Question Proposed on LinkedIn: I’m working with a client that I’m trying to fill a 3-year gap of employment on her resume. She took off that time to raise four kids and did some PTA work during that time. Any tips?

Others’ Responses:

– She could put anything on the gap if it was caring for the family or babysitting or whatever. She just needs to relate her skills and objectives she experienced during these 3 years. Babysitter- 2011- 2014. Managed organizing the schedules for children. Cleaned house, organized pick up times, and those sorts. And when she meets with an employer have her relate a story about the gap if they ask and she should provide what she used, learned, and skills she was working on during the time gap.

– Hi Laina, the primary issue here is that your client’s resume be filled with accomplishments relevant to her job target, and that her summary statement communicate personal traits and drive that is consistent with a person in that type of position.As Ryan said, she could really put almost anything in for that time period. I would lean toward “Family responsibilities and the dates"and leave it go at that. What she did , or how she used her time is not of concern.For this purpose, you probably want to go with a functional or hybrid resume that highlights her Core Competencies and Accomplishments regardless of when they occurred. Of course, it is also important that she demonstrate she is current in her understanding and skills in her field of choice. She can do that by listing her computer competence as well as her accomplishments.The way she markets herself is also important, and she will probably benefit most from informal and networking kinds of contacts. Encourage her also to have business and professional references ready to testify of her abilities and achievement.

– I agree with both Bill and Ryan. This is an easy fix, but the applicant needs to rehearse an "elevator speech” whereby the recruiter does not focus on the gap. Many professionals have gaps for one reason or another and this is completely understandable, as long as the gap is not due to the fact that she could not obtain a position during that time period and conveyed as such.Even with a hybrid or skills-relevant resume (as opposed to the standard chronological resume), the recruiter may ask questions about the chronological order of events. So, her cover letter could explain away the gap if you feel that is necessary, so the focus is shifted to her relevant skills.

– I’m curious if there are any additional experiences that are less related to the target. If the professional history allows, sometimes I will separate experience into “related” and “additional” experience and use the cover letter to explain the gap.

– I have to really disagree with some of this. There is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide when you take a few years off to raise your kids. You are not a “babysitter” and you don’t have to talk about doing rocket science consulting on the side, and making up things like “kept the family schedule” is ridiculous – we know what a stay-at-home parent does. . Really, we have to get over this “if you don’t have a job, you’re not working” mentality. Particularly for someone who has been back to work for years already. Seriously, when someone can stay home for their family, that is a good thing!!And please, as an active recruiter, i beg you – no functional resumes! I have solving puzzles of what goes where. Tell the story. Her story includes time of for kids. That’s awesome, not embarrassing.Here’s what I put on a recent resume for a stay-at-home dad returning to an executive career:Stay-at-Home Dad (with occasional consulting on the side) 2011-2014I wouldn’t trade these years for anything, but am looking forward to getting back on my path in the financial or legal arena.She has already re-entered the workforce, so it’s easier for her. But please don’t pad it with made-up stuff. Something like “I wouldn’t trade these years for anything, and the opportunity to take lead the most successful fundraising campaign in PTA history added to my toolbox” tells the story well enough. Simple, direct, unashamed, no BS. In my opinion, she should get an award, not advice on how to pretend she didn’t put her family first for a few years.

– To add… I do like the “elevator speech” idea – I call that a script and having it ready is great to express what you want in an interview, and also to reform your story in your own mind. Scripting makes it easier to talk about anything you might be a little sensitive about.

She say something like: “Honestly, being a parent to four kids with different schedules, schools and needs was harder than any paying job I’ve ever had. I love my family, and wouldn’t trade those years for anything and think it would be great if all parents could do it at least for a while, but honestly, getting back to work was fantastic.”

– Leslie, I’m so glad you said that. I’ve been watching this discussion just to see where the majority of resume writers fall, and I have to agree! I stayed at home for a few years before I started writing resumes full time and I have that gap explained the same way.I’m proud of having survived my time at home and my clients should be proud as well.

– A further note – I met a recruiter once, who stated that he actually prefers to hire stay-at-home Moms returning to the workforce, as they really know how to multitask and have a balanced perspective in so many areas of life in general.

– And yes, I agree with Leslie with regard to having piece together a puzzle when reviewing tons of resumes. This is time-consuming and can give one headache. A listing of achievements (skills-relevant) resume comes into play and may be necessary for someone with a very spotty or job-hopping (without being upwardly mobile) career track record.A skills-relevant/chronological hybrid resume can be very useful when a candidate’s duties are so overwhelming, which relates more to a novel than a resume. One can always create a section of “achievements” or highlight achievements under each job section at the end of the “list of duties and responsibilities ”. There is no exact “rule of thumb” these days…

– She has been back in the paid workforce for three or more years now. She has therefore proven that she can do whatever she has been doing for the past three years.A gap from 2008 – 2011 should not cause concerns for a recruitment consultant or hiring manager. Almost every woman who has children has left paid employment for some period.Ryan – since when is a full time parent a ‘babysitter’. Really!? Sheesh!.I also agree that there is no need, no point and no value in using faffy phrases to pad out what someone did while a full time parent. Given that most people are either parents or have parents or have had parents or have seen movies and/or TV programs featuring parents and their children or have at least one close friend who is a parent, they are pretty well educated about what a full time parent does. It creeps me out somewhat when people talk about their role as a parent as if they were orchestrating a major military campaign and used Project, Excel, Outlook, SAP, Primavera, Attache, MYOB and various other software tools to plan, coordinate and manage schedules, finances and logistics.As for the elevator pitch, make sure you are authentically enthusiastic, proud and confident when you use it. I was interviewing someone seeking to return to the workforce after three years who looked at her shoes and spoke in almost a whisper when she told me about her experience as a full time parent. She therefore conveyed the message that she might have felt guilty about it or that she thought that I might consider it a bad thing to have done.

