What do I do about gaps in my resume?

Teeth Gap 2

Gaps in your resume are definitely an issue. Have you ever met a women or man that was really hot but when the smiled they had a gap in their teeth you could fit a cigar in? No matter how great the rest of the package is that gap is all you can stare at.

So when you think of your resume you should look at it in the same

There are several types of gaps that can occur on your resume. A few of the most common include “the out of work gap”, “the tried a different career gap” and “the I had to handle a personal situation (death, birth or sabbatical to find myself with the monks in Asia)


In this current economy for example, there are huge amounts
of people who are, or were, out of work for several months. Some people have
been out of work so long that they have to extend their unemployment way past
the normal amount. Here are some ways to address handling gaps like these in
your resume.

Remove the months from your resume.

If you lost your job in February of 2009 and now it is November of 2010, to say that you worked from 2006 – 2009 looks a whole lot better than saying you have been out of work since February 2009. In fact it is almost a year better. Now some would say this is lying, and certainly some HR types would certainly find this infuriating, as this is info they want to know before talking to you so they can screen you out. So this brings us to the first and most important rule of resume writing.

Rule #1: Always remember that your resume is a marketing
piece. It is meant to make you look good.

If you go on a first date do you tell your date about your crazy uncle who thinks he is an Avocado? Yes, eventually, but not on the first date! In some cases on your resume it is alright to omit something that makes your look bad. But a minor omission is very different then a lie. A lie would be saying that you had an MBA when you never went to college. Beside the fact that it is unethical and wrong, it is stupid to do so as it will definitely bite you in the butt if your potential employer were to find out.

A minor omission would be more something that would not get you fired on your first week when the found out the truth, but might cause your interviewer to ask you about it when they interviewed you. AH HA! Let me repeat that again: “when they interviewed you”! That brings us to Rule #2.

Rule #2: The purpose of your resume is to get you an

So now that you have an interview, as long as you have a good answer to why you omitted the months from you resume like that Jerk Carl the wireless executive recruiter blogger told me to do it. Then at least you are being interviewed and no longer a piece of paper, but an actual living breathing person who has a shot at getting the job before being deleted or crumbled in the trash.

Create a consulting business

Now this is truly a great way to fill a gap and probably the most often used method I know. But I have to say most of the people fall short in the presentation.

Here is a typical example:

Bob’s Consulting
2009 – Current

I was the owner of Bob’s consulting where I did lots of IT,

Telephony and important stuff for many companies.

Underneath this he writes a half a page at how great he was & all the cool things he did for 10 years at the fortune 500 job he got laid off at. So what’s wrong with this? Here comes Rule # 3

Rule #3: Sell it baby! If you don’t who will?

There is nothing wrong with putting Bob’s consulting on your resume, though when you started it you might have been a little more creative than that with the name. But if that’s what it is, then here’s what you do. Write a paragraph that sells the crap out of Bob’s Consulting. Make it sound like you were saving the world. Use bullet points & underlines and all the fancy things you did with your fortune 500 job. Don’t write it as an afterthought to just put something on the page to fill the gap. Sell it baby like it means something!

Paint the best picture you can.

I recently coached a candidate for an interview that will illustrate this point. He was desperate for the job. Flat broke and his lack of finances was severally impacting his personal life and even his survival. He had been out of work for almost 2 years!
So we role played the night before and one of the questions I asked him was what have you been doing for the last 2 years?

His answer was “I have been doing some part time consulting when I can, it doesn’t pay much, but at least I am surviving.” Wrong answer!

What I coached him to say was: “The market has been very tough and a lot of the roles I saw available for someone at my level were opportunities with companies I did not believe in. Rather than taking a job with a company I knew I would not be happy at and would probably be short lived, I did some consulting until the right job came along. And this is that
right job.” He applied the same attitude to all his answers and is happily work at his new job now!

Now on your resume where you have a gap you can say something like from 2009 – current after a massive company layoff I took some time to spend renovating my house and getting to know my wife and children better. I am now ready to get back to a fulfilling career. Something like this is definitely better than leaving a gap.

If you leave a gap you can bet someone will be thinking you were just drinking beer in your underwear and watching Judge Judy.

Hmmm… I have to go now. I am out of Bud and I need to pick some more up to get back to the show before she gives the final verdict!

