listing time as a stay-at-home parent on your resume, recruiter wants me to run jobs by her before I apply, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Listing time as a stay-at-home parent on your resume

I work for a nonprofit and am responsible for the first several stages of the hiring process. In my latest round of resumes review, I had several applicants account for a gap in their employment with the line “Stay at home parent” with the years associated. There was no cheesy list of job duties like scheduling, organizing, etc. It was just an account of that time not in the workplace.

How do you feel about that as a strategy? I am a program director and HR on the side, so I don’t have the strict business expectations others may have. I didn’t hate it. It struck me as odd at first and then helpful to know what those years were spent doing.

Ugh. I’m torn on this. On one hand, I agree with you that it’s helpful to just know without having to ask. On the other hand, it’s wired into me (as I suspect it is to many other people who hire) that it’s wildly inappropriate to have anything related to family on your resume. I think it’ll produce more negative reactions than it will positive ones for that reason.

2. Recruiter wants me to run jobs by her before I apply

I began working with a staffing agency in the past few weeks. I’m still at my current job until next week, but am moving mid-June and the recruiter has been talking to me about possible opportunities that would start in that timeframe. They do creative staffing–web, editing, graphic design.

I’ve read your previous posts on recruiters, and this lady seems like a respectable one, or at least one who won’t jerk me around. She’s been respectful of my time, has asked more probing questions about my experience to give her clients a better idea of my skills, and she mentioned that they get payment directly from the client, instead of a percentage of what my rates are, so the pay range I’d given was what I’d actually be paid. I haven’t done any interviews or jobs yet, obviously, but so far it’s been a good experience.

My question is this: She has mentioned that if I see a job I want to apply to, I should run it by her so she can see if she has a contact at the company. That makes sense, but I also suspect it’s a way for her to get more clients. Should I actually do this, or will it hurt my chances if it’s someone she hasn’t worked with and she approaches them out of the blue?

Yesterday, I had a former coworker contact me about a job his company is hiring for. I ran it by her as asked, but I’m worried that if she approaches them, they’d find it odd, especially since my coworker knows that I’d heard about the job directly and not through the agency.

Nooooo, don’t do that! If that company isn’t working with her already (and they’re probably not), then she’ll be using your interest as a way to try to win their business. If they’re not interested in working with a staffing firm (and they’re probably not, which is why they’re advertising on their own), then she may now “own” your candidacy and they won’t consider you because they don’t want to pay a staffing firm fee.

Don’t think of her like your agent; she doesn’t need to manage all contacts for you. She’s one part of your job search, but not the whole thing.

3. Explaining that I’m leaving my job because I want to work in a larger office

I’ve become more and more eager to leave a job that I’ve been at for less than a year, mostly because we are only a 4-person office. And often times, that means we are only a 2-person office with the directors out at meetings. I am a people person and need more human interaction.

How can I explain this in job applications and at interviews? Is it worth mentioning in a cover letter as explanation as to why I’m leaving after less than a year? Or is it better to come up with an alternative explanation – such as, I’m not doing the work I was hired for (also true).

I wouldn’t get into it in your cover letter. A cover letter is for explaining why you’d be great at the job you’re applying for, not for explaining what you don’t like about the job you’re leaving. But I’d definitely be prepared to talk about it in interviews. Saying that you’ve realized that you prefer to work in a larger organization is going to ring true to your interviewer as soon as you explain that you’re in a four-person company. That’s a much better explanation than getting into a discussion about how you’re not doing the work you were hired for. Stick to the company size issue and it’ll be an easy and clean explanation.

4. Using temp-to-perm for a management position.

My smallish (20-attorney) law firm is looking for a Deputy Office Administrator, and in addition to posting with ALA, we are using a search firm that we’ve used in the past for legal assistants, paralegals, and the like. The search firm suggested that once we find a candidate we like, that we do a “temp-to-perm” situation to ensure that they are the right fit. I know it’s common for legal assistants and paralegals, but for a management position? Is this common, or is the search firm looking to make more money? I would hate to lose a good candidate if they were (1) currently employed and wouldn’t accept temp-to-perm because of the risk of ending up worse off; or (2) simply offended by the prospect of temp-to-perm at their “level” of management.

Yeah, I would not do that for a management position. You’ll lose your best candidates.

5. Where does my volunteer work go on my resume?

I am a self-employed event and production manager. Aside from the work I do to get paid, I also volunteer a great deal with local nonprofits and city agencies. I use a semi-functional resume that summarizes my skills and then I follow up with my chronological list of jobs and highlights. Where do I put my volunteer work? Do I need to create a new section on my resume?

I have been with some organizations for over 5 years. It’s a pretty important part of my life and I volunteer around 150-200 hours per year. When I take a new position, it almost always comes as a surprise to people about the volunteer work that I do.

