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Gaps Between IT Gigs on Your Resume

How to Overcome Them and Land Your Next Contract or Job

One of the most common questions I get asked by contractors is how to explain gaps in employment?  My first response is to tell them to be honest with the information on their resume.  I often find both contract and permanent candidates tend to hide the fact they have had gaps in employment, thinking it is often better to gloss over the gaps with vague dates of employment.  In speaking with candidates, I tell them that one of the first red flags a recruiter sees in a resume is either a lack of dates tied to work, grouping of work under one title (ie Consulting) or a resume that is functional skilled base with no reference back to dates.

When a recruiter receives a resume, the first thing they do is look for a continuous stream of employment.  If there are gaps, and there is no explanation on the resume as to what occurred during that time period, it is left up to the recruiter to fill in the story — and this is not a good thing.  People often say they do not want to state what the reason is for the gap and rather explain the gaps in their employment history in an interview.  This strategy often does not work as gaps in a resume can prevent candidates from even making it through to the first interview.

The best way to handle gaps on one’s resume is to fill in the story and not to hide the facts.  Be upfront and honest about why there are gaps:

  1. Explain the reason for the gap. Don’t hide the reason why but own your story. In today’s workplace, clients understand more than ever that there are many reasons for non-continuous work.  From the economy, to personal growth to ailing parents — all of these factors impact ones’ work life.

  2. Keep the explanation brief.

  3. If you left a job voluntarily, don’t be afraid to explain why (i.e. pursue higher education, change of career, etc.)

  4. Match the story on one your resume with the one on social media. Any inconsistencies will lead to not being considered for opportunities.  Recruiters often compare information, especially employment dates, from a resume vs linkedin.

  5. Be accurate with the date between contracts/employment. Often, candidates find it tempting to add months onto the start of employment and to the termination of employment, trying to lessen the time off.  Many clients ask agencies for verification of employment dates.  If the dates confirmed do not match those on the resume or the social media profile, a candidate’s offer can be withdrawn.

  6. Emphasize the positives of a break in employment (i.e. new certifications, volunteer experience, etc…)

  7. If you were let go from a previous employment, be prepared to explain it during an interview and to be positive about the past situation. Being negative about a previous employer is often a turnoff to a potential new employer.

Honesty is always the best policy.