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Getting laid off or fired can be hard enough. Figuring out how to explain the gap on your résumé so that you can get a new job may be even more stressful.
Although the gap may raise some questions, fight the urge to explain why you were laid off or fired on your résumé.
"Don't use the résumé to explain job gaps," Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, tells Business Insider. " That’s precious real estate that should be used to highlight your strongest accomplishments and show what you can do for your next employer."
McDonald says jobseekers should be prepared to eventually explain terminations, but plan to do so in the cover letter and job interview where you will have a better chance of explaining yourself. As for your résumé, there are a few tips those with job gaps should consider to up their chances of getting the interview.
Eliminate the months.
If you don't want to call attention to your employment gap, use only years instead of months when detailing dates of employment at specific companies, advises Amanda Augustine, career expert at TheLadders.
This will make it more difficult for hiring managers to detect gaps in your work history. If you decide to use this format, make sure to keep it consistent throughout your resume, meaning you also wouldn't list months for the previous positions you held.
However, if the potential employer requires that you fill out an online application that asks for complete start and end dates, you should never lie about them, says McDonald.
Highlight your accomplishments.
If the gap does end up catching the hiring manager's attention, you need to counteract their worries by focusing on your contributions and accomplishments at the company, says Augustine.
"Think about how you’ve increased efficiencies, cut costs, grown revenue, and so forth," she advises. "Discuss the number of projects you’ve worked on, the size of the team you worked with, and if you were able to meet or beat deadlines and come in on or under budget."
Use your resume to show how you streamlined processes, saved the company money, or grew revenue, says McDonald.
Include your experiences during the work gap.
"If you have a gap on your resume between full-time jobs, but have taken on consulting projects or temporary assignments, list them on your résumé," advises McDonald. "Do the same for any coursework you’ve completed. Show potential employers that you’ve used your time to build your knowledge and keep your skills and network active."
Augustine tells us that you should also include volunteer experiences, especially if you're volunteering your professional expertise to a nonprofit organization.
"Write it as you would any other position in your résumé by describing your role and achievements, highlighting the skills that are most relevant to your current career goals," she says. "This will help you fill the employment gap on your résumé and prove to prospective employers that you are keeping your skill sets sharp."
Resist the urge to list your last position as "present."
You should always be honest if you are no longer working at a company. If you have to explain yourself later, it may seem to hiring managers that you misled them.
Instead, Steven A. Gold and Matthew Carbon, recruiters at executive recruitment firm Green Key Resources, say you should include the reason for the gap in brackets next to the date of employment on your résumé. For example, you can put "Position was automated," "Department eliminated," or "Position downsized" in brackets if you've been laid off.
But you should only do this for the most recent position you've held, they say. You don't want to have a bracket next to every job position on your resume.
If you've been terminated, remember that employers understand that the employment market and business environment is challenging for employees. Having a layoff or a job with a short tenure won't completely eliminate you, but having a series of short tenures may raise red flags, says McDonald.
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