How to bridge the gap on your resume? Strategies from an Executive Recruiter
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In your professional career, sometimes a gap on your resume looks like inevitable, and it'll make it harder for you to land a job later. But, if you manage it strategically, not only you can bridge the gap on your resume, but you can also turn it into an opportunity for you to gain new skills and help you land a better job.
Keep reading to learn the strategies to do so from an engineer turned executive recruiter, founder of an international headhunting firm and other businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow us for free career advice on jobs at tech companies and beyond.
A gap on your resume may be inevitable
As a professional, you may leave a gap on your resume for various reasons. For example, if you're taking a break from your career to take care of your families or for other reasons, you'll leave a big gap on your resume. If you suddenly lose your job due to a layoff, or you quit your job without a new job offer, you may leave a gap on your resume, because the time to land a new job usually is much longer than you anticipated.
Even in this hot job market in 2022, the average time for a job seeker from job application to hiring is about five months. This means, you may be able to land a job fast if your experience and skills are in high demand, or it may take you a year or even longer to get hired again.
In general, a startup's recruiting process may be shorter, but now the high inflation and wage pressures are impacting the hiring. Big companies, such as Google and Apple, usually take months to complete the recruiting cycle from interview to hire an employee.
The recent trend among these big tech companies is not so good for job seekers. For example, at the end of April, 2022, Netflix laid off people they just hired months ago; at the beginning of May, 2022, the news broke out that Facebook’s parent company, Meta’s hiring freeze will last through the year and will affect almost every team of the company.
Why is a gap on your resume not good?
From my experience as an independent executive recruiter hiring for big tech companies and startups, a gap in your resume may raise a lot of questions that will negatively impact your job hunt. For example, the hiring manager may be wondering:
Did you get fired or laid off from your last job?
Why does nobody hire you?
What have you been doing during this time?
Are your expertises up to date?
The bigger the gap, the more challenging it is for you to land a new job. If you and other qualified candidates (who don’t have a gap in their resumes) are competing for the same job, most likely, the hiring manager would prefer to choose from those candidates. Because it’s human nature to choose the easier option and avoid extra time and effort needed to verify what is behind your gap, unless your qualifications look way much better than others.
In short, a gap in your resume will put you at a disadvantage in the job market and make it harder for you to get a job interview. Once you get through that obstacle, you’ll still have to prepare for a lot of probing questions about your gap.
But, if you manage it strategically, you don’t have to leave a gap on your resume at all. Keep reading to learn my strategies and how to use them.
Strategies to bridge the gap on your resume
The principle to bridge the gap on your resume is to show that you’re continually active in your field after you left your last job. There are many ways to achieve that. The following are my strategies for you:
Market yourself as a consultant or freelancer, depending on your profession.
Sign up for online classes to learn some essential skills for your next job.
If you’re a job seeker between jobs, unless you’re expecting a job offer soon, you should do it now to avoid the gap on your resume before it’s too late.
If you’re taking an extended time to take care of your family, for example, you have decided to be a stay-at-home mom or dad for a few years, a simple preparation now will make your job hunt much easier later when you’re coming back to the job market.
Now, let's talk about how to implement these strategies.
Change your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the best place to market yourself. After you left your last job, you need to make following specific changes to your LinkedIn profile:
Show people that you’re open to both permanent and contract jobs: Turn on “Open to Work” feature, add “Contract” job type along with your other job preferences if you haven’t done so, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a full-time or part-time job. There are many benefits of doing so, more on this later in this post. (Related post: Pros & cons of the #OpenToWork banner on LinkedIn and learn how to get benefits of both options).
Add a new position under “Experience” right after your last job as a self-employed consultant or a freelancer depending on your profession. There are some difference between "consultant" and "freelancer", but the definitions for these two terms are broad and overlapped.
In general, anyone can call themselves a consultant. For example, you may use a title such as “Software Engineering Consultant”, “Sales Solution Consultant”, “Customer Education Consultant”, “Executive Marketing Consultant” and so on.
Anyone can also be a self-employed freelancer. For example, “Freelance Programmer”, “Freelance Writer”, “Freelance Artist”, “Freelance Digital Marketer” and so on.
The best way to find out what title is better for you is to search for jobs in your fields to find the job titles or search for people on LinkedIn with similar skills as you to find out how they call themselves.
Under the title, briefly summarize your specialities and skills and let people know you’re open to both contract jobs and permanent positions.
Benefits of doing so
Claiming as a consultant or a freelancer is not just for show, you should act like one too and look for job opportunities as a consultant or a freelancer while you’re actively looking for a permanent full-time or part-time job.
There are many benefits of doing so:
Many employers offer contract to hire options that allow both parties to try out for about 3 to 6 months before committing to full-time employment. These can be jobs at any level, from entry level jobs to executive job positions.
Adding contract jobs to your job preferences will give you more leads and more opportunities to find a job that suits you well. In the meantime, you’ll expand your network and get to know more professionals in your fields, and learn a lot of industry and business insights from professionals who have been working as consultants for a long time.
If you have been thinking about starting a business for a while, this may become a great opportunity for you to test the waters a little bit. You’re between jobs anyway, so you don’t have much to lose. Take this as an opportunity to try a new adventure and to see whether you'll like being a true entrepreneur or not. You may be qualified for tax deductions for your business expenses, but it’s a very complicated topic, please consult a tax professional for your own situation.
What classes to take
It doesn’t matter if you’re actively looking for a new job or you’re spending your time taking care of your family, I highly recommend you to sign up for one online class at a time if you can fit it into your schedule.
Choose an online class that teaches the skills that are essential to the jobs you’re looking for. An online class that offers a certificate and trains you through a project will be a better choice. It will help you bridge the gap on your resume, and be the best proof that you’re actively learning and growing in your profession while taking your time to find the best fit job for you.
The more relevant the new skills are to the jobs you’re applying for, the more they will help you to get a job interview sooner. Read the related post to learn How to customize your resume for a job to stand out? from this Comprehensive tutorial & tips from an executive recruiter.
Planning well and marketing yourself strategically, you will turn a potential gap on your resume into a great opportunity to learn and grow further. Besides the benefits stated earlier, you’ll also enjoy the psychological benefits too: You’ll feel better about yourself, because even if you haven’t landed a job yet, you’re gaining new skills and exploring new possibilities; It will also make you look better to the recruiters and hiring managers, because it shows your initiatives and drives, and your confidence to be an independent contractor.
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