How do I write in my resume and explain in an interview the five-year gap since my last employment due to being a stay-at-home mum?
Pat, 35, Adelaide
This is a real dilemma for mums who are planning to re-enter the workforce after taking time out to look after children – but don’t worry, there are ways around it.
Here are some tips for how to deal with gaps in your work history:
Your resume is a sales document that should highlight the skills and achievements that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. I recommend using a ‘functional’ resume style – this involves breaking your experience down into headings or sections that are relevant to the role you are applying for, and categorising your experiences (both paid and unpaid) accordingly. This structure helps you to avoid listing your experiences in chronological order and drawing attention to the gap in your employment history.
Think about all the different things you have done, both paid and unpaid. Let’s say you started a blog – this demonstrates to an employer that you have writing and communication skills, that you are technically savvy and have a good knowledge of social media. You need to be creative and use professional language to describe your experiences.
Another must is to have a Career Profile or a Career Summary section at the beginning of your resume. This should identify your key areas of expertise or major accomplishments. By highlighting these at the beginning of your resume you are focusing on your capabilities and drawing attention away from your work break.
If you are asked at interview what you have been doing for the past five years, explain that you chose to take time out to be the primary caregiver to your child(ren). You don’t need to go into a detailed explanation and it’s not something you need to apologise for. The worst mistake you can make is to say, ‘I was just at home with the children’.
Preparation is key. The most important thing is to research the company and find out as much as you can about the role. Review the position description in detail and consider the questions you are likely to be asked. Read up on interview questions and advice and prepare your answers, focusing at all times on your strengths and achievements, from either your paid or unpaid work. I would also suggest doing some mock interviews with someone who can give you constructive feedback.
Be sure to enter the interview armed with a list of questions that you want to ask the employer – this shows that you are serious about the role and that you have done your research.
By restructuring your resume and preparing for the interview in these ways, the gap in your professional employment shouldn’t be an issue!
Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.