How to handle gaps in your resume

December 2, 2009 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

We’ve all been told about the importance of having an updated, attractively packaged resume yet one that is honest and accurate — journalists especially can’t get away with any deception in this employment calling card. But what do you do about any gaps in your resume, those caused by taking time off to raise kids, care for a sick parent, recuperate from an illness or maybe just take a months-long foreign trip you had long planned? Also, how do you  handle resume gaps caused by layoffs?

Experts say the guidelines are to edit your resume carefully, not to provide more information than is necessary (hiring managers can always ask questions in the interview) and when necessary, to explain the gap in a way that can help you sell your skills and possibly even impress a hiring manager. Some tips:

*Cover the gaps. Career coaches advise changing the format on your resume to minimize gaps — for instance, one no longer needs to put months, only years, as dates and they can be off to the side. You don’t need to include all of your experience on your resume — especially if you are a veteran of the field and have held many positions. If you held a job for a short period and then left it and have a gap, you might consider cutting that position. Include a career summary statement and career highlights atop your resume so you highlight skills and accomplishments rather than focusing only on which jobs you have held.

*Fill in the gaps with activities and accomplishments. This is especially true for gaps while you were job hunting after a layoff or buyout (and for the period while you’re job hunting — you will be asked what you have been doing professionally, trust me). If you handled free-lance or consulting work, mention that. If you volunteered — especially in some way connected to your field — include that. List these experiences as you would other jobs including job title, company name, job description and dates — all in “bulleted” format.

*Use your cover letter to help you. As noted in the Nov. 10 blog post (“Crafting cover letters”) this document should further explain information in your resume and market your skills and experience. In a cover letter you can explain a gap — for instance, saying that after the editing job at XYZ Corp. you spent the next six months caring for your parent before taking a job at BCD Inc. That might help explain leaving the one company, the gap and why you accepted the other job (especially if it was a lateral move). Hiring managers are human beings themselves, really, and may have had similar life experiences that help them appreciate your explanation in the cover letter.

*Be honest — never contain any inaccuracies in your resume or an accompanying explanation of this document. Employers increasingly verify all employment history — including dates — so if you try to get away with something they are likely to find out. Bring up the gap in the cover letter or an interview if you think it’s important to give the hiring manager an explanation. Be direct, unapologetic and explain the gap briefly and succinctly.

*Don’t mention certain things on your resume. References to your own illnesses, a layoff (even during a recession) or  a lengthy rehabilitation are potential scary items for employers and may cause them to chuck your otherwise stellar resume. Again, focus on other work — free-lance, consulting, volunteer — you may have been doing during this time.

*Prep your references. Often references will be asked about gaps in your experience and again, they can sometimes turn this into a positive for you rather than a black mark. Make sure when you discuss your experience with them and that they understand the reason for the gap or gaps, and prepare them to discuss why you did it and what you learned from any experiences during that time. The information coming from a reference can sometimes explain away the gap better than you could on your own.

*An educational event to mention that could help out those seeking to freelance, from Maya Payne Smart, a full-time professional free-lance journalist and a board member of the Society of American Business Writers and Editors (a good group to join for those looking to network with other business journalists!): offers a program of monthly teleclasses and webinars to help writers tackle the tough issues beyond creative ideas and good writing – how to find good clients, market your talents, pitch story ideas, negotiate contracts, manage your cash flow and more. On Thursday Dec. 10, Smart and Marcia Layton Turner of present “The 7 Secrets to Profitable Freelancing in a Recession,” a coaching session jammed with practical info, ready-to-use skills and reliable resources with one goal in mind – to empower freelance writers and help them make more money. Teleclass details are available at .

“Think of this as a business school for freelancers at a fraction of the price,” said Smart, who keeps class prices at an affordable $29.

*As always, a few job and internship leads….today’s leads are mostly Hill oriented and intended for journalists seeking to transition out of the field:

*The first is a spring internship in Rep. Nita Lowy’s office:

Spring internship opportunities are available in the office of Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY).  In addition to assisting front office staff with general administrative duties, interns will have the opportunity to work closely with legislative staff on researching new legislation, drafting constituent correspondence, as well as various other projects.  Applicants should have strong written and verbal communication skills, be detail oriented, organized, dependable, able to multi-task, and have a positive attitude.

