Searching for a job? If so, you have something in common with nearly every other professional in the job market: You've had to put together a résumé. But despite the fact that everyone writes one, preparing this document can be tricky. What's the best way to address an employment gap? If you've held temporary positions in the past, can you list them on your résumé? Should you still include your college GPA, even if you graduated years ago?
Following are some tips for addressing these and other sticky résumé situations:
1. You have a gap in your work history.
If you have a few employment gaps, consider using a résumé format that focuses on your functional skills. Begin with a short summary of your experience at the top of your document. If you're an accountant seeking a management position in the food services industry, your summary might read: "CPA with nine years of financial management reporting experience with an emphasis on the food services industry. Possess five years of supervisory experience managing team of 15 accountants." Follow the summary with a section detailing relevant skills, grouping related ones together into categories such as "software skills" or "supervisory experience." Then briefly list your work history in reverse chronological order.
2. You've held a lot of jobs in a short amount of time.
Very short, frequent job stints can raise eyebrows. While it may be tempting to omit a few positions, it's better to go with full disclosure. If you have a "legitimate" reason for job hopping -- you've worked for several startups and all have gone bust or are taking temporary work during a shaky economy -- explain it in your cover letter. If not -- you've job hopped looking for higher pay, for instance -- be prepared to endure a little more scrutiny and to explain yourself in the interview.
3. You've only worked for one firm.
While your long tenure at a company demonstrates loyalty, you also want to make sure you emphasize career growth. List each position you've held at the firm to show forward momentum. You also might have a section highlighting ongoing education and professional development activities.
4. You've held several temporary positions but few full-time roles.
Fifty-six percent of executives polled by Robert Half said they view a long period of consistent temporary work as comparable to full-time work. You can list temporary positions in reverse chronological order, just as you would full-time ones. If you worked with a staffing service, use the name of the company you worked through as your employer, grouping all of your assignments from that company together. Also, make sure you indicate that the jobs were temporary assignments so hiring managers are clear about the nature of your positions.
5. You're a recent college graduate with little experience.
Keep in mind that the work history section of your résumé isn't exclusively for paid, full-time work. As long as you're candid about the sort of positions they are, it's perfectly acceptable to list any internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work or other applicable experience you've gained. You might be surprised to find you have more experience than you think.
6. You're not sure how to list your GPA.
As your work history develops, academic accomplishments carry less weight, so if you've been in the job market for more than a few years, you don't need to include your GPA. Simply list your alma mater and degree earned at the end of your résumé. For recent graduates, however, a high grade point average or degree from a prestigious university should be listed near the top of your résumé.
7. Your former employer changed its name.
You worked for years for Boxes-R-Us before it was acquired by BoxMania. How do you address the name change on your résumé? The simplest solution is to list the current company name, followed by firm's former name in parenthesis. Putting both names on your résumé ensures that potential employers can locate the appropriate information when verifying your work history and conducting reference checks. If your former employer has gone out of business -- unfortunately, not uncommon in today's economy -- also note that in parenthesis. Just be sure to keep in contact with anyone from the firm whom you hope to use as a professional reference.
A thoughtfully constructed résumé that addresses any potential red flags will give you the best chance of reaching the next step in the process -- the interview.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.
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