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 What the F%&k Factor” or What Not To Write In A Resume

Since the year 2000 I have been doing Technical and Executive recruiting and during that time I have reviewed hundreds of thousands of resumes.  From those very many resumes occasionally some
are written so uniquely incorrect, that if a recruiter, HR person or hiring
manager were to read them, by the shear words on the paper  it could potentially elicit a cry of “What the F%&k” !!!
So this than my curious blog reader is the “What the F%&K Factor” or What not to write in a resume.

Here are a couple of real life examples of resumes that demonstrate what I am talking about:

I was given a resume for a VP of Engineering position. His background was pretty typical. He received a BSEE (Bachelors of Electrical Engineering). Started out his career as an Engineer.
After 5 years became an Engineering Manager. After a few more years became a Director of Engineering, then Senior Director than Vice President of Engineering. It made sense, certainly a pretty normal career path.

But hear is where the resume took a left turn. Listed just above his most recent VP position was “Doorman / Bouncer at Joes Tavern”. He described for about a paragraph how he greeted people at the door broke up fights etc. This was a 6 month job.

Shortly after the destruction of the World Trade Center
the Telecom industry crashed. It was not uncommon for people taking just about any job to pay the bills. But my God don’t put it in your resume!

Another case of  “The What the F%&K Factor” occurred when I read the resume of a Senior Director.
You would think after 20 years of experience in business someone would be aware of the do’s  & dont’s of what you can
put in a resume.  Think again…

When reading someone’s resume I typically do not read every bit down to the clubs & hobbies. But on this particular day, on this particular resume I did. And sure enough I was very glad I did before I submitted him to anyone.Listed under organizations was “Grand Marshall of the Covenant of Satan”.  Wow! that definitely caught me
off guard.

Now I believe in the concept of live & let live.  If you want to
worship the devil, cross dress or any number of controversial activities. As long as you are not hurting anyone that is your business.

But the whole point of this blog is if you put something unusual on your resume that stands out, make sure it enhances it and not detracts from it.

If you have stories of that exhibit  the “What The F%&K Factor”
I’d love to hear about them. Just send them to Carl@wirelessexecutiverecruiter.com
 or just add a comment to the blog.