Q: Last week I was told for the third time in the past five years that my company is being acquired. While I haven't been let go yet, I know it's only a matter of time until my department is eliminated or moved to another state. Consequently, I'm revamping my resume once more. Is there any way I can minimize my changing jobs three times in the last five years, all at small companies, and de-emphasize the recent gaps in my employment –Paul, Seattle, Wash.
A: Unfortunately Paul, downsizing has become a way of life at many companies. Stockholders demand a quick return on their investment, and cutting payroll is the fastest way to improve the bottom line in a recession. Merger and acquisitions, like the one you're experiencing now, also can lead to massive layoffs as companies seek to reduce redundancies in their workforce. Fortunately, many companies are continuing to hire for tough-to-fill positions, even in this downturn, especially in health care, sales and education. For every organization letting people go, there are others still expanding their headcount and eager to hire new employees. Employers are very aware of these trends, and it's likely they'll understand why your work history has been spotty the past few years.
However, there's no reason to display your job hopping like a red badge of courage. Focus on your achievements instead. Rather than using a chronological resume format, which emphasizes your dates of employment, consider switching to a functional or hybrid approach, which highlights your experiences compared to the opening's requirements.
First, look at the job description to determine its key functions. For instance, a training position's main activities might include needs assessment, training design, facilitation and program evaluation. Using each of these phrases as a section title, pull together your most important accomplishments from all of your previous positions and list them in order of importance under the appropriate title. A trainer might include under the heading "Training Design:"
- Created a one-day seminar for all levels of the organization on dealing effectively with change
- Designed a cutting-edge workshop on conflict resolution attended by 2,000 people across the U.S.
- Collaborated with colleagues in nine countries to put together a training program on how to adjust to foreign cultures
- Adapted an off-the-shelf customer service training program to meet the specialized needs of the telecommunications industry
After you've completed your functional section, which may easily fill the first page of your resume, you can include a list of your job titles, companies and dates of employment under a section called "Work History." Put the dates to the right on each line and conceal the time gaps between positions by using years only, instead of months and years.
Senior Trainer, Telecom Analytics – 2004-2006
While not every recruiter will appreciate this type of resume, it will attract the attention of the ones more interested in your achievements than your chronological work history. Those who fixate on dates will have a problem with your employment record no matter what format you use.