Elizabeth left her administrative assistant position to care for and remote school her three children. Seth’s role at a manufacturing company was eliminated when the company lost too much revenue. Ronnie was unable to remain at her workplace due to a pre-existing condition that required her to limit possible exposure.
In a job market that’s slowly recovering from the impact of COVID-19, employment gaps are not an unusual sight on a resumé. It’s doubtful a situation like this would be a red flag for the hiring department of an objective company.
Why Work History Gaps Matter to Employers
But that has not always been the case when considering resumé gaps, and here’s why. Employers and human resources managers review a lot of job applications and resumés every day. They’re adept at scanning for skills, experience and qualifications, as well as any potential trouble zones. An employment gap can be an indicator of a risky hire. Were you fired and now trying to hide it? Did you leave a job unexpectedly? Or even, were you in prison or legal trouble?
Employers simply can’t afford high employee turnover, which makes employee retention crucial. Companies do not want to spend time, energy and financial resources on a risky hire who might not stick around long enough to be worth it. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, replacing just one employee can cost one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.
This is why hiring departments serve as a filter. They identify employment gap causes and career patterns through resumés, job applications, and the interview process. If you have employment gaps to address during the hiring process, here are the key points to do it effectively.
Employment Gaps Don’t Need to be a Deal Breaker
Be honest and address the gap yourself before an employer even has the chance to inquire. Human resources managers can check into your story easily enough by calling an employer. So don’t try to cover up any problems by lying or changing dates. Use your cover letter as a tool to address any gaps right off the bat. Explain the cause of the gap and the positive ways you spent that time, but be brief.
Prepare yourself to discuss gaps during your job interview in a transparent and honest way. Also emphasize positive skills you gained over that period of time and productivity. Ensure that you’ve prepped your talking points. Did you volunteer, take online classes or spend time on unpaid projects for yourself or others?
Parents who were at home remote schooling their children during COVID-19 can highlight a brush up on their effective multitasking and organizational skills, learning new assistive technology, and employing time management strategies. Interviews are all about standing out and a winning response can make that happen. This Masiello interview tip guide can help you prepare responses for the most common interview questions.
In addition to COVID-19, some common employment gap reasons include being let go from a job unexpectedly, voluntary time off to travel or pursue a personal project, illness of your own or of a family member, the birth or adoption of a child, or educational pursuits. Many of these gap reasons are entirely common and justifiable, but if yours is not, be upfront.
Use Employment Gaps to Your Advantage
Ultimately, employment gaps may not be cause for stress or worry on the part of the applicant or the employer. A strong resumé and appropriate job skills for the position can overcome this challenge. An updated and well-formatted resumé vital in drawing attention to your positive attributes and solid employment history.
If you are currently unemployed and job-seeking due to COVID-19, how can you use this time to strengthen your resumé? Consider a volunteer opportunity, pursuing a valuable certification or freelance work, or attending an online class or workshop.
An employment gap, especially one due to COVID-19, may not decrease your likelihood of getting hired, but your ability to competently address it during the hiring process may. Taking the proper steps to cross that gap hurdle quickly will allow more time to focus on the reasons you’re the right person for the job.