Yes, you can create a separate Volunteer Work or Community Involvement section.

But I want to urge you to re-think that semi-functional format. It’s generally irritating to hiring managers (because we want to see where and when you did the things you’re listing) and will look like you’re trying to hide something about your work history.

{ 338 comments… read them below }

  1. Anx*

    Is there really any hope of someone who left the workforce for reentry? Commenters, please share your success stories. My mother has been trying to break into the labor market for about 7 or 8 years and is in her 60s. She doesn’t have the resources to start her own business. She was a stay at home mom/business owner (though the business is at least a decade behind her at this point)

    1. MrO*

      Sadly, our society is biased against women/men who stayed at home. And it’s not just because they were out of the market, but- rightly or wrongly- some feel judged because SAHM/SAHD made a choice different from theirs. People call daycare school for like reasons. This is important to realize while job hunting.

      If your mom had her own business, I’d really consider suggesting she get training to do so again in future. The job market is drying up for many. And in a world where entry-level jobs are now unpaid internships….I’d look at nontrad routes to work. Good luck.

      1. Colette*

        Sadly, our society is biased against women/men who stayed at home. And it’s not just because they were out of the market, but- rightly or wrongly- some feel judged because SAHM/SAHD made a choice different from theirs. People call daycare school for like reasons. This is important to realize while job hunting.

        What? Being out of work during a bad job market is quite enough to make it difficult to find a job without any need for bias against people who made different choices.

    2. majigail*

      As a manager, I think there is. Both of my admins were out of the work force for an extended period, one because of health and the other was a stay at home grandparent. My main concern with people that have been out this long is them proving they’ve kept their skills up to date. This can be harder now with computer based jobs, if they’re not semi current on the software, that makes it harder.

      1. Anx*

        She was into technology in the 90s (systems analyst) and does a lot of computer work at home, but she doesn’t have access to other operating systems. I just realized that. Maybe I should tell her to go get used to the newer Windows. A day at the library won’t hurt.

    3. Led*

      I have also seen people list caregiver for an elderly parent or relative. Quite honestly, this is a harder task than a lot of jobs, with a lot of paperwork and advocacy involved. Still, it seems weird to list. Maybe it is better to put in a cover letter. Thoughts AAM?

      1. fposte*

        Agreeing with not on the resume–in the cover letter if you need to explain a gap or if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.

      2. Adam*

        I think if were all agreeing that you don’t list that sort of thing on your resume then you’ve got to frame it in your cover letter some how. I’ve heard too much talk about how large unemployment gaps are a big turn off to employers to think that it shouldn’t go noted somewhere.

        1. Harriet*

          Agreed. I was out for several years, and got back in through a temp assignment got through a contact. The skillset and experience I acquired at that job is massively in demand with one of the biggest employers in my town, so it let me almost walk into a new job. I don’t know what I’d be doing if not for that.

    4. Brittany*

      I worry about this as well. I’m pregnant with my first and plan to stay at home for a few years, until they start school. Depending on if we have a second, it would be even longer. I’m pretty tech savvy but I do worry about when the time comes to get back out there. I’ve heard lots of hardship around this.

      1. Kay*

        AAM has talked about this in the past. If you know you’re going to be out, the best thing you can do is keep your skills up to date and volunteer and keep your network strong. I’m sure it can be hard, but I think it’s your best bet to re-entering successfully down the line.

      2. OhNo*

        I think it is a lot easier if you plan before you take time off to keep up with your skills.

        You have the chance now to plan what you will need to do – whether that is volunteering, or taking refresher courses regularly, or maybe a part-time work from home job – to make sure you can re-enter the workforce when you want to. Try to take advantage of it while you can.

      3. KellyK*

        Not to try to talk you out of it, but staying home with kids is a really financially risky decision. If there’s a way to cut back to part-time or temp or freelance rather than leaving the workforce entirely for 5+ years, it might balance the risks a little bit.

      4. Student*

        When you do get back in, taking several years off work will significantly and permanently set back your salary as well. You don’t just lose current earnings; you lose substantial future earnings and career progress.

      5. AnotherAlison*

        I think your field and how long you’ve been in it also matter.

        I think staying home is a great choice for you, if that’s what you want, but I also think it’s unrealistic to expect employers to not take your time off into consideration. You have to weigh that risk.

      6. Jax*

        My biggest advice is to stay consistently awesome at work until the end. It’s so tempting to get tired, zone out, and spend lots of time surfing pregnancy/baby web sites at work because “I’m not coming back here anyway.” Not saying you’ll do that but it’s a temptation.

        With LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s much easier to stay in contact with your supervisors, coworkers, and references. Be deliberate now in making those relationships great, and make efforts to stay in contact with them afterwards when you’re at home, like a coffee date or friendly emails every few months.

