How can you explain an inconsistency on your resume to potential employers?

According to a 2016 survey, more than 10% of job applicants have an anomaly (an inconsistency or irregularity) on their resume.

Anomalies can be:

  • a lack of relevant experiences;

  • taking time off from work to be a parent or caregiver;

  • not graduating;

  • taking time off to care for your own mental health;

  • or losing your job.

If one or more of these apply to you, don't worry - it won't disqualify you from the job. You just need to be able to explain it in your resume, cover letter, or in the interview.

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Updating Your Resume

Think about what jobs or skills you actually need to list.

  • Focus on those which matter to the job you are applying for. You don't need to include every job you ever had.

  • Include any part-time, temporary, or volunteer work. It should be related to the job you are applying for.

Format the resume to focus on years, not months, to minimize the gap.

Here's an example:

  • Coach, 2016-2018 (not August 2016-March 2018)

  • Fitness Trainer, 2018-2019 (not June 2018-May 2019)

  • Instructor, 2020 (not April 2020-present)

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Create A Functional Resume

A functional resume focuses on job tasks and skills instead of the time spent at each job. Here's an example. Notice how work history is kept as a short list of job titles.

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Quiz

What type of resume is better at minimizing any time gaps in your work history?

How To Explain An Inconsistency During An Interview

If you have a time gap between your jobs, don't just ignore it or hope the interviewer ignores it. Be ready to talk about it.

  • Why did you take time off of work?

    Possible Answer: From 2013-2019, I took time off to raise my child and manage my household. I had the following responsibilities...

  • Did you graduate from college?

    Possible Answer: No, however, I spent a year traveling and learned more about South American cultures. I learned that...

  • Let the interviewer know that you are ready to return to work.

    Example: I am excited to re-enter the workforce as a digital copy editor.

  • Have an explanation for the skills you learned while you were not employed.

    Example: After being laid off, I took community college courses in HVAC repair.

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Quiz

After taking time off to raise their child, what skill or skills could a parent highlight in an interview?

Include Personal Development Outside Of Work

While you may have a gap in your employment history, you can still include important skills that you learned or practiced during that time.

For instance, you can explain in a cover letter or say in an interview...

  • I downloaded a trial version of [industry or job relevant software] to update my [specific skills].

  • I volunteered my time to teach senior citizens how to [job-related skill].

  • I took an online course in [job-related subject].

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Summary

Now that you know how to explain an anomaly on your application, resume, or in your interview, go out there and search for the job you want.

Don't let a job loss, time spent not working, or anything else stop you from applying for a job you want.

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This Byte has been authored by

AC

Aaron Calvert

Instructional Designer and Educator