Ways to Address Employment Gaps in Your Resume


A report by ExecuNet, Overcoming Today’s Toughest Résumé Challenges, by Marji McClure, discusses the challenge executives face in determining what they should do if their job history includes several short-term positions. They want to display their vast experience without recruiters or hiring managers questioning their commitment. The best way to do that is to highlight the longer-term positions, while not diminishing the value that short-term positions also bring to an individual’s career. ExecuNetRezRpt.jpg Paula Weiner, president of New York-based executive search firm Weiner & Associates Inc., says that when she examines a résumé that includes many short-term positions, she first looks for stability at some point during a candidate’s career. “Then I look at reasons for the short stints,” such as a company being sold or a candidate was working on a consulting assignment that was meant to be short-term.” She notes that some short-term assignments might represent new employers, but not new bosses as some candidates follow bosses from one company to another. “So you might not have consistency of company, but who you worked with,” adds Weiner. It’s equally important for executives to communicate how short-term stints were valuable components in their overall careers. “In those circumstances [of short-term employment], you want to see that somebody learned something, applied it and did better next time,” she says. The amount of space reserved on a résumé should be in line with how long an executive held each feature role, suggests Weiner. Short-term positions should be included in a small section on a résumé, while longer-term roles should command a more prominent position on the page. If a candidate has a history of many short term roles within the same field or industry, Jan Melnik, president of career management and résumé writing firm Absolute Advantage, combines them into an “Interim Management Experience” section within the résumé. She says they can be connected through language, such as: “Selected for series of high-profile interim management positions with such firms as XXX wherein key objectives were exceeded, new distribution channels were identified.” Barrett-Poindexter says that if a short stint isn’t relevant to an executive’s target goals and won’t leave a gap on the résumé, it’s acceptable not to include it. She adds that candidates don’t necessarily have to provide a reason for short-term employment on their résumés either. “But if listing the reason quickly and succinctly will defer the reader’s concerns about the short term of the employment, then list it (for example, if the company folded and ‘everyone’ was laid off, then list it),” notes Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, owner of Missouri-based Career Trend. However, ExecuNet résumé writer Michelle Dumas, owner of Distinctive Documents, says she never recommends that clients provide such an explanation on the résumé. “The résumé should always focus on the positive,” she says. “The purpose of the résumé is to get you called in for an interview. If asked, you could then provide the explanation in person during the interview.” “If your résumé is well designed, the emphasis should always be on the value and results you produced while in that position,” says Dumas. “If you present these in a strong enough way, the length of time you held a position will make little to no difference.” Melnik says that she has noticed a trend in executives over 50 taking leaves of absence to care for an aging parent or seriously ill spouse, sabbaticals that can typically range in time from a few months to a few years. She notes that some clients who took such leaves in 2006 and 2007 are having some difficult re-entering today’s job market. Melnik suggests executives mention this type of gap on their résumé, but “without melodrama.” She provides this example of how to address it: “Took sabbatical to care for out-of-state parent in end-stages of a serious illness and to provide advocacy and management of healthcare, living and financial planning services on a full-time basis. Having attended to all final matters, I am fully ready to return 100 percent to career.”

You can download ExecuNet’s free publication, Overcoming Today’s Toughest Résumé Challenges, here.