Government Job - How to explain gap in resume?
October 24, 2019 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Got an interview for a position I really want; and then they followed up with asking me for references. Now they have called me asking about my resume and to explain some gaps...I need to write it in their notes; not sure how to proceed?

Graduated from graduate school before deciding to go into another time commitment of professional school --- took about 2.5 years off; one year to apply to professional school and 1 year of kinda just helping out my family and doing nothing specific... how do I convey this? They asked to just write a note and send them an e-mail to explain this. Feels stressful even though that's the truth, I took time off.

Also my resume doesn't list every job I've had; I think I've had some crappy side jobs too but have no relevance to my professional resume -- so will that also be another hindrance in the background check?

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you put something like “caregiving for family” and/or traveling? Most employers understand those kinds of gaps.
posted by rpfields at 2:55 PM on October 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

Umm, I personally would tell them I took time off to do something specific -- caring for a family members, or writing a novel or something.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:58 PM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

"Assisted family members with...."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:59 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

In general, I think an answer of "I spent the 2.5 years caring for my family, learning [some new skill], and tending to [some hobby]" is sufficiently complete. There's no need to provide further detail. If I see a 2.5 year gap in a resume, then there's a chance that the candidate is trying to hide something - for instance, perhaps the candidate left off a significant job that resulted in them being fired or was in jail for the time. I would want to understand the circumstances. However, if the circumstances were just as simple as your family, then I would actually be a bit jealous of you for having that available to you. It would not make me feel negatively about you and I don't think I'd want to work for any organization that views that time as a negative.

"one year to apply to professional school "

I'm sure you have your reasons, but it seems fairly odd to take an entire year to apply to professional school. Unless its for some form of specialized degree I'm unfamiliar with, most professional school applications I'm aware of can be completed in a few hours plus perhaps a couple days for an essay or research proposal. I would suggest providing some more detail in what you did during that year (even if attending to your family).

"I think I've had some crappy side jobs too but have no relevance to my professional resume -- so will that also be another hindrance in the background check?"

If you are applying to a federal job that requires any background check or security clearance, you will want to disclose every position because each position will be verified. They may not care about the positions to evaluate your competency for the position at hand, but they will need to know every one for security reasons. Be complete in your background details - inaccuracies will just trigger further investigation.
posted by saeculorum at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

They want you to give a truthful account of the time so they have it. That's really it. If you were in prison at that time and didn't report it (for example), then they would have a basis for terminating you if they found out later. I think "family caregiving" is adequate, if not exciting.

If you are actually hired and they do a background check, it won't be off your resume, but off an SF-85 or 86 (depending on position). For those, you will need to give every detail. I don't think you need to list random irrelevant short-term or part-time work at this moment.
posted by praemunire at 4:27 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

A gap of "I didn't have a job" is not a warning flag. What they're concerned about is a gap of "I was in jail" or "I was working as a courier for a foreign embassy" or "I was working for a company that was convicted of fraud and several other crimes and I don't want anyone to know about it now."

The resume doesn't need to have all your jobs. However, if there's an application that says "list all your jobs from the last 8 years" or whatever - list them, even if they're minor; they'll be checking the details on those.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Government jobs...ugh...I have one and know that they are particular in their "grading" of your experience. School counts as more experience in terms of abilities but work experience gives you a track record of aptitude. If you have a lot of school but very little on the job time you may be someone who won't stay in a high paying position long enough to make it worth their while to train you. If you have jobs that you didnt mention, mention them. ANYTHING. They look for those who want to stay employed. You're more likely to be hired if you have a dozen part time jobs over as many years than if you got a degree then flitted about the world for a few lazy years.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 6:28 AM on October 26, 2019

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