Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

February 15th, 2019

If you’re like almost every other job seeker with a few years of life experience, you’ve probably been through one or two chapters in which you were either unemployed for a while or employed in a position with a title that doesn’t reflect your career goals. During the years since your graduation from high school or college, you’ve held one or more working roles, and in between those roles, you may have spent time searching for work, caring for family, recovering from an illness, traveling, attending classes, holding a short-term position to pay the bills, or anything else that filled your days but won’t work well as an entry on your resume.

Some employers perceive these “gaps” as idle chapters that require an explanation. And even those who understand that a gap isn’t a crime may still be curious. How did you spend that time? The answer can help employers and recruiters learn a little bit more about you. Here are a few tips that let you explain just enough of your life story without sharing too much.

First, understand the goal.

A six-month period between one job and the next won’t put you in the hot seat or signal a character weakness (at least not for a responsible employer). But it might suggest that 1) you were looking for work and being turned away; or 2) you weren’t looking for work, despite your evident free time. Both can indicate you aren’t as ambitious or growth-focused as your application suggests. You’ll want to allay this concern and convince your employers that, in fact, you ARE focused on the long-term growth of your career, gap or no gap.

Don’t overshare.

Never reveal your marital or family status to an employer until you’re onboard. If you took time off for your children, parents or an ill partner, keep that to yourself. Your family status is protected information, something your employers don’t need to know. (In fact, it’s illegal to ask).

Emphasize the positive.

Were you volunteering during this time? Describe your experience. Were you on a sabbatical or studying? Share! These are positive data points that can help you shine, even if they aren’t the primary reason you weren’t working during the period in question.

Move on quickly.

If an employer points to a six-month, two-year or ten-year chapter your resume doesn’t account for, have a short answer prepared, deliver it, and then move past the subject quickly. End your (very short) story by providing reassurance you haven’t missed a beat and your skills have not become rusty.

For more on how to frame your life story in a way that aligns with the needs of your potential employer, talk to the job search and interview experts at PSU.

The Impact a Bad Hire can Have on Your Team

February 1st, 2019

When you calculate the cost of a hiring mistake, you can easily add up the obvious costs: the post you’ll need to publish to attract replacement candidates, the cost of background checks and interviews for those new candidates, and the cost of onboarding for the replacement you ultimately choose. But there are few costs and expenses associated with a hiring mistake that are intangible—They can only be estimated, and while difficult to precisely measure, these costs can be shockingly high.

For example, a hiring mistake (usually defined as a candidate who leaves within one year) can have a dismal impact on the productivity and morale of your entire team. Here’s how.

An underprepared candidate lowers the bar.

Your new hire came on board unprepared for the job and lacking the skills necessary for the role. He struggled for a while before he left, and though he tried, it was unrealistic to expect him to gain meaningful expertise during a six-week training period. What does this hiring decision tell your other employees about an “acceptable” level of competence in the missing skill area (for example, SQL, Photoshop, customer service, language fluency, written communication, or basic math)? The bar of expectation drops with every day the unprepared hire stays on the team.

Attitude problems are contagious.

If your candidate failed because he was sullen, uncooperative, or had anger issues, that’s unfortunate, and a contagious bad attitude doesn’t always show up during an interview. But even more unfortunate: the impact of his sulks and complaints may stay in the air even after he’s shown to the door.

“Work ethic” is a shared metric.

What would you call an appropriate work ethic in an office where most workers leave at 4:00 pm? How about an office where the “slackers” are still at their desks at 7:30? “Hard work” is a relative term, and if you introduce an employee who vanishes in a cloud of self-congratulation at exactly 4:59 each day, others are inclined to follow suit.

Bumblers create roadblocks.

Sometimes the nicest candidates in the world arrive in the workplace and spend more time standing in the way than helping the team. If you hire one of these, you’ll have messes, mistakes, and derailed projects to fix after they leave, plus all the back-ups and work-bottlenecks you’ll need to re-open.

The hidden cost.

Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person can also put tiny cracks in something very valuable: trust. Your teams trust you to make smart decisions when it comes to assessments of character and background, and their success depends on your ability to get it right. One mistake can be easily forgotten, but with each additional misjudgment, the task gets harder. Choose the best candidates available, and your existing teams will thank you.

For more, contact the hiring and staffing pros at PSU.

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