When reviewing a job candidate's résumé, hiring managers often look for evidence of strong problem-solving skills. You might solve the toughest business problems, but if your résumé doesn't reflect your strengths, fixing it up might be your biggest challenge yet.
If there are aspects of your background that are likely to raise eyebrows, polish your résumé problem-solving skills before you start applying to positions. Here are four common career problems and how to frame them on your résumé to land an interview.
Gaps in your work history.
It's not uncommon for job candidates to have periods of unemployment on their résumés. Short gaps don't pose a problem during the hiring process because hiring managers understand that it takes some time to find a position following a move, career switch, or layoff. Longer employment gaps, however, can trigger a red flag.
When dealing with a gap in your work history, never stretch out your employment dates to cover the gap. You might lose a job opportunity if the employer finds out you embellished your record, so it's always best to be honest.
Forbes career coach Tammy Homegardner suggests adding a section to your résumé covering the date range of the gap. Use the sought-after job title as the heading for that section, and explain why you've taken time off—whether for eldercare, family leave, volunteer work, or furthering your education—and mention that you're looking to return to the workforce full time. This structure gives you the opportunity to show your commitment to your field and explain how your employment gap contributes to your career or personal development.
Frequent job changes.
Having a string of short-term jobs on your résumé isn't as much of a deal-breaker as it used to be. It's becoming more common for professionals to have worked several jobs during their career. But if your résumé shows week-long work stints or too many career fields, you may come across as being unfocused or uncommitted.
You should never lie on your résumé, but you also don't have to include every detail of your work history. If you leave out a job that only lasted a week or two, you avoid looking fickle and draw more attention to the roles that helped you develop your career.
Another way to reframe job-hopping, according to Monster, is to place two or more consecutive, related positions under one heading, such as "Manager at Alpha Restaurant and Omega Restaurant." Then, highlight the experiences and accomplishments you gained in both jobs.
Lack of experience.
Another issue that tests your résumé problem-solving skills is having a work history that doesn't perfectly fit the requirements listed in the job ad. If you're switching career fields or entering the full-time workforce for the first time, your résumé might be sparse.
Make your qualifications look beefier by highlighting non-paid work experiences, internships, volunteering experience, and course projects in which you honed the skills your prospective employers are seeking.
For example, if you're applying for a business management or finance position, highlight your work on a student organization's fundraising committee and explain how this role taught you financial fundamentals. If you're looking for a marketing job, describe a marketing campaign you created for a senior-level business course. While these aren't direct work experiences, they give hiring managers a broader view of your skills.
Termination from a previous job.
You don't have to list the reason why you left a job on your résumé, but you could be asked about it during an interview. When you're crafting your résumé, think about how you'll frame this uncomfortable subject in the best possible light.
If a conflict led to your termination, don't rehash every detail of it, and don't criticize your former employer or coworkers—no matter how much you think they deserve it. Such negative talk will paint you as unprofessional. Instead, acknowledge that you didn't meet your employer's expectations. Explain how you didn't reach deadlines or didn't adjust to your team's work style. Then, show your employer that these past issues are, indeed, in the past—this part is critical. Describe the changes you've made and the lessons you've learned in your career. Better yet, show the hiring manager evidence of courses you've taken or certifications you've earned that have helped you grow as a professional and a teammate.
Most employers aren't looking for the perfect résumé; they're looking for a job candidate with a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn. Still, putting your résumé problem-solving skills to work can give you a leg up in the hiring process and help you make a great first impression.