If you’ve endured a lengthy stretch of unemployment, or you’ve been in the workforce for decades and feel that an employer might hold your age against you, you might be tempted to leave all dates off your résumé.
Excluding your graduation date from the education portion of your résumé is one thing (in fact, that practice seems more common these days), but excluding timeframes from your previous positions is sure to raise red flags with employers. In our age of Google and other search tools, it’s a relatively easy thing for a prospective employer to determine when you actually worked for a particular company.
That also means no stretching dates. It’s okay to leave off the month you started (or left) a particular job, but never add or subtract years from your tenure at a particular firm. If you’re concerned about ageism as an older tech worker, you can limit your résumé to the last 10-15 years of jobs; that will convey your most up-to-date skill-set and experience.
Dealing with Gaps
So how do you deal with résumé gaps? If you volunteer or freelance, you can insert those experiences into the document in order to fill it out. If the gap is due to a sabbatical of some sort, you can feel free to include that, as well, especially if you spent that time learning new skills that could prove relevant to your next position.
But at some point—especially if you land a job interview—you’re probably going to have to explain any job-free intermissions in your career. It’s important at such junctures to tell the truth. With the economic turbulence of the past few years, enduring a layoff or two doesn’t have the stigma of previous eras, especially in tech, where companies (especially smaller ones) rise and fall on a monthly basis.
When explaining, keep things direct and to the point. “My position at Company X was eliminated as part of broader layoffs,” you can say. “I used the six months until I found another position to educate myself in a number of programming languages.” Most hiring managers likely won’t take umbrage with an explanation along those lines.