        It’s really not all doom and gloom, and it’s not impossible to come back! You just have to be deliberate in lining up your allies for that day, a few years from now, when you’re looking to jump back in.

      7. sunny-dee*

        Depending on your field, try taking very small, short-term freelance work. I have used in the past, and it’s great. That will give you both current experience and a range of contacts for when you decide to get back in the work force (and some of the projects are quite small, less than 15 hours, so it won’t take away from your home life).

        There will be some hit to your earnings potential, but the main thing no one ever talks about is daycare. My friend has an infant daughter and toddler son and pays over $2000 a month in daycare. It’s $600 a month for my 9-year-old stepson (who lives with his mom). If you want more than one child, it really balances out the finances to not have to pay for daycare. Not to mention that you actually save money by eating at home rather than eating out and, depending on what you do now, not having to hire a maid, lawncare, etc. For most of my friends, they would break even if one of them quit and stayed home — the only reason they don’t is that their debt load requires the income amounts *on paper* — even though the real-life finances are different.

        Plus, you get to be at home with your child. People talk about how heroic teachers are and then denigrate women when they stay with their kids. That is backward. If I ever get blessed with a child, then I’d love the opportunity to stay home — nothing in life pays off more than what you can give (and get!) from your family. (That’s also true for taking care of parents; I watched my mom nurse both of my grandfathers and my maternal grandmother. It was the most beautiful, loving thing, and it taught teenage-me a lot about being human.)

        1. Corporate Attorney*

          Right, but in the long run, your increased earning potential by not leaving the workforce for 3-5 years can make up for the short-term impact of daycare costs.

          1. Kat*

            Also, who said working families also pay for maids, lawn care and meals outside of the home? Not all of us do. Plenty of working families are frugal and make do in other areas. Saturday mornings become occasions for lawn care, there are such devices as slow cookers (and you can also make freezer meals). I don’t know many people who hire maid service-they just clean their own houses and maybe have more of a concept of “tidy” rather than “absolutely spotless.”

            Also, you can give to your family by working. I’d keep working if it meant my children could be educated well and thus set up for a future. I’d keep working if it meant saving up for a good retirement so that my children don’t have to assume the full burden of my care while they’re starting to raise their own families. I’d keep working if it meant my children could pursue hobbies and interests. I’d keep working if it meant I could be generous to my parents and extended family-many of whom started off with next to nothing. I’m not saying that this is better than staying home-but I’m saying that the desire to keep working is no less noble or selfless than the desire to be a caregiver for children and parents. I think we all want what’s best for our families and I don’t think you can objectively say that stay-at-home parents/caregivers are automatically better than those who want or need to work.

            1. Felicia*

              I had two working parents and we rarely to never ate out, and never had a maid or hired anyone else for lawncare. No families with two working parents that I know have a maid/housekeeper, or anyone for lawn care, or go out much.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Even if ALL your earnings are going into daycare, from a purely financial perspective it still often makes sense to do it, because by staying in the workforce, you’re setting yourself up to have higher earning power down the road. You’ve got to look at it long-term, not just short-term.

          1. MrO*

            Money isn’t everything and never pays for lost family time.
            There’s no equation that ever makes daycare worth it- yes, some people must work to live, but if you don’t there’s nothing- car, home, retirement-that equals TIME and personal investment in family. I only put up with the assholes at work because I care for my family. Just me to support? They could kiss my ass.

            Long term? Your kids grow up and you wonder were the heck the time went if you were never there.

            1. Erin*

              As a working mother and the daughter of a working mother, I take exception to your statement. I had fun with my friends in daycare growing up, and I never wondered where my parents were. They were at work. We had family time when we all got home.

              Now, as a teacher with a one-year-old, I get to experience both sides of the coin. I get to go to work and be a respected professional, and I get to stay home on breaks with my little guy and be full-time mom. When my son goes to daycare, he is being cared for by loving professionals. He has his little buddies and lots of toys and games and socialization. We both love our daycare. I know from caring for him over my breaks that I am someone who needs to work outside the home. I need to teach and grow in my chosen profession. It makes me feel like a complete person.

              I will never regret the money or time we have spent in daycare.

              1. Felicia*

                I loved daycare as a kid too! And I never wondered where my parents were…they were at work, and I was at daycare. I think my mother, in particular, was a much better mother because she worked, and would not have been happy or a good parent staying home with my sisters and I. Not that working parents are better, just that was a better fit for her personality, which made her a better parent. We had mornings and evenings and weekends together, and I cherish all the happy memories I have from childhood, both at daycare and with BOTH of my parents. I would like to have kids some day, and intend to take the semi-paid year off that is standard, and then go back to my job, which they are legally required to have waiting for me. I don’t think i’d want to stay home full time with a kid any longer than the typical year, judging on what I know of my personality, though of course I could change my mind. I would never shame anyone for their choice of staying home, but I equally hate when people shame women who choose to work.

