Rest Assured: A Career Gap Due to COVID Won't Be Held Against You
One of the most common concerns our clients have is that an employment gap will put them at a disadvantage in the hiring process.
If you lost your job due to the current economic situation, you may be wondering how it will be perceived by recruiters – especially if you’re still having trouble finding work.
A recent LinkedIn survey found that “84% [of adults surveyed who lost their jobs between mid-March and mid-October] believe there is a stigma associated with being out of work and roughly two-thirds (67%) believe that stigma is affecting their ability to find a new job.”
We’re here to put your mind at ease.
We went straight to recruiters, hiring managers, and business owners to get their take on the following questions:
- Should applicants be worried about how their career gaps due to COVID will be perceived?
- What is the most effective way to address a career gap on a resume?
- Should a career gap be mentioned in a cover letter as well?
- How do you recommend structuring a LinkedIn headline and summary section if in between jobs?
Should applicants be worried about how their career gaps due to COVID will be perceived?
LinkedIn’s survey found that people didn’t respond well to being out of work.
“Nearly half (46%) of survey respondents said they have lied about being out of work,” Andrew Seaman, Senior Editor for Job Search & Careers at LinkedIn News, wrote.
“When asked about how they feel about talking about being unemployed, 24% said they felt embarrassed, 23% felt uneasy and 15% felt ashamed.”
There really is no reason to feel ashamed.
Gaps spanning even up to six months won't bat the eyes of experienced, sensible recruiters who know what they're truly looking for.
- Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President, altLINE
As Alex Mastin, CEO & Founder of Home Grounds, says, “Millions of people have been affected by these circumstances. I certainly wouldn’t judge a potential applicant based on this.”
“Nowadays, the rulebook's different,” explains Jim Pendergast, a Senior Vice President at altLINE who has over a decade of hiring experience.
“Gaps spanning even up to six months won't bat the eyes of experienced, sensible recruiters who know what they're truly looking for.”
Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP, shares a similar sentiment:
“Employers around the world understand that many people lost their jobs during the pandemic. They will not hold that against you.”
Should you address a career gap on your resume or in a cover letter?
If the dates on your resume make it clear that you aren’t currently working, recruiters will naturally wonder why that is the case.
As such, you should address any potential concerns on your resume and cover letter.
Stick to the facts on your resume
As Penderast says, “the resume itself isn't the place to offer detailed explanations [of your career gap].”
An explanation “is much better suited for a cover letter.”
“If you are worried about start and end dates on jobs, consider removing months and leaving the year intact to lessen the sting of the employment gap,” recommends Paul French, recruiter and founder of Intrinsic Executive Search.
Instead, French encourages applicants to list “any meaningful, professionally relevant uses of your time when you were unemployed [on your resume]… things like volunteering or freelance work.”
If you are unable to volunteer due to COVID-related restrictions, taking online courses related to your field can also be a great option that will help you build transferable skills.
“Recruiters are particularly keen on transferable skills that reflect adaptability and your capacity to effectively execute the responsibilities of various job roles,” French says.
Provide a more detailed explanation on your cover letter
You should use your cover letter to provide a more detailed explanation of your career gap.
Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation, recommends that applicants use their cover letters to explain the reasoning behind each career gap and sharing what they have been working on during their time off.
A common mistake I see is [when an applicant goes] on a long rant about why they were laid off and why they didn’t deserve it.
A better approach is to use the cover letter to demonstrate your resiliency and explain how you are still a valuable worker despite the events that transpired.
- Paul French, Managing Director, Intrinsic Search
On both the resume and cover letter, you want to show that you were taking action towards improving your situation.
“A common mistake I see is [when an applicant goes] on a long rant about why they were laid off and why they didn’t deserve it,” notes French.
“A better approach is to use the cover letter to demonstrate your resiliency and explain how you are still a valuable worker despite the events that transpired.”
As Andrew Taylor, Director of Net Lawman, puts it, “a proactive personality is… very appealing to employers.”
“Having a positive spin, not looking to blame others or the situation, and being mature go a long way in showing what kind of individual you are and how you will react when faced with adverse situations in your new workplace,” Taylor explains.
Even if you use your time off on personal endeavors such as simply reflecting and spending time on personal interests, it’s worth sharing.
“Hiring managers are humans too,” Mastin notes. “We can certainly relate to picking up a hobby you always wanted to try or even taking time to improve your closest relationships.”
Mastin says that such an approach can demonstrate your values, providing clues as to whether you would be the right cultural fit for a company.
How do you recommend structuring a LinkedIn profile when between jobs?
When you’re looking for a new role, there are three sections of your LinkedIn profile you should pay attention to: your headline, your summary, and the open to new opportunities setting.
You only have 220 characters in your headline to make a strong first impression.
Use that space to “create a headline that would benefit the viewer,” says Chris Muktar, Founder of WikiJob. “Make sure to showcase who you are and what you do.”
Recruiters want to quickly get a sense of your seniority level and areas of expertise.
If you only say that you are open to new opportunities, people who come across your profile won’t have a clear idea of which skills you bring to the table.
When crafting your LinkedIn profile summary, think about what information will be most helpful to your target audience.
“You want to communicate your career goals, the types of opportunities you are open to, and the skills you can offer to potential employers,” explains French.
At the end of your summary, explicitly state who should reach out to you and provide your preferred method of contact.
3) Open to New Opportunities
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to adjust your Open to New Opportunities setting to let recruiters and your network know that you are looking for new roles.
We know that 2020 hasn’t been an easy year for job seekers.
We hope that this article provides you with a bit of additional comfort in knowing that most recruiters will be sympathetic if you are currently out of the workforce due to circumstances that were out of your control.
Additional Recruiter Perspectives
Read more recruiter perspectives on the following topics:
- 10 Tips for Working with Recruiters
- Recruitment Trends for 2021
- What Recruiters Expect in a Resume
- Good Questions to Ask During an Interview
- Sending Interview Thank You Notes
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