How Do I Address an Employment Gap on My Resume?

Reader Question:

I am updating my resume and am hoping to land my next BA position. However, I was laid off over a year ago due to the financial crisis and have not worked since, and am wondering how that employment gap should be addressed on my resume, if at all. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Laura’s Answer:

There’s some fairly conventional wisdom on how to address this challenge. First of all, realize that employers do understand that the financial crises happened and that some good employees were let go as a result of no fault of their own. So while in good times, a gap might be cause for concern, in bad times employers are more likely to be lenient on this matter.

The second thing to realize is that gaps happen for all kinds of reasons: laid off, took time to spend with family, pursued a secondary degree, etc. A gap doesn’t necessarily have to represent a period of inactivity.

What Fills Your Employment Gap?

What have you been doing during this time? Have you been pounding the pavement looking for a job? Pursuing training to upgrade your skills? Volunteering your time to a local non-profit? Taking much-needed rest time to spend with the family or do other projects?

The biggest concern employers have when considering a candidate with a recent gap in employment is that their skills aren’t fresh and they are not ready to hit the ground running. Anything you can do to convince them otherwise in your business analyst resume, so you are called in for an interview, is important. Show how you’ve used the time or demonstrate that you are ready to re-engage in the workforce.

For example, if you can present some professional activities, such as training, volunteering, etc, in this “gap”, then I would suggest doing so. This can also be included in your cover letter.

Make the Gap Seem Non-Existent in an Interview

Now, you didn’t ask about the business analyst job interview, but I do want to highlight an important tip here. When you do land an interview, it’s equally important that you present yourself as someone who is ready to be a productive contributor. The best way to do this is to be able to talk about your career experiences as if they happened yesterday. Yes, yesterday.

I once hired someone who had been out of business analysis for over 5 years due to family reasons. She was employed under a part-time QA contract, so she didn’t have such a big recent gap. But the interview centered around her business analysis work history. You would have never known that she didn’t leave that job to interview over her lunch hour. The way she spoke about what she did was that present. When making the decision to hire her I actually forgot that the experience was so far in the past. It didn’t matter because she hit the ground running on day 1, which is all I would have wanted anyway!

Make sure you are prepared do the same. Saying “that’s so long ago, I don’t remember” (I’ve heard that response too) is not going to cut it.

Good luck with your job search!

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