                1. Phyllis*

                  If this posts twice, forgive me. I was typing and my post disappeared!!
                  In the US, mothers don’t get a year’s paid leave, it’s only 6 weeks (and some companies not even that). It’s a lot different going back to work after a year than it is after 6 weeks.
                  I was fortunate enough to work for a company that allowed mothers to take up to 6 months (though only 6 weeks were paid.) Actually, you could take a year, but they wouldn’t guarantee your job past 6 months.
                  People have to make the choices that are right for their families.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Wow, that’s far from a universal absolute, and you really don’t have the standing to say what’s best for other people’s families.

        3. Anon Accountant*

          It can unfortunately make re-entry into the workforce much more difficult down the road. I think it’s a personal choice perople must make and depends on their situations.

          In some fields, it’s next to impossible to re-enter the workforce or you are not going to be where you were when you left the field and your earnings won’t have kept pace with the market or raises. There’s a lot of factors to weigh into the decision.

        4. Ed*

          I know it’s not romantic to think about divorce but I would be terrified to stay at home for a decade with my kids considering the high divorce rate. I have multiple friends in this situation that have gotten divorced and some went back to practically minimum wage jobs while their spouses careers move right along like nothing happened. Some of them had kids right after college so they never even established a career pre-kids. They got some money out of the divorce but that doesn’t mean much long-term.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            +1 Your husband could also die, become long-term disabled, or their field could be decimated. None of us knows what the future holds.

          2. Ruffingit*

            AMEN! Having practiced family law for several years, I saw this in action a lot. People often think “Well, I can get alimony…” Nope, sorry, not if you’re in a state that either doesn’t allow it or only allows it for a short time period.

            Kids to support (child support doesn’t go far) + out of the workforce for several years + divorce = disaster for a lot of women. I would not want to risk that.

            1. MrO*

              Yeah, and there’s lots of people who try and fail miserably to have kids late in life. Or never do, and live to regret it.

              1. Kat*

                Yeah, but that’s a personal emotional consequence, not something that would impact the long term, economic quality of life for people who didn’t ask to be put on this planet. Not a comparable argument.

      8. neverjaunty*

        Having been down this road, yes, the reality is that you are going to have a hard time getting back in, and you will always be behind to some degree.

        As others have said, the best thing you can do is to keep your skills up in a FORMAL WAY as much as possible – take classes/continuing education, or work part-time, even volunteer. (for example if you do web page design, you could spend a few hours a week maintaining the web page for your kids’ nursery school as a volunteer)

    5. Suzanne*

      I think it is very sad that the workplace would see staying home with small children or elderly parents as a negative. Just because you’ve had a job for the past few years does not mean your skills will be up to date. I’ve worked with plenty of people over the years who can’t seem to grasp basic computer skills and have no clue that things like social media exists or why they should care or can’t figure out how to use and troubleshoot basic office equipment and never has it been because they’ve been out of the workplace for a period of time. Never.

      For example, helping an elderly parent navigate insurance, adaptive technology, medical devices, scheduling therapies, meal times, medicines, finding exercises to strenghen the brain & body, etc., all require expert organizational skills, “people” skills, and the ability to learn & navigate new processes, vocabularies, and operations. Yes, you can explain this in the interview but chances are, with a several months or years gap on your resume, you will never get that chance.

      1. Colette*

        Helping someone navigate health care issues is something that people with jobs also do – that’s just normal life. Yes, it takes skill, but it’s not the same as being accountable for results in the workplace.

        1. Valar M.*

          Depending on how complicated it is – yes it is. I’ve known people who have one or more sick family members and between the amount of medications they are on, the number of appointments they have, and navigating all the bureaucracy involved with hospitals and the VA – they are essentially home care givers, which is in fact a job that many people get paid very well for.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Yes, going to say the same thing. My aunt-in-law has done this for ~30 years and makes ~$13/hr. Paid well? Hardly.

              1. Valar M.*

                13 is almost twice the minimum wage in some areas, and is more than what I made with a graduate degree…. so to me that’s paid well – as in, it takes someone with abilities to do it, and you are compensated above minimum wage for it. I guess it depends on how you qualify “paid well”

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  $27,000 a year is never going to be paid well for me. For this particular relative, it’s not bad, as she only has a high school diploma. If you are in a job that *requires* a graduate degree, other than a post-doc position, and you’re earning less than that, you must have chosen the field for personal reasons other than income. I’m not trying to be catty, but people choose low-paying fields and then complain about the income, and I can’t understand that logic. If you are stuck in a low-paying job until you find one in your field, I can certainly understand that & I wish you the best in finding something more lucrative in the future.

