Little White Lies—Dates Of Employment

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It’s very tempting for job seekers—especially if they’ve sent out many resumes without receiving positive responses from employers—to want to hide a gap in employment. After all, we all know that

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some employers won’t hire the unemployed and don’t have any tolerance for gaps. Why not make sure you make the cut by “adjusting” your dates of employment? Isn’t it better to say that you’ve worked “April 2011 to Present,” even though you left the job last week? That’s just “forgetting” to update your resume, right? It’s one thing to not immediately update your LinkedIn profile to reflect unemployment, but it’s another thing to deliberately send out a resume that you know is inaccurate.

Sure, little white lies like this might be more appealing to prospective employers. They might even work sometimes—increasing your chances of getting an interview and even a job offer. That’s of course why they’re so tempting.

But, as I’ve said before, they aren’t harmless sales-pitches. They’re lies. And those lies are time bombs waiting to go off. The news is full of stories where lies were discovered—years later—and cost the person his job, or cost a candidate an election, or simply caused embarrassment. Remember that “stretching” your employment dates is a lie easily uncovered with one call to the employer’s human resources department.

There are several ways you can truthfully downplay gaps and your employment dates. You can use, for example, years of employment without the months (“2010 to 2012” rather than “Apr. 2010 to Jan. 2012”). You can use seasons (“Summer 2012”) or other time frames (“Spring Semester 2012”). Keep in mind that if you’re asked to fill out a job application, the employer might still require the months and years, and may have the opportunity to see the gaps then. Or, you might be asked about it in an interview.

For longer gaps, you can consider giving some explanation. “Personal sabbatical” is an option you can consider when the gap is caused by medical problems or issues that you don't want to discuss on your resume. Alternatively, you can focus on accomplishments during that gap, like earning a certification, studying for the bar, traveling around the world, learning a language, helping a spouse start a business, or other activity that may benefit potential employers, as well as demonstrate your productivity during the employment gap.

Remember: everything on your resume must be able to pass a background check. That’s the big difference between “presenting things in the best light” and lying. Why do I say this over and over? Because it’s the truth!