The Critical first HR phone screen or making it to the next round of the HR American Idol.

It is Critical when you do your first phone screen with a company you know your goal in doing the phone Screen, and also what the goal of Human resources is, as they are totally different.

Your goal is simple, to get a second interview!

You must speak on the phone again with a potential decision maker or in person with a peer of the hiring manager or directly with the hiring manager.

Your phone interview is not to get the job. You may be many steps away from getting the job, and if you get too far ahead of yourself, you may never make it to another interview. Walk through the interviewing process a step at a time.

HR’s goal is also simple. To screen you out!

Imagine your interview is like American Idol and you think you are speaking to Paula Abdul or Randy Jackson on the phone, but in both cases, it is really Simon Cowell in disguise.

Now this is no statement as to the actually personality of the HR person you are speaking to, but rather the role that this HR person has been thrust into.  The HR person must be
cut-throat.  Why?

Here’s the reason. HR has a lot people to talk to,especially in this challenged economic market. Say HR has 1000 people applying for a single job opportunity. HR has whittled down the 1000 applicants to 100 actual persons that make it to the selections that are qualified for some consideration for hiring.  After a bit more scrutiny, HR whittles some more and gets the stack of applicants down to 20.

From these 20 applicants, HR needs to phone screen them to find 5 strong applicants to present to the hiring manager. From that 5 they are hoping to get 2 to 3 that will make it too the second round.

How does HR do the whittling? Throughout the process, they look for red flags or factors where you are not confident, not direct or determined in your approach toward getting the job.  Yes, they are looking to knock you out of the contest, send you back to your home town, back to sing karaoke.  You’ll get no record deal, no tour with Clay Aiken
or Fantasia.

Now how do they screen you? They may have a bunch of prepared questions, or use some kind of rating system. They’re are a multitude of different ways to evaluate you, but it really comes down to one simple thing, what can they find that is wrong with this candidate so they can screen them out.

The majority of HR people are not qualified to determine if you can do the job technically. They are talking to you because on paper based on what they know you can do the job. They will usually defer a “technical” or “skills” first interview to a second phone
or face to face interview.

HR will interview you on are topics like these:

  • resume details
  • job history
  • career goals
  • communication skills
  •  relocation
  •  attitude
  • how close you live to the office
  • what you know about the company

Now Lets look at some resume details. You can bet that if there are details in your resume that could come under question, they will be.

 Say if you had 2 or 3 jobs that were only for a year. Be prepared to have good answers for why this is. Answers that make sense and that you can speak confidently and in a “matter of fact” nature.

If your answers come out weak or stumbled, your history baby, Simon will “send you packing”.

A pointed question about career goals can also be very tricky, such as “what are your career goals” or “where do you see yourself in three years”.  For instance, if you are interviewing for an engineering role, and your answer is “my career goal is that someday I would like to be an engineering manager”. Your answer may be interpreted as ” this person wouldn’t be happy in a mere engineering role since he’s looking to be a manager”.

 As a recruiter, I have had this kind of comment come back to
me too often. So when I prep a candidate I do my best to get what the career
path of the job is so this won’t happen.

 What you can do is respond to this question if HR asks
“what are your career goals”?

Your answer could be “well this position really fits what I
am looking for in my career right now. What is the next step in this job and
how long does usually take to get to it?”

That way if HR answers “oh in 5 years they might consider you for a management role.”You can reply with “Oh great well that’s something to work for” and you have dodged a bullet.

Recently I had a candidate who was asked by HR to respond to this question:

“So how long was your commute to the interview?” asked the HR rep.

“Oh about 1 1/2 hours by train,” the candidate replied.

“Would it be better if you could work from home sometimes?” asked HR.

“Sure, that would work well,” the candidate replied.

The feedback that came back was this: “The candidate is unhappy with the commute and would rather work from home sometimes.”

Now this particular candidate had other things that made them not right for the role, but this was an example of how things can be perceived in an interview.

So how do you assure yourself the best chance of getting past the mine fields of the HR phone screen.

1. Do your homework:

Study the job spec. and really know their website. Many times I have had candidates say that they were very glad they studied the company’s website as they were asked questions about the company they would not have otherwise known. Plus this helps you have good questions to ask.