                2. Valar M.*

                  The position I was in was in fact using my graduate degree, and was required. I also didn’t complain about it. All I did was state the facts that $13/hr depending on where you live can be a liveable wage, and qualified what I meant by paid well – as in not a life of luxury by any means, but certainly a task which people are willing to pay above minimum wage for.

              2. Anx*

                That’s almost double minimum wage! A lot of people would kill (figuratively) for a chance at that wage.

                But I think it’s very difficult work. Emotionally and mentally exhausting.

          1. Esra*

            I think part of the problem is those skills aren’t valued as much as they could be. As fposte pointed out, home care givers are generally not paid well at all.

            1. Sunflower*

              I’m not going onto a soapbox tirade here but the being a home caregiver does not require formal education or any technical skills. Yes being a home caregiver is grueling work and requires a ton of patience but there are no real technical skills that go into the job. I’m not saying the cashier at McDonald’s isn’t a hardworker and I don’t respect what he does because I do but I don’t think he should be making $16/hour because he’s doing a selfless job

              1. Esra*

                I’m a big believer in livable wages. People who make more money spend more money, everyone is better off.

                But you’re right, this isn’t the place for that discussion.

              2. Valar M.*

                But then you’re making the argument that technical skills should be favored over hard/grueling work. I think someone who is slaving away lifting people in and out of bed, getting screamed at, cleaning bed pans, making sure medicines are given at the right time, giving baths, etc. is probably working just as hard as I am in my office – they’re just using their body more than I am, and I might be using my mind more than they are in some tasks. I get that we as a society value technical skills, but I don’t think you can make blanket statements like not using technical skills somehow means they aren’t worthy of higher pay.

                1. Colette*

                  I think the point was that someone with ability but not skill (i.e. no training required) can be replaced more easily than someone who needs to have extensive training.

                  It’s also about what the market will bear. If you charge more than people can pay, you won’t have a job. If there are people who will do it for less, they’ll get it instead – if not, the job might just stop existing (i.e. people might decide it makes more economic sense to quit their job to care for their loved ones).

              3. Nichole*

                In my state, home health aides require certification, and it’s at minimum a one semester course, not a one day workshop deal or on the job training. Uncertified home health workers are phasing out in favor of certed professionals. They still don’t make CEO wages, but there is most definitely a difference between today’s home health aide and someone who pops in to take care of Mom every couple of days. Those the care for family members range from drop ins who cook an occasional meal to full time assistants with technical knowledge. I absolutely respect the work that goes into taking care of a sick family member, but employers can’t have a reasonable expectation that they have the same skills as someone who has been certified.

              4. Whippers*

                Well, you can say you respect the work that someone does but that doesn’t really mean anything if you’re not willing to pay them a proper wage.

          2. OhNo*

            +1 for that, Valar. Especially if you are caring for elderly relatives – there is a whole other level of complicated bureaucracy that you have to deal with that is way above and beyond what most people encounter in their life, in addition to basically becoming an expert in whatever condition(s) they might be dealing with.

            1. Colette*

              in addition to basically becoming an expert in whatever condition(s) they might be dealing with

              This is the kind of thinking that is problematic.

              Yes, you will likely get to know how they react to medication, what their common symptoms are, and other things about how the condition affects the person you’re helping – but you’re not an expert in the condition, and representing yourself as one is not doing anyone any favors.

              1. Zillah*

                I agree. I might buy that you become an expert with their condition as it presents for them, but that’s it. That doesn’t mean that home caregivers aren’t very valuable – they absolutely are. But not because they’re experts.

          3. Sunflower*

            How is that being accountable for results in a workplace though? If the stuff isn’t done properly it doesn’t happen? Well if I don’t fill out my car insurance forms, send back my lease, properly pay my bills- than it doesn’t get done and I’m screwed. Unless your profession deals with caring for sick people, how do any of these things enhance your marketability or make you more prepared to deal with a job?

            I’ll just throw this out there. My grandmother suffered from dementia for over 10 years- it was a very long, steady decrease of her mental state. My mother took her to all her appointments, got her medications, dealt with state forms and issues- and then went to work everyday. She worked VERY hard to do all these things but to say this increased her skills or made her better equipped to do a job- it’s just not happening

            1. Valar M.*

              What are the results for home care workers who are employed to do the same task? My point was never that it would make you better at an unrelated job (which will be the case for most), but that people who do that for free have counterparts that do it and get paid for it.

              1. Sunflower*

                Well a home health care worker probably has a supervisor that she has to report to and field questions from. And if you don’t do the forms properly, you risk getting fired and maybe screwing up your career reputation.

