A gap or a cover-up?

Published on Feb 05, 2024 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Being Out of Work Resume Writing
Time goes by fast when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? And what greater fun is there than conducting a job search?

Okay, it may not be as much fun as it appears to be to those looking in from the outside. But still, you can’t beat those Zoom calls and regular phone calls with old friends, not to mention all the strangers who are strangers no longer.

Unfortunately as the weeks and months go by that old standby on your resume of “2018 to present” rings less and less true, and “2018 to 2022” looks even worse.

There are many issues to consider in solving this time problem on your resume.

The first is that financial folks generally speaking have great difficulty lying. When cornered like a rat, you are going to tell the truth. Sorry, but it just goes with the territory. And, if you have “2018 to present” and you are no longer actually there you have in effect and in reality been caught in an untruth. (An untruth is a lie by another name, and unlike a rose, smells bad.)

Okay, so you decide to go with the truth, and you put down “2018 to 2022.” Well, it is now 2024. Sure looks like you have been out of work a while, and you may have been. The solution for many folks is to make up a phony consulting practice and put that at the top of their resume. This is a fine approach, but unfortunately everyone is on to it.

If you have in fact been doing consulting, you are unfortunately tarred with the same brush. There is the suspicion that it is simply not true. If it is true that you have been doing consulting, you need to make it real by listing some achievements under this category. If you haven’t been doing consulting, I would suggest not doing anything to “fill the gap.” Again, the reason is simple. When cornered, you will tend to tell the truth, and being caught in a lie is not a good thing for a financial officer.

Those of us who have been dedicated to our job search will find the reaction of those on the other side of the table to be hard to take. They would like to know what you have been doing to fill the time, as if a job search doesn’t require your full time and attention in this market. Yes, it is unfair, but the question will be asked and you need to have an appropriate and non-defensive answer handy. If you walked into a job interview with a cast on your arm, you wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to offer up an explanation. The reason is that no communication will take place until you do because the interviewer will be trying to find a polite way to ask what happened and won’t be listening to anything you say. The same thing is true of a significant gap in employment.

It is in part a serious question, but it is also a silly question. Obviously if you had been offered an appropriate job, you would have taken it. So, the suspicion is that there might be something wrong with you that isn’t obvious. In this job market you can’t afford to have that hanging over your head.

However, this is one of those times when you need to provide a complete explanation that is brief. Yes, I know there is that good old “primarily due to, partially offset by” that we fall into, but 60 seconds is about the maximum amount of time that you can allot to explaining the unexplainable – why you haven’t found a job. (It is sort of “The maiden doth protest too much, methinks” syndrome.)

Much of what you need to say can come back to haunt you later, so be careful what you say. If for example you made a decision not to move, this job you applied for may require a move. Then again, it may not. There frankly are few good choices for your explanation and lots of bad ones.

Certainly don’t tell anyone that you took a six month vacation, even if it is true.

If the consulting thing is true, you will be surprised to learn that most interviewers will be satisfied if you rattle off a small number of engagements. It is not necessary to account for every week. It is also not necessary to explain that you didn’t earn your desired rate, or didn’t make any money at all. They typically won’t ask.

Instead, talk to the learning experiences you have had since your last full time job. In addition to consulting assignments, you can add courses you may have taken, and all this while you were making a significant investment in your search. It makes you sound pretty hard working, which is the real message you want to get across.

I haven’t asked in a while, but if any of you have ideas that you feel will build on this topic, please send them in to [email protected] for publication under our Notes from Members. Just be sure to indicate if you want your name used. I am sensitive to the fact that some of your experiences may be too personal to share under your name, but still may be extremely valuable to others, so take a risk and send them in.

Regards, Matt