With the economy still in slow recovery, it’s understandable that many physicians applying for jobs throughout the US will have gaps in their employment history. Nevertheless, a less than fluid history can make it more difficult to find a job in more competitive job markets. In addition to gaps in employment, I come across many resumes where the job seeker has an interrupted residency or an obvious leave of absence from medical school. These kinds of interrupted histories can also prevent you from getting your foot in the door at a job for which you’re more than qualified. Here are some tips to close the gaps.
Gaps in Employment History
If you did any locum tenens, research, or volunteer work between full time clinical positions or academic appointments, by all means, include them in the chronology! If you must do so to be accurate, you can change your heading from “Employment History” or “Professional Experience” to something along the lines of “Clinical Experience” or even just “Experience.”
If you have a particularly spotty history, you may want to consider a “functional resume” which places an emphasis on your skills and other qualities, with the chronology of your employment downplayed near the end of your document. However, you should avoid using a functional resume unless the chronology of your employment presents a serious issue.
Also, if your gaps span a few months rather than a year or more, it is completely acceptable to list only the year you started and ended each position, rather than the month and year.
Hiatus in Residency Training/Medical School
If you have a gap in your medical training or schooling, leave off the start date and list only the date of completion (or leave off the dates completely and simply list the degree or residency program and the institution you attended). While the prospective employer may ask you to expand on this at some point during the interviewing process, at that point you will have an opportunity to explain the reason why it took you longer than usual to receive your degree or complete training. However, if the gap is obvious during the initial screening process, you might never get that opportunity.
What Shouldn’t You Do?
Never try to explain your gaps in employment or training in the body of your resume. (For example, “2007-2008: Leave of absence to care for sick family member.”) This can do more harm than good, because it draws attention to the gap. It’s far better to explain a gap in your history verbally than within your resume.