– Laina, the three year gap is the least of your worries. It sounds like the career transition might be a bigger concern.As a recruiter, I come across candidates all of the time who took time off to raise their family – moms and dads. Don’t over complicate this time and don’t try to be silly or cute by having bullets like, “Chief Family Officer who managed overly complicated schedules for four children.” If I’m hiring you for a Marketing Analyst position and you try and relate your time at home with the kids to the stress of deadlines and complex projects in the work environment, I’m going to roll my eyes and wonder if you understand the workplace. Like Leslie stated, be proud of being a stay-at-home parent. Don’t try to convince me that serving lunch every day at noon to your toddler is the same as meeting an unrealistic deadline that determines the fate of your job.

– I totally agree with Leslie. As I started to read through the comments, I was thinking “What is wrong with taking some years off from paid work to raise children, especially when you have been involved in a organisations in voluntary capacity too?” It does not need to be hidden or even explained. The rest of the CV/resume should cover her skills, experience and potential sufficiently.

– Adding one more agreement wit Leslie. Simply stating that the client was at home with family is fine. I’ve done the same for those who took time off to care for a parent or other relative. The key is clarity. The only time I go into details is if they used their actual professional skills during the time away from the workforce – for example, I had an IT Manager who’d been home for 5 years. She was a tech resource/webmaster/etc. for her PTA and temple and did some upgrades and projects for them. I included some of that for her to show she was ad been actively using her skills.

– I know someone in a similar situation. Does a career summary statement (highlighting transferable skills….10 years experience in operations management handling) or a career goal statement at the top of the resume add value in cases like this, or is it better to leave it off??

– In two cases, by digging, I learned that: *one took over managing the annual fundraiser and increased it by $5,000/year; *another worked as a volunteer in their kids’ schools, in this case, where she worked with special needs children; and *one headed up her church’s annual fundraiser and improved it considerably.

– I guess Leslie rightly gets the Rock Star reply for this one.I’m also intrigued with the recruiter responses. I’ll personally thank all of you. HR reps are about 65% female-I have not checked that stat in a while, I may be off a little bit. The funny part is they can often be brutal when considering female candidates. I actually had a friend that use to help with first round interviews for some of my returning veterans. I was shocked when I went to her office and noticed a picture of her and her husband with two small children. I asked who they were, she told me she took her niece and nephew down for a family photo and turned it toward the interviewer. Her explanation was that whenever she had a female interviewing they would always start talking about their children too and tell her all the info that is essentially illegal for the interviewer to ask. Her explanation was that she hears, not a reliable employee every time one has a cold she will be home, every time it snows, she will stay home. Manipulative and efficient! Brutal in my mind.Not only do I love hearing every one of you say it was the best to be able to stay home-I pray the attitude is also changing. Day care has become so obnoxiously expensive it is flatly prohibitive for many families. The attitude is where the ideas of scheduling, finance manager, etc comes from so I will be somewhat understanding to the idea of putting in the super mom manager ideas. The big thing a few employers ” to include my old pal ” say is they are afraid they have not stayed up to date regarding their technical abilities and knowledge since technology changes so fast. I love the idea that they can just flatly put on the resume, 4 years stay at home mom. Of course it is when they get into high school and each one is in one or more activities that I don’t know how any household can keep up today. God bless every one of you!The last piece I will throw in, is in regards to the resume style. Functional and combination style resumes cannot get through applicant tracking systems real well. You really must go chronological today, there is just not much choice. I must say though ATS are getting MUCH better. The combination style can be fantastic for a hand delivered resume, but not an on-line application and most temp agencies down like them, at least around here. But for networking having both styles is a good idea and for the interview bring 5-7 good quality combo style can work as well.Regards and happy holidays all. Again, thank you for the conversation. I have someone with a 2 yr gap for taking care of an aging parent, so I wanted to see where the tones were going-it sounds like it is changing and I’m thrilled!

– Just the thought that anyone gets penalized for caring for another–for being human!–sets my teeth on edge.I think, too, it is about how one understands what one did. Or how one grew, developed, etc. I think we tend to circle around career themes but enact them differently in each career iteration. Because these are always expressed by words on resumes, one can always reframe, reposition, and adjust perspective. It’s what we do when targeting existing skills to a new job: it is always about perspective and understanding. I work with undergraduate art students, and I try to help them see themselves as the artist/educator/painter/museum worker (or whatever their goal is) in whatever position they hold. What did you learn from that barista or dog-walking job that makes you a better illustrator? These are the ah-ha moments that give people hope. For me, how did that 15-year stay-at-home experience make me a better academic advisor? Wow, let me count the ways…

– I don’t think that it’s necessarily being penalised for caring for someone. It’s more that during the time that you did that, someone else was scoring runs. (In this particular case, that’s pretty much a non-issue because they have been back in the thick of it for several years and have therefore had a chance to kick some goals.)It’s more of an issue if someone has been out of ‘action’ recently where employers have plenty of people from whom to choose who have been in the game during that period.What’s important for people who are not in the paid workforce is to do things that demonstrate their willingness to keep their hand in, in some meaningful way through courses, volunteering, part time paid work and so on. Taking courses is important for careers or jobs in which remaining technologically up to date is critical.

– I agree with Leslie completely. There is no need to “try and fill” these years rather just put the dates and a simple statement and move on. The more you try to do something that is over the top, the more this will actually impact the success of the applicant when talking about this time during interview.

My Response:

See if she did anything during that time related to personal and professional growth. Did she take any continuing education courses? Did she attend any workshops or belong to any groups? Did she organize activities for her children? See if there is a relation between the job she is pursuing and what she did during those 3 years.

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