Is it worth putting this throw away job on my resume?
February 21, 2017 8:35 AM   Subscribe

So I've been out of work for a few years trying to do my own thing. I've decided that I miss the work I used to do (just not the company I used to do it for) and getting back on a job search. And I have a big gap on my resume. And I'm not sure how to proceed.

So yeah, been out of work for about 5 years. At about the middle of that period I did a short (3 month) stint as a contractor, as much as a favor to a friend as anything doing absolute grunt work (it was easy and the pay was OK). The problem is, it makes my employment history look like:

3 months - Mall Security Guard
10 Years - FBI agent
8 years - Police Detective

so that the first thing a reviewer sees is this three month stint in the middle of a large gap. Is there any point in not throwing away the throw away job?
posted by Sid and Marty Krofft's HR Sockpuppet to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't add in a temp job that doesn't add significant experience to my resume. It looks like that would cause more harm than good.
posted by xingcat at 8:37 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

A resume is something you use to market yourself, so it should give a potential employer enough info about your skills and experience that they want to talk to you further. It doesn't need to include an accounting of every last thing you've ever done. (The time for that would be on a security clearance form where they specifically request that level of detail--in that case you'd include it).
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Use a functional (skills) resume rather than a chronological one. You can address the time-frame issue, if asked during the interviews.
posted by mountainblue at 8:56 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

While I wouldn't recommend that you lie or put anything down that would make you look fishy explaining it in an interview, I have a similar gap on my resume with a couple short-term gigs that aren't worth listing individually that I bundle under the job title of "Contract Job Title" that spans several years, and this has worked out well for me when talking about that time.

In my case, I have more than just one contract job that I did in those years and I can show accomplishments for that work, so I don't feel out of line listing it like this even though I wasn't continuously employed for those couple years. Are you in a situation where you might be able to say the same — did you do anything else, even though small or unpaid, related to your career during your period of unemployment? I'd still advocate being honest about the amount of work you were doing, but this gives you a talking point instead of just saying you were unemployed.

You might also want to take a look at this Ask a Manager question about how much resume gaps matter. You could be better off being prepared to frame your unemployment in an open way rather than trying to obfuscate it, as most hiring managers will care about what you're trying to hide or why you weren't employable during that period rather than the gap itself.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:58 AM on February 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

No functional resumes. It will absolutely look like you are trying to hide something. I agree with thorn bushes' take.
posted by thereemix at 9:21 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

All the gaps on my resume are credited to "Lyn Never Consulting (Freelance)". If pressed, I'll say I didn't bring in a ton of work and disliked doing my own sales/accounting/whatever and prefer to work for a better boss than myself.

It's all spin. This isn't saying you have a medical degree when you don't, it's just marketing. I think 90% of the reason the "resume gap" is an issue is misogyny and punishing women for staying home for any length of time, and you will receive credit for even the thinnest spackle you can put over it.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Explain the 5 years. Don't try to obfuscate it. What kind of company is not going to do the barest of digging and find out? In which case you'll have to explain it, and you'll look like you were trying to hide something.

Were you literally doing nothing for 5 years? What does "trying to do my own thing" mean? It's much more important to have a good narrative around that, than whether or not that narrative includes your 3 mo. throwaway gig.

BTW this story (in the briefest form) goes in your cover letter.
posted by danny the boy at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2017

Definitely don't do a functional resume! I'd also put a contractor position if you can make that work.

In your cover letter you can say "After a period of doing contract work I'm looking forward to doing a/b/c for your company" or whatever. Cover letters fill in the gaps.
posted by radioamy at 4:07 PM on February 21, 2017

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