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Minimizing Dates on Resumes

Q: Last week I was told for the third time in the last 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 and de-emphasize the recent gaps in my employment?

A: Unfortunately, downsizing has become a way of life for many companies. Stockholders are demanding a quick return on their investment, and cutting payroll is the fastest way to improve the bottom line. Merger mania also leads to massive layoffs as combined companies reduce redundancy in their workforce. Fortunately, for every organization letting people go, there are several expanding their headcount and desperate to hire new employees. Employers are very aware of this trend. It's likely they will understand why your work history has been spotty the last few years and hire you anyway.

However, there's no reason to display your job hopping like a red badge of courage, when you can focus on your achievements instead. Rather than using a chronological 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 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 US

  • 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 take 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. Example:

Senior Trainer Telecom Incorporated 1998-2000

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 whatever format you use.


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