There are many reasons why you might have an unstable employment record. From illness and family commitments, to deciding to travel or just never quite finding the career path that suits you. Although your checkered career history is not necessarily your fault, a resume with lots of short term jobs and employment gaps will not impress future employers.
This article lists the top tips for tailoring your resume to help you impress employers, without being dishonest, and secure you your next interview.
Reduce gaps in employment
Try to make gaps in employment and evidence of job hopping less noticeable on your resume. For example, by leaving out short term employment from your experience section. Alternatively, perhaps you can group similar short term jobs together to demonstrate how those roles combined to give you more long-term experience in a particular role or industry. When noting your employment start and end dates on your resume, it is often a good idea to give the months and years but not the exact dates. This way you can help your experience appear more long term.
Go for a functional over a chronological format
To avoid highlighting your career breaks and job hopping, it is often a good idea to opt for a functional format on your resume, rather than listing every previous job chronologically. The functional format allows you to focus less on where you have worked and more on your skills, experience and achievements.
Another formatting change that could help is putting your qualifications before your employment history. Alternatively, try including the top achievements of your career at the top of the page.
Emphasize contributions and accomplishments
Even if you worked somewhere for a short time, you can still impress people with an explanation of what you accomplished. Consider the following things you may have achieved:
- New ideas and processes for saving money and improving efficiency.
- Sales and deals you closed/clients you helped.
- Projects and teams you managed or led.
- Skills you learned and training completed.
It is worth mentioning that you have limited space on your resume, and that listing every tiny accomplishment will impress nobody. Try to keep these explanations results-oriented and ideally with specific stats on what you improved. It is also a good idea to include any achievements that fall outside the regular scope of the role to demonstrate your ability to adapt and how you are motivated to help beyond your regular duties.
This includes promotions or other achievements. If you have earned promotions or transfers in your career, make sure to specify what happened in your job description for each position. This is evidence of your hard work and is an impressive achievement. If you don't make it obvious what happened, then recruiters may mistake these changes as examples of your unstable career.
Explain yourself in the summary
If you are sure you have a strong explanation for your unstable employment record then you could explain this on your resume. One good option for this is to use the summary section to briefly explain about your unstable record, and why you are now in the perfect position for a permanent, long-term role.
It is a common pitfall for jobseekers to use the summary to explain what they are after. However, this is inadvisable. Afterall, potential employers will already know what job you are interested in. Instead, use the section to pull together your relevant experience and briefly explain any obvious evidence of your unstable career history.
Include additional relevant experience (and hide early gaps)
One way to overcome the issues of a gap-filled resume would be to show you did something productive with the time you took off work. So if you contributed to a volunteer project, completed a training course, or gained useful experience or skills in another way while off work, then please make sure to explain this thoroughly on your resume.
Also, if you had to take considerable time off work early on in your career, then it is easy to hide this on your resume. Usually recruiters and employers are only interested in the last 15 to 20 years of work experience. If you had gaps further in the past than that, then just don’t mention them on your resume.
Mold your resume to the jobs you are applying for
Tailoring your resume so it highlights the skills and experience that make you perfect for the job you are applying for is vital regardless of your employment history. However, if you have an unstable record drawing attention to these skills and experiences, rather than evidence of job hopping, is even more important.
This approach means you can pick out the key goals and achievements that make you perfect for the job, while ignoring your less relevant work experience. This is particularly useful if your unstable employment record includes many different types of roles and experience.
Ask for another’s opinion
It is always a good idea to get your resume checked over by an expert recruiter or a trusted friend or family member, ideally one with some experience writing resumes and job seeking.
Aside from checking your spelling and grammar, which is of course vitally important, another perspective can also be extremely helpful. An outsider’s opinion can help you understand if your approach to explaining your unstable career history has worked. You should ask for specific opinions on whether they feel your resume reads honestly, emphasizing employment gaps and rapid job changes, while drawing attention to your best achievements and skills.
Whilst it is true that your resume should accurately portray your skills and experience it is also a tool for marketing yourself to potential employers. Thankfully, as this article explains, you can toe the line and make a good impression on your resume without being dishonest.
I have explained the many different styles and approaches you can use for your resume. By taking note of the points above, and carefully considering what approach would work best for your specific situation, you will soon be on your way to landing your dream job.
As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.