Resume Q & A: How to Avoid Resume Confusion


Question #1: Recent Grad Woes

“I graduated in 2013, and I’ve been struggling to find a job since that time. I don’t know why my search is taking so long, but it just is. Lately I decided take my graduation date off my resume when I apply for jobs, because I thought this would reduce any red flags raised by my long search. But employers are confused about this. They ask why I omitted this information, and then they don’t contact me again. Why does this confound them so much? Is it such a big deal?”


Employers are confused because 1) a year-long job search is absolutely not a red flag in the current economy (and employers who dismiss candidates for this reason are making a big mistake). And 2) removing your graduation date seems sneaky and manipulative. They probably wonder why you would be embarrassed about one but not the other.

Question #2: Laid Off or Fired?

“When I lost my last job, I was called into the office and told my services would ‘no longer be necessary.’ Since I didn’t do anything wrong and I was still eligible for UC benefits, I would consider this a layoff. But I’m really not sure, and my last potential employer wanted a clear answer as to whether I was laid off or fired. I didn’t know how to answer, and I didn’t get the job. What could I have done differently?”


You were laid off. If the subject comes up in the future, use that phrase and then move on.

Question #3: Career Changer

“I switched careers five years ago—I worked as a veterinary technician, and then I got my MBA and became a marketing manager. This doesn’t sound mystifying to me, but it confuses my potential employers to no end. They stare at my resume and scratch their heads. In interviews, they seem unable to move past this topic, and no explanation seems to satisfy them. Any advice?”


Find smarter employers. Seriously. Keep reaching out, keep looking, and recognize that rigid, narrow-minded, and easily confused hiring managers just aren’t a match for you.

Question #4: Too Much Work?

“For a brief time in my life I held two professional jobs at once—I was working for a consulting company, but I was also processing orders for custom-designed motorcycle headlights as part of a business I was launching with a friend (it’s a long story). Now that I’m on the market again, potential employers look at the employment dates on my resume and they’re confused by my timeline. How can I allay their concerns?”


Don’t try to over-explain this in the actual text of your resume. Just keep your dates for both positions honest and visible, and use your cover letter and interview to head off potential questions.

Question #5: One Last Summer

“After college I took a year off to travel. I backpacked across three continents and then I returned home to look for work. But employers struggle with this gap on my resume. They don’t seem to understand why I would make such an ‘unconventional’ decision. How can I explain myself in the simplest possible terms?”


Welcome to the corporate job search. You’re stepping in a world of caution and convention unlike anything you may be used to. But if you want to win at this game, you have to play on your employer’s terms. Don’t discuss your travel in the text of your resume, and keep your employment dates scrupulously honest. If you’re asked about your travel gap in an interview, describe it as a corporate-minded decision, as in: ‘I believe that my travel experiences have shaped me as an employee. They taught me to think outside the box and become a better problem solver.’”