Resume Dilemma: Handling a Work Hiatus on Your Resume
by Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert

Whether it’s been six months or 10 years, searching for a job after a workforce absence can be daunting. The work world somehow continued without you, and you may feel like you’ve been left behind.

The good news is that you can reenter the workforce armed with a dynamic resume and an aggressive job search plan. Whether you’ve been unemployed and looking for work, on sabbatical, raising a family, caring for an ill family member, attending school, on disability or in retirement, follow these tips to create your resume.

Before You Write Your Resume

    • Assess Your Skills and Experience: Research your job target to learn what hiring managers now find desirable in ideal candidates. Write a list of your matching skills, experience, training and personal attributes. How would an employer benefit from hiring you?
    • Refresh Your Skills: Your research might have shown that some of your skills need to be updated. Because you are competing with job seekers who have been on steady career tracks, do what is necessary to compete successfully. Enroll in courses, study independently and practice your skills whenever possible. This will boost your confidence and get you back in the game.
    • Maintain Ties to the Working World: Besides being a great opportunity to network, immersing yourself in professional activities will give you relevant, recent experience to add to your resume. Do volunteer work, join a professional organization, attend conferences, complete freelance and consulting projects, and accept temporary assignments.

When Writing Your Resume

    • Pick the Right Format: Many people returning to work assume they need a functional resume to hide the gap. But be careful about selecting this format, because hiring managers might suspect you’re trying to hide something. You might do better with a combination resume, which is a reverse-chronological resume that leads with a Qualifications Summary. The summary emphasizes your most related credentials so hiring managers readily see your qualifications. Consider a functional format only if you’ve been out of work for many years and you need to emphasize your functional skill set.
    • Accentuate the Positive: Organize your resume so your key selling points are immediately evident. The top third of page one is the most important part of your resume, so include your most marketable skills and experience there. If you are concerned about your time gap, think about creative ways to obscure it. Maybe you traveled internationally and can mention your exposure to different cultures and languages. Perhaps you led or participated in a fund-raising event for a charity. Continuing education, volunteer work, professional development and independent study are all valid uses of your time while out of the workforce. Try to tie in how your experience relates to your career goal. Convince employers that you still have what it takes to contribute to organizational goals despite your workforce absence.
    • Don’t Call Attention to Dates: Try not to emphasize dates when formatting your resume. Avoid surrounding dates with white space, which will draw the eye. Instead, place them in parentheses next to your job titles.
    • Put Your Cover Letter to Work: Use your cover letter to explain why you temporarily stepped away from your career, emphasizing that you’re now available and excited about pursuing employment. Let your enthusiasm for reentering the workforce shine through your letter.

You will need to work harder at job searching than colleagues with recent work experience do. Keep an open mind and positive attitude. You might need to take a pay cut or accept a position at a lower level than the one you had before you left. It might be a blow to the ego, but the reality is that employers like to hire workers with a recent track record. If you accept a position at a lower level than desired, use it as an opportunity to prove yourself and you’ll soon work your way back up the ladder.

This article was written by Kim Isaacs, director of and author of The Career Change Resume book. Visit to learn more about resume services to jump-start your career.

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