One of the common questions we hear from our candidates is how to explain gaps in a resume when talking with employers.
While a gap in a healthcare resume isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there is an unspoken question: What happened? Should I as the employer be worried?
At its heart, a resume is a sales document where you can showcase your skills and demonstrate what about you makes you uniquely qualified for a job, but it’s also a story. While stories are defined by the words on the page, it’s the subtext and the words not mentioned that often speak louder to employers.
So how do you keep the narrative positive? How do you tell the right (and accurate) story when you’ve held multiple positions over a short period of time, or if it’s been a few years since you’ve last been in the workforce?
Here are our best tips for addressing the gaps in your resume.
Talking About Healthcare Resume Gaps
Honesty is always the best policy
When asked about a large resume gap, the most important thing is to be truthful. Telling a lie when asked will not only look bad when you’re found out (that’s a when, not if), it can also jeopardize your new job and your professional reputation.
In her article "5 Tips for How to Explain Gaps in Your Employment History," veteran recruiter Bronwen Hann writes, "If you explain gaps in your employment history on your resume or LinkedIn profile, it shows the hiring manager or recruiter that you see continuity in your career, that you’re focused on the long term, and most of all that you’re in charge of your destiny and able to proactively respond to challenges."
You don’t need to go into a long, detailed explanation of the gaps (especially if you took time off for personal reasons like an illness or caring for a loved one), but whether you’re in an interview or writing a cover letter, it’s always going to be better to acknowledge the gaps up front, rather than pretending they don’t exist. So be succinct, but be truthful.
Keep it Positive
It’s important when you’re talking about why you haven’t worked, or explaining why you left your previous position that you don’t badmouth your former employer or boss. This can be a red flag to companies, as they may think that if you’re willing to speak badly of a former employer, you’re likely to speak badly of them as well.
This also extends to any other reason you took time away from working. Employers generally enjoy hearing that there was a purpose to the space between your jobs, and emphasizing the value that the gap brought to your life/character can actually increase your chances of landing the position.
Emphasize Other Activities
If there was anything you did in order to grow your career or develop professionally during the gap, make sure to mention that. Experiences like traveling or taking on freelance work can be valuable to developing your professional skills, and they also provide you with a way to frame the gaps on your resume as learning experiences.
According to Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, your experiences may actually make you a better candidate. “Share your travels with your prospective employer,” she says. “At the very least, they may find comfort in knowing you’ve ‘been there, done that’ and won’t be taking off any time soon to travel the world again!”
Although you should be candid, it’s helpful to prepare a response in advance, so you’re not caught off guard when asked about your employment gaps.
Having gaps in your healthcare resume doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. Use these tips to navigate your next interview and cover letter with confidence!
Want more interview insight? Check out these common behavioral interview questions for healthcare professionals.
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