2. Don’t say too much:

“Any thing you say can and will be used against you”. Be personable, be confident, be prepared, but do not talk too much. No matter how much you feel a connection with the HR person interviewing you, they are not your friends so definitely do not “open up” to them or “spill your guts”. Keep it professional and brief.

3. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Questions about “flex time”, or “4 day weeks” are definitely not to be discussed. Even salary should be only touched on if they bring it up. Tell them what you made and that you are flexible on the salary based on the position. Ask them what the position pays. Even if it is not quite at the level you are looking for don’t get into a discussion about it. Many times companies will pay more than what HR thinks they will pay. But if you do not interview with the hiring manager you will never find this out.

4. Give them a reason to call you back.

Preparing a few questions only the hiring manager can answer is a good way to promote them having to talk to you. Also ask when you can come in to their office to interview. In sales you have to ask for the business. Interviewing is selling yourself, so if you goal is to get to the next interview, tell them you are very interested in the company and when could you come into to meet the team and interview. It shows confidence and interest, something all people respect in a person.

The point of this blog is that although a first phone screen with HR is often compulsorily and only the first step in the interviewing process. If it is not treated correctly it will be your last interview. For although you will never ever be hired for a full time job with just a phone screen, you will never be hired at all if you do not get beyond it.

Just think if Kelly Clarkson stumbled her way through singing “Feelings” for her original tryout on American Idle, you wouldn’t hear her on the radio every 15 minutes.

The ABC’s of Face to Face Interviews

There are many important points of a face to face interview that need to be considered. These are some of the most rudimentary.   We will call them the ABC’s:

-Dress for the occasion:

This does not always mean wear a suit whether you are male or female. I recently sent a candidate on an interview and they specifically said do not wear a suit as they are business casual. Do your best to find out from the person who set you up on the interview what the dress code for the interview is and how you should dress. If you can’t find this out then the rule of thumb is to dress professionally.  For a man you can’t go wrong with a pair of dress slacks, dress shirt with a collar and a sports jacket. You can always remove the jacket if it is more casual. For a woman slacks and a nice shirt will work. If you are interviewing for a bank or financial company a suit or pant suit may be in order.

-Come early:

Often at an interview there will be some paperwork to fill out such as an application, background check permission etc. Coming early you can often get this information taken care so it does not cut into the actual interviewing time. Also if you are driving or being driven to an interview coming early can handle if there are any traffic problems. Beyond these points there is something to be said for getting a little adapted to your surroundings before beginning your interview. I will make you more relaxed and can even give you a feel for the people coming in and out of the office.

-Bring prepared documents

It is good to have a small binder with several nice copies of your most recent resume. Also you should bring a list of your references on a separate sheet with their name, email, title, when you worked for them and phone numbers to reach them. If you are filling out an application at the interview a sheet with everything you would put on the application is generally a good idea, include exact dates of employment, who your boss was etc. will make it much easier to fill out your application. Human Resources may ask you questions on what you wrote on your application and if necessary you can refer back to this information. If you have a portfolio that supports your skills, say you are in marketing or Graphic Design, bring that with as well.  I would not whip it out at a moment’s notice like your Mother does with embarrassing pictures of you when you were an infant in the bathtub when you prom date comes over, But if requested at least you have it ready.

-Get business cards

Ask for business cards from everyone you interview with. Other than the simple fact it is a good professional thing to do, it also serves a few other purposes. Sending a thank you email is a good idea right after the interview and without a direct email address to the interviewer it is difficult to do this and make sure the email is received.

lso if you do not get a response for a while from the company you have a contact point to follow up with. Lastly the contacts you meet at an interview can be very useful in the future even if you don’t get the job.

-Make a good first impression

Make sure you smile look in the eye and shake the hand of your interviewer when you meet the person who is interviewing you. Try to be genuine as you do this. A fake or strained smile can do more damage than good. Be yourself, interviewers are looking to find out who you are not a just a perfect version of yourself you are portraying at the interview. Plus if you are hired and the fake version of you is all they see during the interviewing process, when they meet the real you, who is to say that your real personality is the right match for the culture of the company and not the fake one.

