Gaps in Job History

I recently shared with the Elpha community that I actually transitioned into tech twice. TLDR? Basically, I started in retail, went into tech, went back into retail and left the industry again for tech.

Could you imagine me attempting to explain to an interviewer what all had transpired in my career journey? I felt like a mess - an insensible mess. You can only imagine how tough the search was to just get my foot in the door somewhere.

To recruiters, I looked unstable. I had one guy tell me that it’ll be difficult to get a job without tenure somewhere.

And that hurt.

However, I was able to find solace in a woman headhunter (go figure). She understood the simple fact that I was still trying to find myself. Unlike many others I had spoken to, she was the first person to ‘get it’ and not verbally punish me for that.

Long story short, she helped me get my first role back into tech - a contract position conducting QA for a new website that was launching soon for a law office.

As I recognize that not everyone out there in a recruiting role will have this sort of empathy for job hunters, I figured that the best thing that I could do for you all is to provide guidance on how to get by in your job hunt with a crazy resume.

Only List Relevant Prior Roles

There’s nothing saying that you have to list every job you’ve ever had under the sun. Focus on the positions that align well with the job description. Will it create gaps in your resume? Sure! So how do you speak to those gaps? Well, you could inform the recruiter/interviewer that you only listed relevant roles OR you could explain that the time between roles was spent for self-learning to improve your skill set.

I was in grad school throughout most of my early professional career. Whenever I placed intentional gaps in my resume, I always followed up to state that I was in grad school - which was true! There was no need to go into details about how I was on a never ending quest to find my chosen career field.

Keep Your Responses Short and to the Point

Initially, whenever I was asked about my transition from tech > fashion > tech, my responses were long. I tried to add in so many details to justify why I had changed my mind so much. Then one day, I read somewhere online that it was best to just keep my response short and to the point.

I gave that a try and followed up with something along the lines of:

At the time, I felt that I wanted to work in fashion again. However, I had a change of heart and felt that my skill set was better suited for working in tech.

The recruiter accepted the response, insisted that she understood what I was going through and moved on with the conversation. I was shook! So, I tried it again when I had an interview for a position with another company. I figured that since it worked once, why wouldn’t it work again?

Lo and behold…it worked! The interviewer (who later became my manager - because duh, I got the job!) insisted that when she was younger, she went through something similar. And then…we moved on to a new topic!

There’s no need to go into the fine details and tell a story. Just keep your response short and to the point.

Explain Your Journey in a Cover Letter

Your cover letter is your opportunity to say more than what’s presented in your resume. Since you have a bit more real estate to talk about yourself, use your cover letter to show your progression from one industry to another. And if you have transferable skills/experience (which you probably do!) then speak to that as well!

Be Honest

The absolute worst thing that you could do when it comes to explaining your job history is to lie. Once you start a lie, you have to keep up the lie. Not to mention, some companies perform rather extensive employment background checks. If a potential employer pulls a report of your job history, they’ll be able to see where you’ve been employed (thanks to your SSN!) and the current status. Not to mention, your prospective new employer may call your prior employers to verify employment. Got fired and chose to say that you left on your own accord? Think again!

Having gaps in your resume (or just a crazy resume) can be a nuisance - but not a road block to job searching! Spend some time reflecting on the skills that you’ve learned and used across all of your roles. Speak to those experiences in such a way that shows that it all ties in to the bigger picture.

CareerApril Speight