Expert Q&A: Work Experience Gaps | TheBestSchools
Updated September 1, 2022
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Job hunting in a pandemic isn't ideal, especially when you're a new graduate with a light resume.
Nonetheless, there are still industries thriving and employers hiring, which means it's crucial to create a resume in 2021 that will get you noticed.
We recently reached out to Kat Everett, Corporate Recruiter for Red Ventures (RV). She specifically supports RV's Creative recruiting efforts with a heavy focus on editorial hiring. Everett sorts through hundreds of resumes per month, and there's no better person to ask for advice. We asked her how new grads can make their resumes stand out from the crowd this year.
TheBestSchools (TBS): Thank you for talking to us today! First things first: What's your prediction for how the job market will improve (or not) in 2021?
I am optimistic! We have gotten back into a steady pace with hiring, but I know that is definitely unique right now. However, because remote work is becoming more common, I'd encourage applicants to look outside of locations they would normally put into their search. There are likely opportunities and companies you might not have considered in the past due to relocation.
TBS: Due to mass unemployment in 2020, many people have work experience gaps. What's your advice to someone with gaps in their resume?
We understand this has been a unique time. I appreciate when candidates directly point out the gap and explain the why, especially if COVID was a contributing factor (for example: "Left this position in June of 2020 due to COVID-19 company-wide layoffs").
I also think it's important to highlight what you have done during the interim. Maybe you've taken an online digital marketing course or have been freelancing as you continue your search. It says a lot about how someone is still trying to brush up on their skill sets while navigating their job hunt. Overall transparency goes a long way, so the recruiter doesn't have to guess or overly probe into your work history.
TBS: What's your advice to college graduates who might not have a lot of work experience yet? Is there a good way to display information on a resume or are there certain attributes they should highlight?
If you don't have a lot of formal work experience yet, you can still include:
- Projects you worked on in school
- Internships you completed
- Organizations you joined
- Volunteer work you did
Experience in different school organizations, internships, part-time work, and relevant school projects would all be applicable. If the experience is transferable or relevant, include it! For example, I really enjoy seeing student newspaper experience if an editor candidate is at the associate level.
Seeing work in action is helpful. If you don't have a lot of formal work experience, make sure you have samples of where your experience has been displayed. For example, for writers, are there any articles you can link to in your resume that you worked on in a class or internship? Maybe you were involved in a school organization — are there samples of a project or event you worked on you can include?
TBS: What are some red flags you notice in resumes?
Incorrect Objective Statements: Objective statements that include another company's name or a different role they are applying to. Please proofread!
No Relevant Experience: If this is the case at first glance, please explain the connection to the role in the cover letter to help the recruiter understand where experience could be transferable.
Way Too Much Information: Sometimes I'll receive resumes that are so busy, and it's hard to figure out their experience all together. Ask a friend if it's digestible and how long it takes them to read through. It shouldn't be more than a few minutes to get the overall gist. Conciseness is key!
Not Enough Information: Sometimes people don't expand on their work experience, and it's just their company, title, and time frame. Recruiters need a few bullet points of information to grasp your role responsibilities.
Clickable Links That Aren't Active Links: Candidates sometimes include their LinkedIn on their resume to easily direct recruiters and hiring managers to their profile, but too often the link is broken. Similarly, this sometimes happens with work samples. Make sure the information is accessible if you want the recruiter to see it!
TBS: Is a typo on someone's resume a deal-breaker?
No. If there are multiple, that definitely gives me pause! I also am probably more nitpicky because I work with editors. I will sometimes encourage candidates to fix them and resend their resume back if we continue in the process.
TBS: What are your thoughts on one-page resumes vs. two-page resumes?
I definitely prefer one-pagers! Try to only include the most relevant experience. If the experience is truly all relevant and you have more years of experience to pull from, I can understand why two-pagers happen. However, if you are able to use one page without compromising key experiences, please try one!
TBS: Should someone list all their skills or just the ones relevant to a certain position?
I would stick with just relevant ones, especially if there are ones you have that are on the job description. For example, if it's for an SEO role, including a laundry list of all skills can sometimes be less meaningful. I would be sure to include only ones you would feel confident expanding on if probed.
TBS: At what point should someone move the education section down their resume?
A good indicator (depending on your application) is if the job posting lists education as a preferred skill. I would include it at the top if that has been explicitly stated in the description. As you start to gain more relevant work experience, it likely makes sense to move it down.
TBS: Can you talk a little bit about the application process? What happens once someone applies to a job, and how long does it usually take for each step?
How long are job postings left up?
A recruiter might leave a job posting up for 2-3 weeks, or they might receive 200 applications and close the posting in two days. It's best to apply as soon as possible.
This timeline and process can vary across companies, but typically, there are a few weeks between each stage. A recruiter might leave a job posting up for 2-3 weeks to allow for applications to come in, or they might receive 200 in two days (it happens), and that time isn't necessarily needed. At RV, I own a specific role and am screening each resume myself as I work alongside the hiring team on what they are looking for.
In larger companies or agencies, recruiters might use different software that separates resumes with keywords that match the job profile or job posting. My understanding is that this would be needed for very high application volume (hundreds or thousands per job) and this eliminates time spent reviewing resumes that in theory would be unqualified.
At RV, we do not use scanners even when we receive high application volume. Although more time consuming, I try to read every cover letter, portfolio link, and resume — and that's fairly uncommon. We believe in hiring qualified candidates, but also believe in potential. I would argue recruiters miss high potential candidates when they might not have the exact profile that would match through a scanner. We have a high talent bar, but also believe in opportunity. That's one of the biggest reasons I love recruiting for RV specifically.
TBS: In general, is there anything else you'd recommend for making a resume stand out?
Resumes that are tailored to the role and company.
Example: "I've been an avid reader of Healthline content for a few years now. I've been waiting for a role that fully aligns with my passions and experience, and that's why I am enthusiastically applying to the position of Wellness Editor." (Think: mini cover letter or objective line!)
Linking to your portfolio, work samples, and LinkedIn helps the recruiter view your materials.
A Humanized Resume
Is there a small space where you can include a glimpse of you? I may have a different perspective working with creatives, but I've seen people include small bios that help me uncover what drives a candidate. At RV, we encourage hobbies/outlets that help you bring your best self to work.
Example: "When I'm not writing about personal finance, you can find me drinking copious amounts of black coffee, hiking the AT, or working on my wellness blog." A.K.A. What makes you YOU?
PDFs vs. Word
Sometimes using Word can mess up formatting and make your resume harder to view. It's best to export into PDF format to make sure your formatting sticks.
For more information about creating the perfect resume, check out our How to Write a Resume Guide, which includes a downloadable template.
Recruiter's Top Resume Tips for New Graduates
It's OK if you don't have a lot of formal work experience. Include relevant experience, like internships and volunteer work.
Use a PDF instead of a Word doc.
Include clickable links to your LinkedIn, portfolio, and/or samples.
Stick with relevant skills for the specific role you are pursuing.
Keep your education at the top until you gain more experience.
Explain what you did in each role rather than just listing names and dates.
If you have a resume gap, highlight how you used that time to build skills.
One-page resumes are preferred.
Header Image Credits: Luis Molinero, kurhan | Shutterstock
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