                This is far fetching it a bit but if I was doing my current job and had no supervisor or boss who had to report to or reach expectations to and knowing no matter what I did, my pay compensation stayed the same, it would completely change the way I did things and how I viewed my job

              2. Fabulously Anonymous*

                I’m having a hard time understanding the argument. Housekeepers get paid, too, but no one is saying that cleaning your own home makes you better equipped to do you job.

          4. Colette*

            So you can be fired if you don’t do well, or compensated more if you do?

            I understand that most people who make this choice for their family do it to the best of their ability, but that’s not the same as being accountable to people who aren’t family.

            1. Valar M.*

              Sunflower and Colette – I feel like I’m dragging us way off topic. You both make great points, and I see where you are coming from. I would never argue that this should go on a resume/be brought up in a job interview. I get what you’re saying about a job needing to have hired/fired/raise/supervisor component to it. I think I just define job more broadly in my view – as I’ve seen people in that position work longer hours and harder than I was on many occasions in a paid position, and I personally would feel dismissive of the hard work and results they produced to say it wasn’t a job (especially since there are people performing the exact same tasks for money), though I understand to qualify for employment there would need to be different standards like the ones you mentioned.

            2. Led*

              Does this apply to volunteer work in general? That’s one of the first recommendations to someone who’s unemployed. Should I not list ANY unpaid work because there isn’t real accountability? Well, volunteer in your field, you say. My friend just lost her sales position. You cannot volunteer as a salesperson.

              What irks me a bit is that the very things we tell people to do when they are unemployed get scorned when they are listed on a resume.

          5. Anon Accountant*

            In my area which is around Pittsburgh, the health aides wages begin around $7.25-8/hr. Our cost of living is low but that’s not very good pay.

        2. Suzanne*

          Seems to me caring for small children or the elderly who can’t take of themselves is the most accountable job in the world! A mistake could cause injury, irreparable damage, or death. No performance review (which are often a joke anyway), no raises, no vacation; I can’t think of any job that requires more self-discipline, initiative, and the ability to manage oneself.

      2. RegularAnon*

        Gah! Every time this topic comes up, I get so frustrated.

        I think it is very sad that the workplace would see staying home with small children or elderly parents as a negative.

        I disagree that the workplace sees staying at home as a negative, in the big picture context of society. However, in the context of the workplace, it is a negative. Five years of building skills in a related job makes you a more valuable employee than someone who spent the same five years at home.

        We could argue all day that the SAHP candidate who managed the website for their homes association has kept up better on computer skills than someone who had a job as a receptionist with no duties outside of greeting and directing customers and callers, but the reality is usually different. There are likely hundreds of candidates with basic social media skills. Most things you can do part-time, volunteer as a SAHP are not going to significantly set you apart as a job candidate in a competitive market. They will keep you in the game, maybe, but you are going to have to network or have a genuinely specialized professional skill to get an edge.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I would agree with this. It’s like athletic training–it doesn’t matter how worthy the reason is you stopped, you can’t just leap into a marathon the first day back into it.

          However, I’m not entirely convinced that all concern about employment gaps, whether for parenting/caregiving or not, is simply that the candidate will be rusty–I think some complicated psychology and wariness does come into play as well.

          1. Colette*

            That’s probably true, and I think someone moving from being a stay at home parent/caregiver back into the workforce needs to be really conscious of how they present their contributions while out of the workplace. Staying at home might be a huge benefit to your family, but it’s not the same thing as accomplishments in a work environment, and trying to pretend that it is (“My mom had X, so I’m practically an expert”, “Getting three kids out the door requires excellent organization skills”, etc.) will make you look like you don’t understand the difference.

        2. Rat Racer*

          I’ve never been a SAHM, but I do think it sucks that SAHPs can’t get credit for their work in and outside the home. A girlfriend of mine is a mother of 4 and started up a moms group that now has over 150 moms. She manages the calendar (there is an activity of some sort every single day), collects dues, manages the budget, sends out communications, etc. She has no interest in returning to the workforce, but if she did, I wonder if she could use that experience on her resume.

          I get it, though, that “jobs” like the above are missing in critical components of the corporate skillset: accountability for results, office politics, risk of getting fired.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            I’d consider it a volunteer activity with possibly transferable skills- if she’s going back into communications or marketing she may have increased visibility by 40% for the group for example.

        3. Queen Anon*

          What about the SAHWife who also managed her husband’s business – without pay – for five years? I’ve known many women who’ve run every administrative aspect of their spouse’s business (particularly in small manufacturing and construction businesses), but without pay. It was just considered part of their job as a stay-at-home wife. How does that fit into the scenario everyone’s discussing? Does that go on the resume? It’s not paid employment but it’s not really a volunteer position, either. Do hiring managers pooh-pooh those skills because they weren’t developed in someone (else’s) office in a paid position?

