Employment gaps happen. And, they don't look good. You may have worked for a clinic that went out of business, leaving you without work. Or, you may have taken a break from your nurse practitioner career to start a family and are looking to reenter the workforce. Poor performance may have gotten you kicked out the door of your last job, and, ready to reform your ways, you are hitting the job search circuit. Whether your career hiatus is for a legitimate, or potentially concerning reason, how do you get employers to give your resume a second look despite a gap on your resume?
Depending on the reason for your temporary departure from your nurse practitioner career, there are a few effective methods for addressing an employment gap with a prospective employer.
Know what constitutes a concerning employment gap
Taking a few months off between jobs, or after graduation from your nurse practitioner program, isn't a big deal. You may have wanted a short break to take time with family, or used the time to coordinate a move or conduct a job search. Don't feel the need to explain an employment gap of a few months or less, unless you are asked to do so in an interview.
Be straightforward and succinct
When addressing any gap in employment, be straightforward, honest, and cut to the chase. Giving too many details, or a long, drawn out explanation, makes the situation sound like you are trying to cover something up. State your reason for leaving the workforce, then be quiet. Your explanation is complete. If the employer has any further questions, they will ask for specifics.
Practice your reply
Before you walk into an interview, practice your employment gap explanation. Make sure you can deliver your explanation confidently and professionally. If you were fired from a previous position, avoid the blame game. If you were laid off, stay away from self pity. Stick to the facts. Rehearse the delivery of your explanation out loud until you can do so with poise.
Have a plan to move forward
Your professional past as a nurse practitioner may be called into question if your resume is emblazoned with a lengthy employment gap. Reassure your interviewer that you can overcome this hurdle by outlining your plan for moving forward. Even if you left your previous nurse practitioner job for an admirable reason, like raising children, employers want to know you're committed to returning to work. Let your interviewer know why you want to return to the workforce and that you have a long-term career plan in mind.
Write a cover letter
Lengthy gaps on your resume can lead employers to toss your job application to the side. Consider addressing the reason for the gap in a well written cover letter attached to your resume. The same rules apply to addressing employment gaps in a cover letter as in an interview. Keep your explanation brief, factual, and to the point.
Don't try to hide it
Finagling the formatting of your resume so that jobs are not listed chronologically, or by omitting dates, is a major red flag to employers. Your employment gap will be uncovered at some point in the interview process, so it's best to address it up front. You put yourself in a worse position by attempting to keep the career disruption concealed.
Plenty of nurse practitioners have taken a career break, or recovered from an unintentional employment pitfall. You can bounce back after taking time off from your nurse practitioner career, however preparing your approach is key to doing so with ease.
You Might Also Like: A New Kind of Residency for Nurse Practitioners
Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping
How to Handle a Spotty Work History
Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping
In today's economy, you need to carefully present your experience to avoid being seen as unstable. Start by evaluating your situation and determining how bad it really is. If you are panicking about two months of unemployment back in 1993, your job search will probably not be affected. However, if you are dealing with recent periods of unemployment extending for months or even years, you will need to start strategizing.
If You're Concerned About Employment Gaps
- Think about other activities you can use to fill that time period. You might have experience relevant to your job target, regardless of whether you were paid. Volunteer activities, community involvement, special projects, consulting engagements and continuing education can be used in the Experience section.
- Short gaps might not be apparent if you eliminate months from your traditional resume. Use the Objective statement to summarize your goal as well as your top qualifications. This will draw attention to your selling points and downplay your work chronology.
- If you're returning to the workforce after an extended absence, show how you've kept up-to-date with changes in your industry.
- If you've been out of work because you raised a family, continued your education, cared for a sick family member or recovered from an injury, be sure your tone is not apologetic. There's nothing wrong with being out of work for whatever reason, and a negative attitude might affect your resume's quality.
If You're Concerned About Job-Hopping
- Some fields are prone to short periods of employment, and job-hopping might not be a concern. For many other occupations, there is less of a stigma regarding job-hopping than in the past.
- The best way to handle job-hopping on your resume depends on your specific job titles and companies. You may be able to lump two or more similar positions under one heading (for example, Sales Representative, ABC Company and DEF Company, 2/07-4/09). You can list your combined work experience's highlights. Independent contractors and temporary workers should consider grouping their experience under one time period (such as IT Consultant/Network Specialist, 4/05-present) with project highlights.
- You don't need to include every job you've ever held. Short-term positions that don't do anything for you can certainly be omitted. Keep in mind: A resume is a marketing piece, but you will need to provide a complete work history if you are asked to fill out a job application, which is a signed legal document.
- Employers might be leery of hiring candidates with a history of job-hopping due to recruiting and training expenses. Use your cover letter to explain your work history and put a positive spin on your circumstances. Also, indicate your interest in a long-term position.
What About a Functional Resume?
Many hiring professionals say they prefer chronological resumes to functional resumes. They are often suspicious of functional resumes, which are usually used to hide something. Select a functional format only if you have an extremely poor work background with extended gaps or a terrible history of job-hopping.
Some job seekers try to hide their spotty work histories by submitting a resume cover letter in lieu of a resume. This type of letter covers the key points of a resume in narrative format, but skips over any sketchy parts of the work history. This approach is normally not recommended, because ultimately employers will be looking for the resume.
Accentuate the Positive
There's nothing you can do to change your work experience, so the best strategy is to develop a forward-looking resume that shows the value you offer potential employers. If you are sticking with a chronological resume format, lead with a Qualifications Summary, a narrative profile summing up your key qualifications for the position. This will draw attention to your strengths.
Layoffs and Downsizing: Quick Tips to Improve Your Resume
- Update your resume right away and be sure to showcase your recent achievements no matter how you may feel about your employer.
- Ask your former employer or colleagues to supply you with written reference letters. Consider including a positive quote from a reference letter in the Qualifications Summary or Experience section.
- Read as many job openings as possible to evaluate the skills and experience employers find desirable. Incorporate your matching credentials into your resume.
- Don't misrepresent your employment status by indicating "to present" on your resume.
- Don't write the reason for leaving on your resume, but do use the cover letter to explain your circumstances.