New York ties are preferred but not required. If interested, send a resume, cover letter, and short writing sample to

*LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT – Progressive Midwest Democratic Senator on the Banking Committee seeks
highly motivated and energetic individual for Financial Services
Legislative Assistant position. Qualified candidates should be
committed to public service; knowledgeable in financial services,
budget, and tax issues; proactive, resourceful, well-organized; and
able to meet deadlines in a fast-paced, changing environment. Prior
Hill experience is strongly preferred. Please send resume and cover
letter to Senate placement office. Please e-mail resume and cover
letter to indicating job referral
number in the subject line.

Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee (Majority) seeks a
Press Secretary. Individual will work with Communications Director and
Deputy Communications Director to implement big-picture national media
strategy. Ideal candidate must have: established relationships with
print and broadcast national media, on-the-record experience, and a
familiarity with new media strategies; excellent writing, editing and
time management skills, and the ability to multi-task and collaborate
effectively in a fast-paced environment. Duties will include aiding in
proactive outreach to national media, drafting news releases,
statements, advisories, op-eds and implementing press strategies.
Please submit cover letter, resume and two writing samples to indicating job referral number in the
subject line.

Busy Senate Committee (Majority) is seeking an experienced individual
to serve as Professional Staff on transportation policy issues.
Candidates should be motivated, organized, detail oriented, and able
to critically analyze issues. Responsibilities include, but are not
limited to: researching and developing transportation-related policy;
drafting legislative language; moving legislation through the Senate
legislative process; preparing Members and staff for Committee and
Subcommittee hearings and executive sessions; meeting with and
developing relationships with relevant stakeholders, including the
Administration; and representing the Committee in public forums.
Candidates must have excellent written and oral communication skills.
Hill experience and/or J.D. strongly preferred, but not required.
Candidates should email their cover letters, resumes and brief writing
samples to

*The final opening, with a hat tip to, is for a communications specialist in D.C. for the National Cooperative Business Association:.

Company: National Cooperative Business Association
Seeking Communications Specialist
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: $40,000 to $45,000
Ad Expires:
January 5, 2010
Job ID: 1129452

Headquartered in Washington DC, the National Cooperative Business Association creates cooperative connections to develop, advance and promote cooperative business around the globe.

We are looking for a Communications Specialist to provide editorial support and written articles for inclusion in both our newspaper and on-line newsletter while also creating articles to go out to either mainstream or cooperative press. The position also manages relationships with all authors and acts as a point of contact for NCBA’s advertisers and sales support. The role also assists in the development of the editorial calendar and manages production schedule for all publications.

The Communications Specialist also creates and distributes press releases to promote NCBA activities, announcements and events while managing NCBA’s press database and press program. The Specialist role also acts as technical support for audio/visual and multimedia at designated NCBA conferences and events and is the designated back-up for the NCBA membership database.

As the only national membership association of its kind, NCBA represents cooperatives across all sectors of the economy, including agriculture, food distribution and retailing, childcare, credit unions, housing, healthcare, energy, purchasing, worker and telecommunications. In addition to providing strategic partnership opportunities among its membership base, NCBA creates cooperative connections by also leveraging connections on Capitol Hill to impact public policies that impact cooperatives, while also providing examples of cooperative business to educate consumers. In addition, NCBA International Program has helped develop cooperatives and other sustainable businesses in over 50 countries since 1953

Requirements **Bachelor of Arts in Journalism or professional equivalent experience **Excellent written and oral communications skills. Project and detail-oriented, capable of coordinating a number of activities simultaneously, and capable of managing projects with general supervision. **Knowledge of or experience with cooperatives is preferred. **Proficient in basic HTML and in database administration **Proficient in listserv’s, LYRIS or any type of email list management system. **Proficient in word processing and other computer programs. Microsoft Office Suite **Proficient in desktop publishing software, such as PageMaker, Photo-Shop, and Adobe Acrobat Suite and “Dream Weaver.” **Excellent interpersonal skills **Demonstrated attention to detail; ability to follow procedures, meet deadlines and work independently and cooperatively with team members as required **Excellent proofreading and editing skills **Willing to respond to the demands of a fast-paced office environment

We have a comprehensive benefits package.

Send resumes in WORD or PDF to for consideration or forward your resume, cover letter and salary history, in confidence to: NCBA – Attn: Human Resources, 1401 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005, FAX: (202) 628-6726.

Happy hunting!



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