          1. hayling*

            It fits in the scenario of “husband who takes his wife for granted and should give her an official title.”

        4. Ruffingit*

          Does anyone think employers look at the aspect just having been in an office and navigating those surroundings vs. being at home? I can see employers thinking that someone who’s been in the office environment has more of an edge than someone coming back from being home for years. Knowing how to navigate the general office culture, etc. I don’t know if this is the case, just something that crossed my mind.

    6. Celeste*

      The market makes it harder, that’s a fact. I don’t think our society makes it easy to keep a hand in the game when you decide you need to be home with a child or elder, though. Part time work is not available for all fields. Working from home is not widely available. What is left to the person who feels they need to opt out? I suppose that they can still go to professional society gatherings and try to network with people they still know who are working. Even in a good market, there is no good roadmap for how to convince an employer that you are a good choice next to someone who just came from a job or out of school.

    7. Annie O*

      Yeah, this just pisses me off. A recent Pew survey indicated that more than half of Americans think moms should stay home with young children. And about 1/3 of moms are staying home. But then it’s a battle for these moms to re-enter the workforce.

      1. Celeste*

        Yes! I think it just feeds a certain segment who think college is a waste for women anyway. But I don’t have any answers here. I put my child in daycare from 6 weeks simply because I knew I could never get this same job back, and did not want to face the battle to find my way back.

        I understand that many fields cannot allow work from home
        (service providers of many stripes, for example) but I highly resent that part time is seen by American employers as too expensive or seen as not worth the effort to provide. There never was any social contract where working mothers or family caregivers are concerned.

        1. Jax*

          The part-time thing…sigh. I would love to find something that would let me work 3 days per week, because this 50 hour work week with 2 young kids is absolutely exhausting. But those positions just aren’t available right now, and I’m terrified that if I leave I’ll never climb this high again.

          So I’m sucking it up for a few years and holding out for that magical day when they are both older elementary students and my work/personal life balance nicely. (This is probably a pipe dream, but I don’t feel like I have any other option.)

        2. Colette*

          I agree that more part-time jobs would be a benefit to a lot of people, but working from home should have the emphasis on working, not on home. In other words, it’s not a way to care for children while working – it’s a way to be physically located at home and maybe cut down on commuting time or be closer to your children during breaks.

          1. Rat Racer*

            My company has a very open WAH policy, and for us it seems to work. I work full time from home, as do many of my colleagues. The time saved on commuting but also getting dressed for work in the morning allows me to work more hours than I was ever able to put in while in an office, and still pick up my kids from school in the afternoon if need be.

            I wish more companies were this flexible on working from home because it seems like such a great compromise for women with families who are still pursuing career goals. I get it that this arrangement can’t work universally, but there are plenty of jobs out there that COULD allow more at-home work, but don’t do it out of fear that employees will slack off.

          2. Jax*

            I agree, and I find it unsurprising that many companies that allow work-from-home require that the employee have daycare arrangements so they aren’t working and being the main care giver.

            Why should the company pay for work from a distracted parent trying to juggle two full-time jobs at once?

          3. Celeste*

            Of course. Any kind of work from home has to have a plan for childcare DURING the work. But it’s a way to keep working and not lose in the long term, even if you don’t make as much money in the short term. I’m exhausted by the either-or that goes on.

      2. Piper*

        I’d love to see that survey. That really grinds my gears that more than half of Americans STILL think a woman’s place is in the home with the kids. I’m due with my first in a few weeks and I just don’t have the option (nor do I want) to stay home with the kids. Plus I only get 6 weeks maternity leave, so he’ll be in daycare after that.

        I want to continue working and growing my career. Whether I eventually open my own business or not remains to be seen, but it’s always been something I wanted to do. But leaving the workforce to raise kids? Nope. Just nope, nope, nope. It’s not for me. I’ve worked far too hard (and spent way too much time and money in grad school) to just toss it aside. And even if I wanted to leave, it wouldn’t be an option financially at this point in time. We need to the dual income right now. And between my husband and me, he would be the one who is more likely to stay home if we ever get to that point (but I guess most Americans would frown on that and think I should be the one at home since I’m a woman).

        Even if we won the lottery, I’d still work (I’d just open that aforementioned business without as much financial worry).

