In Canada, 3 million people lost their jobs due to COVID at the start of the year.
It’s true – unemployment drives your employability factor down. It’s a lot more appealing to readers of your resumé when your last job timeframe says “-To Present”.
Prior to COVID, the standard guideline for the acceptable amount of time to be out of work was 6 months, beyond which your candidacy would be a red flag.
However, during times like this, it’s gratifying to learn that recruiters and hiring managers are more forgiving of being out of work for longer periods of time.
Nevertheless, employment gaps must be addressed. Why? Being out of work presumes that you’re rusty. Your skills are not as sharp as your competition and you’re out of touch with your industry.
So naturally, your strategy revolves proving that you’re neither of these things.
I’m going to give you some tough love here. I’m assuming you’ve been spending this time productively, by either gaining more knowledge through certification or volunteering.
Because if you’ve been spending these unemployed months tossing up your generic resumé to online job boards for an hour and kicking back to Netflix and YouTube for the rest of the day, this article won’t help you.
If this is you, which I hope it’s not, you have to make a conscious decision now to up your productivity game for these strategies to work.
Here are 4 ways to handle employment gaps.
#1 Update your resumé to bridge the gap
The most trusted resumé is a chronological resumé. If you’ve been volunteering or studying, mention that in a single line in your resumé to start off your experience section.
You want to keep it very brief and dive straight right into your experience in your last job.
This softens the blow of seeing that your last job was 6-8 months ago, because you’ve been productive since then.
#2 Address the gap in your cover letter
If you don’t call it out, you leave it to assumption in the reader’s mind. And assumptions never favour the job seeker.
Briefly mention that you were laid of due to COVID (or whatever the reason is) several months ago, but you’ve been active and productive since then, and refocus on why you specifically want to work for this company, reminding them of the skills you bring to the job and the problems you solve.
#3 Be active on LinkedIn
~90% of recruiters review your LinkedIn profile, according to research.
Want to prove you’re in touch with your industry? Make sure you’re active on LinkedIn, sharing articles and contributing to groups, so that when recruiters are scoping your activity feed, they see someone who is still passionate about their industry.
#4 At the job interview
Should you call it out? Should you wait till the interviewer brings it up?
I say, call it out. I always err on the side of avoiding assumption.
Rip off that band-aid right in your introduction when they ask you “Tell me about yourself”. As you did in your cover letter, briefly mention “I know you’re probably concerned I’ve been out of work for a while. That was due to…, but just so you know, since then I’ve been…” and quickly switch to why you want to work for this organization.
It sucks, I know…
The longer you’ve been unemployed, the more unemployable you become.
I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s unfair. But hiring managers don’t care about your personal problems. They only care about the problems you can solve for them.
These 4 strategies will help address those nasty employment gaps so you can get your career back on track.