HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

How to Handle Unemployment Periods on Your Résumé

One of the most difficult tasks for a job applicant coming off a period of unemployment is to explain that gap in dates on their résumé. This was a common challenge for many jobseekers following the Great Recession.


Source: Oliver Le Moal / iStock / Getty

Even now, with the economy humming, some applicants—for one reason or another—have a period of unemployment that sticks out like a sore thumb to a recruiter reviewing the dates of past positions.

Don’t Fudge the Numbers!

It could be tempting for an employee with a 6-month résumé gap between his or her last two jobs to fudge the numbers a bit—add an extra couple of months to the end of job one and a couple to the beginning of job two. But this is a dangerous move and a bad decision.
In a previous post, we talked about survey results showing how nearly half of respondents said finding a lie on a résumé would cause them to discount an applicant outright, and nearly all of the other half said they would at least reconsider that applicant. Filling the gaps between jobs by artificially inflating length of service is a no-no that is to be avoided.
That survey is backed up by advice from Taylor Cotterall, executive vice president and executive recruiter at NaviTrust, a provider of full-service staffing solutions.

A Positive Approach

What can applicants do to minimize the glaring reality of gaps in employment in ways that reflect on their past experiences favorably? While acknowledging that an employment gap could automatically disqualify a candidate in the eyes of some recruiters, Cotterall stresses that it’s better to face—and share—the facts, than to get caught in a lie.
“The good news is that no matter how long you’ve been unemployed, you can still use your résumé to showcase your great qualities in a way that hiring managers will appreciate,” he says.

Finding a Better Focus

Cotterall recommends focusing on the following strong points to help offset the impression an employment gap can give:

  • Your skills and qualifications
  • Strong references and reference letters
  • Your achievements
  • Your relevant work experience
  • The employer’s pain points and how you can solve them

A gap in your résumé might seem like the kind of shortcoming you’d do almost anything to get rid of. But that anything shouldn’t include fudging the numbers or lying about your work experience.
There’s a very good chance the recruiter will find you out, and there are plenty of ways to get the job with your integrity intact.