Resumes for Returning Workers

By Peter Newfield –®

A resume is required for virtually every job opening in every field of endeavor. A professional resume that presents a candidate’s work history and accomplishments where the climb up the proverbial corporate ladder is quite evident, would be the best case scenario. But there are many job candidates who do not have a smooth career history, or worse still, have missing years which may cause prospective employers to wonder. As a job applicant returning to the workforce after a period of time, how do you handle these missing years on your resume?

Common Reasons for Employment Gaps

Some of the most common reasons for individuals who have been out of the employment game and are now ready to return may include: taking time off to have a baby/raise a family, enrollment in the military, recovering from a traumatic accident or illness, caring for an elderly parent or sick child for an extended period of time, residence in a rehabilitation facility, or incarceration.

While some of these reasons may not be looked upon as favorably as others, none of these reasons should be listed on the resume document. Gaps in employment history may be addressed briefly in your cover letter if you feel that it would be important for a prospective employer to know this information.

Which Resume Format Works Best?

The best resume format to use for individuals returning to the workforce and/or with gaps in employment history, is the Functional Format. Unlike a Reverse Chronological resume which words best for those individuals who have consistently climbed up the ranks in one particular industry, a Functional Format can present the applicant’s work experience, strengths, and talents without focusing on changes in fields of interest, missing years, or lack of experience.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

For an individual who has been out of the work force for a number of years and is now looking for a job, the resume should start out with a brief Summary of Qualifications. This 3-8 sentence overview of skills and areas of experience can include such information as “more than ten years of sales and marketing experience”, “ability to train and motivate sales teams”, or “bi-lingual in Spanish and English.”

The next section of the resume should be entitled Areas of Strength. The Areas of Strength section can be a bulleted listing or several sub-headings depending on the distinct areas of experience you possess. For example, the Areas of Strength section may include Sales, Public Relations, Community Relations, and Office Administration. You can make each one a separate category and bullet 2 or 3 items under each heading to indicate your experience and skills in these areas throughout your career.

Tips for Re-Entering the Same Field

If a returning professional had a number of years of experience in one particular field but then took time off for several years to raise a family, the next section on the resume should list that related experience under Professional Experience. All related jobs, titles, responsibilities, achievements, and dates should be included in reverse chronological order. If a teacher is returning to teaching or a nurse is returning to the medical field, all of the previously held positions in these fields should be listed on the resume. Do not omit the dates of employment -- leaving off dates on a resume will raise more questions that listing dates from the 1970’s or 1980’s.

What Else Can Be Added to the Resume?

In the time that you were not formally employed in your field, you may have still gained additional experience which could be included on your resume. Were you the Treasurer of a civic organization for the past three years? Did you teach a Sunday school class for the past five years? Were you a sports coach or Scoutmaster on the weekends or during the evenings? List any relevant experience, dates, and responsibilities under a section on the resume entitled Additional Experience. This will show the prospective employer that you were involved in outside pursuits to some degree in the recent few years. You can then end your Functional Format resume with an Education and/or Computer Skills section.

For those job seekers with gaps of employment due to physical or mental disabilities, long-term illness, or family-related issues, the Functional Format resume is still appropriate. If you were able to take any classes or technical training or worked part-time or served as a volunteer while caring for an elderly parent or residing in a rehabilitation facility these can and should be included on the resume under Additional Experience.

Remain Professional, Not Personal

The advice for all job applicants returning to the work force is not to include any mention of your particular reason, handicap, disability, or medical history in the resume. It is against the law regarding equal opportunity employment rules and it is not how resumes are written. If you feel that the prospective employer should really be made aware of your particular situation and the reason for the gaps in employment/missing years on your resume before possibly being called in for an interview, then briefly mention this in your cover letter.

Take the time to objectively and professionally prepare your resume to accurately present your skills, accomplishments, and work experience to your best advantage.

For a free critique/price quote, email Career Resumes® at

Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: