Strategies for Handling a Client’s Employment Gaps

Handling a client’s employment gaps can be one of the trickiest scenarios for a professional resume writer. Yet in these troubled economic times, it is all too common to come across job-seekers who have spent some time out of the workforce.

At some point, you will most certainly be retained by a client who will need a very special resume to maximize his or her skills, abilities, and experience, while minimizing the negative perceptions a potential employer might have about the gaps between jobs.

Having a solid set of strategies for dealing with these complicated issues will greatly enhance your value to your clients.

First of all, remember that folks can have gaps in their employment for a myriad of reasons, some more innocent than others. Below are a few of the more common ones you are likely to come across:

  • A client who was laid off due to downsizing or a business going under. (This is the most common reason.)
  • A client who took time off to raise children or care for an ailing family member.
  • A change in spousal income that required a client to re-enter the workforce.
  • A retiree who decided to go back to work.
  • A client who experienced downtime when relocating – perhaps to follow a spouse after a career move.
  • A client who took time off to go back to school or pursue an entrepreneurial venture.

Regardless of the reason for the gap, your job is to give your client a strategy for explaining the downtime.

The biggest service you can provide to a client like this is to keep the resume, cover letter – and your client – from sounding “ashamed” of the gaps. There is nothing more devastating than a resume that spends more time apologizing for a perceived “problem” than highlighting the many positives.

One strategy is to demonstrate that the client continued to improve himself during that downtime period. For example, you might be able to show how he or she kept up with developments in that particular industry through formal or informal continuing education.

Many times, you can fill the chronological “experience” section with relevant activities that your client engaged in during the period away from work.

Another point to keep in mind is that valuable and relevant experience does not necessarily have to be “paid” experience. Make sure to ask your clients if they have done any significant or related work as volunteers in their communities. For example, one might have worked on a local political campaign as a volunteer … another might have been the secretary of her child’s PTA. There is much you can take from those experiences to fill a resume.

Also – you don’t have to highlight the fact that your client was out of work. You can make shorter periods of time off seem less relevant by listing the work history with years only, leaving out the months.

As with all resumes, the stronger your “highlights” and “objective” sections are (the top third of the first page), the easier it will be for your clients to downplay any blips in their chronological work history. Their experiences will speak for themselves.

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Published: May 5, 2006

3 Responses to “Strategies for Handling a Client’s Employment Gaps”

  1. A good way to fill in the gaps would be to include details of a small business or side business you performed associated with your profession to show your passion about your purpose. This is all great information. Thanks!

    Guest (Benjamin Amarada)

  2. What if he didn't do anything related to career? And if his expertise is getting obsolete?


  3. Great and very useful article, a topic of pivotal importance. Thank you.

    Alessandro Tinchini

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