
This type of introduction (also known as a “professional profile”) is the most efficient way to convey your experience, skills, and achievements to a hiring manager. On average, a hiring manager spends six seconds looking at an applicant’s resume, so this is a good way to quickly show your value. Plus, you don’t need to include specific dates, so it can help mask any employment gaps.
Here’s an example resume profile written by a security guard:
A resume profile is a four to six-bullet statement that lists your relevant:
- Area of expertise
- Greatest achievements
A resume profile has the additional utility of being great for a LinkedIn account. Just copy and paste it into your LinkedIn summary section, and it will be much easier for recruiters to efficiently navigate your profile. The more channels you open to find work, the merrier!
3. Ask for (and use) a reference letter.
An endorsement from an ex-employer can go a long way in the hiring process. If an old boss ends up sending you one, thank them profusely and use the most relevant quote somewhere in your resume. Strong words of support like this can snag the attention of a hiring manager, and distract them from thinking too much about your employment gap.
If you decide to go down this path, make sure you include a reference list. This should include contact information, titles, and all other necessary details about your references, and must be placed on a separate document. A great ex-boss is your strongest ally in your quest for work – reach out to one and see if they can help you make it happen.
Getting to the interview is half the battle, now it’s time to finish strong. Here are three ways to make sure you nail your interview and prove that you’re ready to get back to work.
1. Leverage your passion.
Don’t lie to the hiring manager, but if you’re excited about the work, say so! Be specific and let them know why you’re pumped to join their team. It could be that you dig the office atmosphere, you enjoy the company’s products, or you love what they’re doing to help the local community.
Doing this will show you’ve done some research, plus your enthusiasm will be noted! Employers don’t want to waste resources on a candidate who has one foot out the door. Show your genuine enthusiasm by coming prepared, asking the right questions, and explaining why this opportunity is an exciting one for you. The hiring manager will soon forget about your employment gap, and embrace your potential instead.
2. Respond to employment gap questions in a positive way.
Regardless of what happened that led to your current predicament, make sure you keep things positive. Hiring managers do not want to hear you criticize your former employer. This is an immediate red flag that could spell doom for your chances of getting the job.
If you got laid off, mention how it opened the opportunity to find even more stimulating, challenging employment. If you were taking care of a sick family member, raising children, or even on a year-long trek across South America, that’s fine too! Tell the truth, but quickly shift gears to explain how you’re ready to direct total attention and energy toward your new career.
3. Prove you were productive during the gap.
If possible, this is the best way to address the time you were unemployed. If you went back to school for an MBA, spent your free time learning relevant skills for your prospective industry, or received any professional certifications, emphasize this during the interview.
Tip: During the job hunt, try honing your cloud computing skills. People comfortable using this type of technology are increasingly valued in today’s job market, plus it will help prove that while you were unemployed you made the most out of your time.
Don’t let a stretch of unemployment scare you from applying for a job! If you follow our strategies and go into an interview with positivity, you’ll be back in the workforce and receiving a steady paycheck soon.
If you have any additional suggestions for job hunters, or have questions about the application process, please write a comment below! Happy job hunting!
Lauren McAdams is a hiring manager, career consultant, and lead writer at ResumeCompanion.com. She’s been quoted by sites like Forbes, Fox Business, and TechRepublic, and her resume templates and career advice on Resume Companion have helped hundreds of applicants find their dream jobs. When she’s not busy enriching the lives of job seekers, she’s either sipping on coffee or a glass of wine – depending on the time of day of course.