Most people will tell you to leave the personal stuff off you resume; marital status, how many kids you have, religious affiliations, etc…  But it seems there may be instances when you should give a company a peek behind the personal curtain.

No, I do not regularly read Marie Claire (I don’t regularly read any one source for information) but when I saw their article about resumes I had to learn more.

The Totally Counterintuitive Thing Science Says You Should Do to Your Résumé

As a recruiter my first reaction was “No **** Sherlock.”  We often times forget that our world of recruiting is a mystery to people on the outside and what seems like common sense to us sometimes goes against norms.  Two Vanderbilt Law School economists did a study that involved resumes with a 10 year job gap.  Some of the resumes explained the job gap by stating it was due to a divorce or to raise children. The other resumes gave no explanation.  The resumes with the explanations raised their chance of being hired by 30 to 40 percent.

The reason that their chances went up was not WHY they had a gap but rather that they had a reasonable explanation.  I bet they would find the same increase if the applicants said they hiked the seven summits or decided to live with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon.  The reason for the increase is that they answered the question a recruiter always has… “Why the gap?”

How was your time in prison?

My first reaction to a large gap is “hmmm, prison?”  If you don’t explain something most HR people and hiring managers will assume the worst.  I even encourage people to put a reason for job changes on their resume.  Nothing big, just a short explanation under each position, maybe in a smaller font and italics; Laid Off, Recruited to XYZ Company, etc…

Remember, your resume’s job is to get you the interview, the interview gets you the offer.  If I have 100 applicants (not uncommon) for a position I am first looking for ANY reason to kick people out.  Unexplained gap… GOODBYE!  Harsh?  Yes, but do you want to know what really happens to your resume / online application or do you want me to be nice?  As I say “The truth hurts some people but I have learned to live with it.”

Stay at Home Parents

When I was looking for a full time job three years ago I had some gaps myself.  I stayed at home for six years to raise our triplets.  One thing I did that helped was doing some contract work during those six years.  I think it is AWESOME if someone stays at home to focus on their family.  But I always encourage people to begin with the end in mind.  You need to volunteer or work periodically on a contract basis in the profession you want to work in later.  If you don’t you could get left behind.  These days business moves just a bit beyond light-speed.  You must keep up or you will have a large skill gap (perceived or real) when you decide to re-enter the working world.

Volunteering or periodically working on a contract basis can also fill resume gaps.  Let’s say you stay at home for 6 years till your kids get into school.  This is all hypothetical 🙂  You look around and find a mother’s day out program.  I am not going to mention that the name of these programs is sexist 🙂  This is a GREAT opportunity to give the kids some socialization with others and it gives a stay at home parent a chance to volunteer or look for a part time or contract job to keep their head in the game.  That sounds like a win-win to me.

The best way to handle employment gaps is to prevent them.