Should I Include Months on a Résumé?
The Dilemma of Putting Months on a Résumé?
Why should I? No one else does.
I know. It’s tough to do the right thing. But as my dear old mother used to say, ‘If Johnny jumped off the bridge, would you do it too?’ That’s the same kind of dilemma you face with the question, should I include months on a résumé?
I always said ‘no’, but there were times I wondered.
Despite my occasional desire to leap from the bridge into the depths of the river, I did understand her meaning. Don’t do things because someone else does, and don’t do it because it’s the easy way out. Do things for one reason only, because it’s the right reason. When it comes to résumés, the right reason is the truth. Don’t try to cover up gaps in employment. Tell the truth.
Repercussions of Putting Months on a Résumé?
Could it cost you the job? Perhaps. But it’s still the right thing to do. And it’s not only the right thing ethically, it’s the right thing for you to do process wise. If you leave gaps on your résumé, you’re not fooling anyone. No résumé screener will overlook that, and pretend it’s not there. The rest of your résumé, no matter how good, will not wow them enough for them to ignore the fact that you are hiding a gap.
I have looked at thousands of résumés, and I can tell you unequivocally, what my process is when I come across a gap in work history indicated by someone who omitted the months. The first thing I do is search LinkedIn to see if I can find any inconsistencies. I know what you’re going to say—I’m not that stupid. But you’d be surprised. Perhaps someone has left you a recommendation and mentions working together at ‘XYZ’ Company. The problem is, that there is no ‘XYZ’ Company listed on your résumé.
The reverse is true also. Maybe you recommended someone else at a nonexistent company, at least according to your résumé. And if I’m not spending time searching out inconsistencies on LinkedIn, then I’m busy jumping from one set of employment dates to another with a red pen, and circling the dates, then listing notations about what to ask you regarding those dates.
What Other Options Are There
What I should have been doing is perusing your résumé to determine why you were a fit for our open requisition, and phrasing appropriate questions in preparation for the interview.
The above image is of a real resume. I redacted the company information and locations for privacy, but I’m sure you can see that I wasted valuable time searching for employment history when I could have been spending that time on the résumé. Don’t forget, headhunters and gatekeepers have lives, too. We don’t enjoy spending all day looking at the same, tired, résumés. (This person could have also helped their cause by having the dates right aligned for easy location.)
The previous picture showed you how not to do dates. The following one will show you how it should be done.
Should I Include the Months on a Résumé?
The question you should be asking right now is, ‘but wouldn’t the gatekeeper spend just as much time with a red pen if there was a gap in dates?’
The answer is yes, however, the questions he/she will ask during the interview will be shorter, and more to the point. And there will be no need to search LinkedIn for verification.
What kind of questions?
Gaps in Dates on Your Résumé
If there is a gap in employment, the question/s will most likely be simple.
If you’re faced with the ‘no months’ problem, the questions might probe deeper, go wider, take more valuable interview time—time you could be using to demonstrate why you’re the person for the job.
As I said, some of the questions will be the same, such as:
- why did you leave?
- what did you do during that time?
But one you won’t have to face is, ‘why did you leave the gap off your résumé?’
That’s a tough one to answer. You either did it to deceive (not good) or you did it out of neglect (not good either). As you can see, either way you look at it, your reason doesn’t look good. On one hand, the gatekeeper thinks you’re hiding something. On the other, they think you’re incompetent. Compare that to the impression left by including the gap—I immediately think that the person was honest, and is not trying to hide anything.
And remember, when it comes time to respond to the questions in an interview, there’s no sense in lying. You will be found out. And if you’re caught lying, hang it up. Interview over. Job denied.
So the next time you’re updating your résumé (which should be done often), don’t lie. Think about how it will be perceived on the other side of the desk before continuing. For more great tips on interviewing and résumé writing, get my books— No Mistakes Resumes and No Mistakes Interviews.
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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. See the complete list here.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.