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What Do I do if I have Time Gaps on my Resume?

Q. I have been in my current position for the past year and a half and I want to look for a new job. I accepted this job when I finished business school, but this business unit was sold and my long term prospects have changed. While I was attending school, I held two positions over the last 8 month of 2011.This has created a lot of questions from both hiring managers and recruiters. What's the best way to address these short stints on a resume?

A. Most hiring mangers and recruiters don’t like unexplained time gaps on resumes or what they see as too many job changes for no logical reasons. Make sure your resume shows you at your best and highlights all of your positive work experience; minimize potential obstacles through the use of effective formatting and data that is most often not suggested in resume writing books.

Start your resume with a “Summary” section instead of an objective statement. Include a description of the experience you bring to the target roles you are looking for, followed by strong attributes you bring; ex. communication, leadership, presentation skills, etc. The next section should highlight your education as this is your most recent professional accomplishment.

Your current role should look great on your resume. You will have the start date (month and year) which hopefully is the same month, or month following your completion of business school. The date will end with (through present), which will show as moving toward two years; another good sign. On the line below the company name or at the end of the job description; explain, "ABC company sold business unit to XYZ company," with the date. Most hiring managers look at major corporate changes and understand that employees may want to make career shifts based on that change in the business. They understand it so it is not as “suspect” as other changes might appear.

Don’t say if you were attending school full or part time or why you held two positions over eight months. Often while people are attending school they do take jobs they are not as committed to as they would be in a full time professional situation. You may format your resume with a ”Professional Experience” section which would include the job you are in now, and list jobs you had while you were in school under ”Experience." Managers and recruiters have seen these kinds of job changes and are more accepting of these decisions prior to what they see as the beginning of your ”real career."

Resume formatting may help set the tone for managers to ask questions looking to confirm easily understood reasons for changing jobs. You have started the explanation in the resume and your answers need to continue the reasons in a clear manner that doesn’t reflect immaturity, or a bad attitude toward employers. If your job changes had less than “good” reasons, you may need to explain how much you have learned about committing to jobs, or what you have learned about how to ensure a job is the right one for you.

There may also be reasons to eliminate those short jobs from your resume, and only you can determine the risks you face. Employers and hiring managers don’t like gaps on resumes and they like surprises and missing information even less.

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