Resume Gaps: How To Minimize The Negative Impact

gaps on resumeBy Anthony Balderrama

When the recession began, the question that popped up repeatedly was, "Can I find a job in this economy?" Then, for those with a work history who were fortunate enough to be offered a position, the question often became, "Should I take a job even if it's a step down from my last?"

Both of these questions weighed heavily on workers. Not just because they were worried about making enough money to cover their bills -- though they surely were -- but also because these quandaries could potentially damage their long-term career goals. Job seekers want to make a strong first impression with employers, and a resume with an employment gap or a work history that shows a step back isn't going to do that. Or at least that's what most job seekers fear.

A new CareerBuilder survey found that 85 percent of employers consider themselves more understanding of gaps in your work history since the recession began. Also promising is that 94 percent of employers wouldn't think less of candidates who, during the recession, took lower positions than their previous ones.

Making The Best Of The Situation

No matter how positive your attitude, you know that being unemployed is frustrating. When you can't find the job you want, or any job at all, you feel discouraged. Employers know that. When you're writing a cover letter or going in for an interview, they don't expect you to pretend unemployment has been a walk in the park. But they don't want you to complain, either. As cliché as it sounds, this is when they want to see that you've made the most of a bad situation.

What Do Employers Want To See?

Surveyed employers cited the following activities as the best ways to expand and strengthen skill sets:

  • Take a temporary or contract position -- 79 percent
  • Take a class -- 61 percent
  • Volunteer -- 60 percent
  • Start your own business -- 28 percent
  • Start a professional blog -- 11 percent

The common thread among each of these suggestions is initiative from the job seeker. The economy might prevent you from having your ideal job, but you can still find a way to stay current with industry trends and keep your skills current.

Job seekers are often prepared for tricky interview questions, but one not-so-tricky one they sometimes forget to prepare for is, "What have you been doing since your last job?" Employers don't want to hear you say, "Nothing." Look at their list of recommendations and figure out what steps you can take so that your resume answers that question for them.

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Here is the hardest interview question ever...

Employer: Do you always let the Pope touch your children?
Applicant: No
Employer: So that means you only allow the Pope to touch your kids sometime?
Applicant: No
Employer: You you lied to me.

March 27 2012 at 3:45 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to FEMACAMPER83's comment

you are a ---hole. that is NO lie.

March 27 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There were times during my working years, when I'd moved from one job to another in another area, only to find the job had not been a sure thing. Then I took any job I could find as quickly as I could. I always aimed for the highest paying job available - I'm speaking of desk jobs, and my skills and experience were impressive. Then worked my way up. By far the best of my positions (25 years) carried the strongest of Unions, the BofRC, where employees are protected and treated fairly. If you can, and if Unions still have some power remaining, hunt for a Union job, first.

March 27 2012 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is who you know and who you blow. End of report.

March 27 2012 at 2:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

At the end of the day, it is as dependent on how OLD you are as anything else. Age discrimination is alive and well in the good ole USA

March 27 2012 at 6:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Elaine's comment

This is so,so very true.

March 27 2012 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ive done it from the ground up...from from sweeping floors to CEO..and when the company I worked for went belly up ..of course I looked for a job at my level of expertise...but in the meantime I flipped burgers for Burger King...I have a Family and they depend on If you don't like the fact that I am willing to do any task and work my a** off for your company..then I need to go find employment somewhere else where my diligence will be appreciated..thats my opinion..btw I no longer flip burgers..and am quite comfortable

March 27 2012 at 6:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is all well and good, if an employee is only employed in completely checkable jobs. What about independent contractors? None of this pertains to the casual, or referred jobs that are out there.

March 27 2012 at 3:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to xak999's comment

More often than not, they'll take your word for it. I'm working overseas right now. When I eventually return to the USA, I'll have 2-4 years of relevant experience with documentation. Do I actually expect a prospective employer to make international long distance calls? No. I've also done independent contract work in the USA. In that case, it can be as simple as having a client write up a letter of recommendation for you. It's tricky, but it can be done. I'm finding that in this economy, I actually prefer being an independent operator (both in the USA and Abroad). It's a lot of work keeping my books, but I make enough to get by and I don't have to deal with HR.

March 27 2012 at 5:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The whole hiring process is just dumb. This is why I am saving every penny I make to become self employed. I want to finally get rid of my resume and never look for a job for the rest of my life. Instead I will have others work for me and actually give people a chance in a interview to get the job not have 4 or 5 interviews and still not hire the person or try to screen a person over the phone. Employers have gotton lazy in picking the right person for the job then they try to make it seem like its your lack of skill or ability. This country used to hire people in one or just two interviews if you did not have everything they were looking for but you were motivated you still got the job and the chance to prove your selfworth. Companies invested in people instead of profits not its about just making money and you have to be a exact fit for the role if not you don't get the job. Where is no middle class in this counrty just the working poor.

March 27 2012 at 2:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bryan's comment

Hear hear! You and me both. I'm already sketching out some genuine plans on how to take what I am doing now overseas so that I can turn it into a self-employed situation when I get back to the States. The funny thing is, I know a lot of people in our boat right now. I wonder how many of us will become successful and start hiring people ourselves? Hopefully when we do, we remember how dehumanizing the application process has become and make real changes.

March 27 2012 at 5:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KaH Systems Inc.


I am glad you are saving your pennies, being self employed will take more time and energy than any job you have ever worked. I have been self employed for the last 20 years. There are no holidays, vacation time, or sick days. There is no more 9 - 5.

March 27 2012 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FCI Fincl Serv

The whole hiring process sucks. It is humiliating and potential employers act like they are nobility and you are trash. It is one of the reasons I am self employed! In the past when I was a single parent and was out of work, I was asked, "why would any man want custody of his child", "are you a homosexual, because areal man would let his wife have the kids", "this gap on your employment history, how long were you in jail?" and the list goes on. Only people like Mitt Romney have no gaps in their employment history!

March 27 2012 at 2:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It would be very disturbing to find out some employers would consider taking a 'lesser' job as a negative. My wife and I were both raised in the rural west, and our parents grew up during the Great Depression. We were taught that all work was honorable, and there was absolutely no reason to refuse any work when you need it. We have done well. Our kids are successful professionals, and they got there by living this same rule. Of course we are so provincial we consider our word as binding as any contract.

March 27 2012 at 1:41 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Looking for a job, especially in a long-term situation when you can't find one, is depressing and frustrating. It can also get expensive, printing out lots of resumes, driving to interviews, etc., so one of the best things is just to spend time on self-improvement or taking classes if you can. A lot of them are free or low-cost like books from the local library, anything to help you keep up or improve your skills you can offer to employers.

March 27 2012 at 1:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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