How to Handle Gaps in Employment on a Resume

Transparency, honesty, and trust are crucial for organizations when hiring for an open position. Understanding a candidate’s work history, reasons for leaving a position, and why someone is currently looking for a new job are all part of building that trust. One way a candidate can build that trust, but also completely lose it, is by what’s on, or not on their resume. It is important that job seekers know the impact of omitting a past work experience might have on their candidacy.

One of the first things an employer will notice is gaps in your employment history. Leaving a past work experience off the resume will generally create a time gap between employers, raising questions and concerns. Now, it might be a simple and legitimate reason for why this gap exists but the concern for such a gap could end a person’s candidacy before it starts. Job seekers must remember their resume can build trust by being transparent with past work history.

It is possible that a candidate is selected for an interview and has left past work experiences off the resume. For example, maybe the individual was only at the job for a couple of months and the gap created seems like a natural break from employers, and no red flags are raised. The problem here is if the individual is offered the role but it’s contingent on the results from a background and work history check. If lucky enough, it is likely the candidate will have to explain why they left off a past employer and failed to mention it when going through the interview process. A result of not being transparent and honest can break the trust established with the employer, causing them to rescind the offer.

Why do candidates leave off a former employer from their resume?

Usually, the two biggest reasons people leave past employers off the resume is because it is irrelevant to the job they applied for, or they were terminated. Although these may seem like good reasons, it isn’t justification for leaving off a resume. Instead of having to explain your way out of leaving a past employer off the resume, let the organization decide what is relevant and what is not. This eliminates gaps in the resume which cause greater concern and usually, there are transferable skills that can be highlighted. Likewise, leaving off a former employer for being terminated can leave a gap causing you to explain why. It is always concerning to employers when someone leaves a former employer off the resume for that reason, it looks like you are trying to hide something. Unless it is a habitual pattern, overcoming termination is more than possible. Addressing it head-on will create trust through honesty.

When is it okay to leave off a former employer from the resume?

  1. If someone has an extensive work history that goes beyond 20+ years, it is recommended to highlight the most recent 10-15 years of experience. This will keep the resume concise and provides enough experience for an employer to make a decision on one’s candidacy.
  1. Short-term employment in which the experience does not bolster one’s candidacy can be left off the resume. However, if you are granted an interview, it is important to make sure you make reference to the position you left off and why. Be prepared to seamlessly make mention of it when asked to go over your past experience on the resume.

How to Handle Gaps in Employment on a Resume (1)

In the end, the safe bet is to include all past work experiences on the resume. This will avoid any breaches in honesty, create transparency, and build the trust an employer is looking for. If you are torn on what to do, one of the best ways to get some clarity is to work with one of our consultants here at JOHNLEONARD. We have 50+ years of experience working with employers and candidates to create the best plan moving forward. All in all, seek advice and be truthful and transparent, and you will never have to answer the awkward question of why you failed to include a former employer.

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