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I've been steadily employed for the past 2.5 years at the same job but I've decided that it's not for me and I've been interviewing elsewhere.

Prior to my current job, I was unemployed for 14 months and I have no excuse for not working other than I was laid off and couldn't find suitable work. This gap seems to be noticed fairly often in my interviews.

Before that period of unemployment, I worked for a company that is no longer in business today. My manager (and reference) from that company left several months before I did, and I'm sure she only has a vague approximation of my end date.

Should I "shrink" my period of unemployment on my resume? Maybe make it so I was only out of work for a couple of months? Is it likely prospective employers would find out? It would save me a whole bunch of interview awkwardness because I wouldn't have to say I was sitting around doing nothing for well over a year.

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  • If they know what they're doing, they will ask your reference for the dates he/she remembers. They won't tell him the dates you gave. Speak to your reference. If you want to fudge your employment. Get them on board with that idea. Even if you plan on telling the truth, you still need to talk to your references anyway, to make sure they provide the correct dates. May 28, 2021 at 8:13
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    Lying is the quickest and most efficient way to get on my "do never ever hire this person" list.
    – Hilmar
    May 28, 2021 at 12:17
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    I was laid off and couldn't find suitable work - That seems perfectly reasonable to me. Why would you feel the need to lie about that? Very often, people get laid off and spend many months looking for work in their chosen field. Employers don't expect you to take a job at the local carwash just to fill your employment gap. If you were laid off and looking for a new job then just say that.
    – joeqwerty
    May 28, 2021 at 12:36
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    I know of a software developer that resigned without much of a plan (mostly due to burnout) and pottered around for over a year doing odd freelance jobs, no stressful routine but also not sufficient income. When she decided to enter the employment market full-time again, she seemed to have been able to put a positive spin on the varied new experience and learning she was able to acquire, while being honest about the income situation, and landed a good job. This however is probably industry-dependent (skills shortage). I agree, never fudge dates.
    – frIT
    May 28, 2021 at 19:49
  • Surely you did something during the 14 months, and possibly something that could be relevant for a future job. For instance, if you're a programmer by profession and you did any kind of programming at all during that time, there might be something relevant in there ("learned new frameworks" or whatever). So I would probably call those 14 month an "Extended Gap Year" in my CV and list all the relevant things you did during that time. Note that "relevant" could also include character building or other soft skills that you may gain through non-work experiences such as traveling another country.
    – Thomas
    Jun 2, 2021 at 19:53

3 Answers 3

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Honesty is usually the best policy

The situation is what it is. Don't lie about it, don't try to distort the real image. Just have a good, real explanation for what happened and try to present it in a positive light, without exaggerating or lying about it.

You say for ex:

It would save me a whole bunch of interview awkwardness because I wouldn't have to say I was sitting around doing nothing for well over a year.

Have you really been sitting doing nothing? Or did you you try to make the best out of the situation and did something while you couldn't find another suitable job? From the things you did, which were a plus for what you did next, for your skills or what made you grow as a person, or what you learned from it? Talk about that if asked.

From personal experience (I have large gaps in my CV too) I can tell you HR people will definitely notice and will ask about it. Some recommend to "tweak" you CV a bit and instead of showing work periods "from month/year to month/year" to just show "from year to year" to try to hide the gap, but most HR personnel will ask for the actual dates because they know the trick. So then you will seem like you were trying to hide it, and you look dishonest, and you lose points. If they do a background check or ask for references, they will find out about it either way, so you look dishonest again.

At the end of the day it's your decision to make, after considering the pros and cons of doing it one way or the other, but it's usually better to be honest. If they don't like you or offer you a job when you are honest, they will probably not like you or offer you a job when they realize you "tweaked" your CV either.

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    Also people have been fired years later when lies on their resume were discovered.
    – bob
    May 28, 2021 at 16:12
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"Should I "shrink" my period of unemployment on my resume?"

Lying on a resume is singularly bad idea. Instead of lying, try to justify why you were out of work and how you utilized that time to create a better version of yourself which helped you land the current job.

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As with many potential red flags on a resume, the best way to make it a problem is draw attention to it and make it a problem.

When I'm interviewing someone, the more nervous a candidate seems to talk about or tries to justify an issue, the more curious about it I become.

How could you fudge it in a way that wouldn't be discovered? That would require lying about the employment dates on one or both sides of the hole and you definitely Don't Do That.

As Bogdan mentioned you could remove months; i.e.: "Nov 2012-Feb 2013" becomes "2012-2013" and now a 2-4 month job now appears like a 2 year position to you, but not to someone in HR or who looks at resumes every day and knows how to read between the lines. That especially stands out if the resume is not consistent: if most jobs show an employment period which includes months, but one lists only year(s), that one sticks out and draws one's attention.

Just list the truth and when the topic of employment history comes up, recite the facts and move on:

"From June 2013 to November 2017 I worked at Blahblah Company. When I was laid off I was fortunate to be able to afford to take some time before finding my next position at Cheetum & Company in the summer of 2019. I've really enjoyed working there because..."

If the interviewer wants to know more, she will ask. If not, don't feel the need to go back and encourage her to ask by digging into it yourself by acting guilty about nothing. There is no shame in being laid off, and being between jobs is not that uncommon.

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  • I have comonly used yyyy-yyyy format for time, but when doing this do it consistently for all jobs, not just the one you try to fudge. Also how this is perceived might vary depending on country, locale and type of employment.
    – lijat
    May 29, 2021 at 19:48

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