-Get your questions answered

Interviewing is a two way street. Certainly you’re there to be asked questions by the company to determine if you’re right for the role they are hiring for, but equally important you’re there to find out if the role and company are right for you. Definitely you need to have questions ready for the hiring authorities that you could end up working for related to job. But also it is important to have questions for human resources about benefits and the company in general. The more information you have early in the interviewing process the easier it will be for you to compare this opportunity to other potential opportunities you may have come up.

-Find out what the next steps are before you leave

A face to face interview for most companies is a considerable amount of effort and does not occur unless they are seriously considering hiring you.  Often it is the last step other than references or a background check before an offer of employment is extended. While you are at a face to interview and you are interacting with real live people, there is a certain obligation from the individuals you are dealing with to answer your questions; it would be rude otherwise. Therefore you should definitely not leave the building without getting some sense of what the next step is in the interviewing process as the sense of obligation to communicate with you tends to be much less when you are no longer physically at their offices. Take for example after a week of hearing nothing from the company you call HR and get nothing but an answering machine and no call back. The nerve racking thing about this lack of communication is that it does not necessarily mean that they are not interested in you and moving on. It truly may just be “their process”. So if you can find out exactly what their process is before you leave you will save yourself a lot of frustration.

Interviewing is Like Dating

I have often run into situations that this statement is true. The act of interviewing like dating can make candidates as well as interviewers act in irrational and even down right crazy ways. Candidates lose perspective and take everything way too personally and interviewers totally lose sight of what is common courtesy and sometimes even common sense.

Here are some real life examples:

A candidate was interviewing for a development job. She was living on one side of the Country and the job was on the other side of the Country. After two very good phone screens,  the recruiter working with the candidate followed up with the company to see if they were ready to fly her out for a face to face. Instead to the recruiter’s surprise, the hiring manager said he had already left the candidate a message that they wanted to make her an offer.

Now you would expect her to think what great news! “They love me so much after two phone screens they want to make me an offer!”

Well think again…

Now compare this to dating, you have been on two dates and suddenly you get a phone call from budding romantic partner saying they love you & they want to move in.

How do you think most people would react?

Nine out of Ten would be a bit freaked out by this. “Will he ask to marry me in a weak?” “Hell I have never even been to where he lives it could be a rat hole?”  “Is he a serial killer?”

And sure enough the candidate freaked out as well saying she was “feeling pressured” asking “is there something wrong with this job”. The recruiter thinking fast worked it out for her to go for a face to face so she could see the area & also the office. But by that time the damage was done. The candidate suddenly got sick, and could not be reached because of a sore throat and could not talk on the phone. Two days later she texted the recruiter she had taken another job.

Lesson learned: Doing things in the right order does matter in interviewing, dating and disarming a bomb. Cutting the blue wire before red can be very dangerous.

Now on the flip side to this often candidates move to fast and talk themselves right out of a job before they even know it is right for them.

For example:  A candidate submits their resume through a recruiter for a sales job. They receive an initial phone screen from human resources. During the call the HR person tells them to their dismay the position requires you to be in the office every day & that the commissions for this job is expected to be 30K less than was represented to them.

Unfortunately it is not that unusual to have HR & the hiring managers have different ideas as to what the job requires or even pays. That is why recruiters are so determined to speak with the hiring manager to take a job order.

Well now back to the example. The candidate in a very upset tone calls the recruiter who set them up for the interview and says that even if they want another interview that he is not interested now as he was lied to about that position was a virtual office & commissions were uncapped.

So after a long conversation the recruiter calms the candidate down enough & assures them that the job is in a virtual office & the pay is uncapped because that’s what the hiring manager said. So a second interview occurs & the candidate actually gets the job.

Lesson Learned: Interviewing & relationships are a work in progress. A job description often evolves as candidates are interviewed & priorities change. Also the truths you have on the first date as you are trying to impress the person in front may be quite a bit different 3 weeks later after you have had two or three dates.

Now besides the dating comparison, both these examples show why having a recruiter is an important component in many hiring processes. Would A-Rod or Payton Manning think of negotiating their own contracts, of course not!

Unfortunately not every company can afford using recruiters or have a strong internal recruiting staff and actually do a good job of hiring on their own. But still there is nothing like having a Jerry Maguire to navigate you through the “match.com” mine field called interviewing.

I know I had you at Hello…