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Submitted by eb118 on



Howdy folks.  I have a question regarding dealing with a 5 year resume gap.

The brief version - My wife and I left successful roles in technical sales to pursue a shared personal goal of exploring the world on a small sailboat.  We spent 5 fantastic years on the boat and are now back.  She was able to immediately step back into the same individual contributor (IC) role she left, which has been great.  I've been trying to return to a technical sales leadership/manager role. This is the role I had been in for 3.5 years prior to our departure.  I loved everything about it and would love to return to something similar.  I'm finding it difficult (impossible?) to stand out in a stack of resumes without an internal sponsor.  I'm sure a good bit of that is that my resume stinks according to the MT criteria. I'm working through re-tuning it.  I'm also fairly certain that part of the problem is the gap. I'm struggling with how exactly to address it.

Would you still recommend sticking with the reverse chronological order format recommended in the MT resume workbook? Making it the first thing a hiring manager recruiter sees.

From other threads it sounds like the general guidance is to highlight transferable skills learned/used during the gap.  I can certainly highlight things like creative problem solving, strategic planning, and cross-functional teamwork. Though, when I put myself in the shoes of the hiring manager/corporate recruiter combing through resumes, this feels like a stretch.

Am I being unrealistic thinking I'm still competitive for a management role based on previous experience? Front line management roles tend to be highly competitive in this industry.  It's virtually guaranteed there will be highly qualified internal IC candidates for any open role. So far I've been highly selective about when/where I've applied. I'm not in a hurry or in a situation where I need to jump on anything that's available.  But I also don't want to keep beating my head against a wall in vain.

Primary questions:

1) How to handle the gap from a resume perspective?

2) For the current hiring managers in the group, particularly senior managers & directors. How would you view someone with a similar gap.? Does being out of the market for 5 years take them out of the running regardless of past experience, demonstrable results and communication skills?

------------------Additional background if you're still with me-------------------------------

We left our previous roles after losing some good friends unexpectedly young.  This caused us to reassess and prioritize what had always been a long-term goal.  We wanted to be sure we got a chance to do it, while we were young and healthy enough to enjoy it.  So we made it happen and we loved every minute of it. The experience was truly life changing. Our plan was always to return to work after sailing.

Returning to the working world.  I'm now 50 and my wife is younger.

When we left I was a technical sales manager and had been fairly successful in the role.  I have solid references and folks I worked with over the years have been more than willing to recommend me. This has helped with 3 interview processes in the last 3 months.  All of which I felt well qualified for.

1st - I lost out to a strong internal candidate and feedback from folks on the interview panel was that I did well but the hiring manager wanted to support the internal candidate.  Which I can respect.

2nd - Fell apart mid-process, when the requirements for the role changed to a new location that would have required a cross country move my wife and I didn't want to make.

3rd – Currently on-going but wrapping up.  It's down to me and an internal candidate. I believe I've interviewed well, am well qualified for the role and am genuinely excited by the opportunity.  Again my competition is a long time internal candidate who is well respected. They don't have leadership experience and work in a different vertical, which can make a difference in sales.  I've done my best to focus on my strengths, previous leadership experience and knowledge of the customers/market.  That being said, I realize the gap in my resume probably looks like a big risk to a lot of hiring managers and influencers. I also understand the desire to support internal candidates over external.  This is a technical sales team, so results out of the gate are critical, which I view as a point in my favor, since I've previously done the job and know the customers well.  I'll likely know something in the next couple weeks on this opportunity.  I’m hopeful, but it’s hard to predict the decision.

In the meantime, I need to revise my resume to ensure it stands out on its own, so I’m not limited to company’s where I have internal folks to recommend me.  I’m just looking for a sanity check regarding my expectations of returning to a similar role after a 5 year gap.

jrb3's picture
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Fill in exactly like a 'normal' position.

Location might be eg "Western Hemisphere oceans and waterways".  Accomplishment bullet points might be akin to "with my wife, fulfilled life dream together by sailing two-person sailboat from San Diego CA to Valdez AK and back".  Responsibilities might include "provisioning, navigating, maintaining sea-going 30-foot sailboat" -- which leads into interview responses about teamwork, planning, and other recent demonstrations of you being an effective manager.

Maybe also explore smaller firms in your industry, or a related industry but same vertical -- get around competing with an internal candidate?