        1. Nichole*

          Me too. I have zero interest in being a SAHM and consider my fledgling career a priority. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, it means that one of the ways I show them love is taking pride in providing for them. My partner is the “good parent”-picks them up from school, plans birthdays, stays home when they’re sick, etc. He was a SAHD for over a year, and people often pried to the point of rudeness when they found out I worked full time and he stayed with the kids, especially since they were school age. “Yes, I work. No, he’s not a layabout mooch, he has quite a full schedule. No, I’m not the ‘man’ in our relationship. Yes, I like it this way, but I’m not ‘making’ him do anything. No, I’m not sure how any of this is your business.” I’m almost positive that if I made the same choice I would be applauded as a devoted mother sacrificing her career for the sake of the children. I think it would be great if all kids had a full time caretaker, but not everyone has a SAHP personality or skill set, and the children of working parents don’t seem to be running off of cliffs, so apparently you don’t need June Cleaver as your mom to be a fully functioning adult. /endrant

          1. Piper*

            It makes me ragey that people made assumptions about your husband like that because he was a SAHD. Between the two of us, my husband would be way, way, way better equipped to stay at home. He’s a hard worker and has a great job right now, but his personality is just a better fit to be the SAHP between the two of us.

        2. Erin*

          Good for you! I went back to work as a teacher after having my son last year. I don’t know if it’s my profession or just the general public opinion in general, but I still get asked if I’m going to stay home with him. I do stay home with him, on my breaks. And, while I am grateful that my career gives me the opportunity to spend more time with him, I cannot and will not be a SAHM. Just not cut out for it. I have really shocked some people by saying that, though.

          1. Ruffingit*

            It’s not an easy thing to do. At all. And not every woman who gives birth is equipped for it just by virtue of having pushed out a kid. Seriously, what is it with people? SAHM is like any other job – some people are good at it/have the skills for it, some don’t. Just having a child doesn’t automatically make you equipped for that job. There’s a reason I leave a lot of things to people who are equipped to do it – mechanics, doctors, etc. It’s just not my thing.

            There’s this inherent belief that having a child means you want/should spend 24/7 with the kid. That job is hard work. HARD. I don’t blame women who go back to work, sometimes that’s the best thing you can do for your child because you keep your sanity and are better able to be present when you are with the child.

      3. Adam*

        I listen to this morning radio show and every year around Mother’s Day they get into what they call “the mommy wars”. It’s fascinating because they read stories about stay-at-home mothers vs. working mothers and the different lifestyles, and their audience callers go absolutely nuts. There’s all this back and forth fighting about what’s really best for the kids and the family with generalized arguments like “working mother’s don’t really love their kids enough if they’re letting them be raised by someone else” or “stay-at-home mothers have all the time in the world and have no reason to ever be behind on house cleaning, etc.”

        Why this was so fascinating was the vast majority of the time the female callers were the ones arguing with each other. Men would chime in occasionally but most of the fighting was woman vs. woman, all because someone made a choice someone else didn’t agree with.

        1. Piper*

          OMG. Mommy wars. It’s a real thing. And it doesn’t just stop at the SAH vs. working moms. It extends to every little thing moms do when parenting their kids (breastfeeding vs. not breastfeeding, cloth vs. disposable diapers, etc., etc., etc.). It’s ridiculous. And there are even non-mommy vs. mommy wars. Basically women fighting other women. It’s sad, really. How do we expect men to take us seriously when we can’t stop battling amongst ourselves?

          1. Adam*

            Why do you think that happens? I’m way on the outside of this being both a man and not a parent. If I do ever have children I of course would want what I think is the best for my kid and can understand disagreeing on parenting techniques and other big stuff, but I can’t imagine having a passionate hardline stance on things like diapers.

            1. Celeste*

              It’s because women who parent full-time can really consider it their job and vocation…and they want to show how committed they are. I think there is a certain insecurity when you have to show how wrong somebody else is to show how right you are. The list of things to disagree on only grows. There was a time when cloth diapering was passe’…and now it’s a hot trend. Vaccinations were once considered to be a default in medical care…and now you have parents leery of them. Same goes for male circumcision. If you ever want to go to war, these topics will get you there fast!

            2. Piper*

              Yep, what Celeste said. Everyone thinks their way is the right way and they have to shout it from the rooftops, often at the expense of those who don’t parent the same way they do.

              The list goes on and on – how to punish kids, daycare vs. nanny, diapers, vaccinations, sleep schedules, feeding/food, etc, etc, etc. If a parent has to do it, there’s a disagreement about it (and almost always among women).

              1. Ruffingit*

                Yup. My best friend has two children. She works a full-time job and I can remember one time she called me because she had taken her kid to the park (kid was not quite a year old) and she sat with some women who started asking her about when he walked because their child walked at 10 months and did you breastfeed and and and…

                They asked in a “my child is superior” tone. My friend called me and said “What is with these women and the competition? I don’t have time for that nonsense.” I was super proud of her because seriously, who has time for that crap? If you derive your identity from your child and/or their accomplishments, life is going to be super hard for you.

          2. neverjaunty*

            You know, men play one-upsmanship games and infight and compete all the time, and nobody on earth suggests that’s a perfectly understandable and valid reason for women not to take them seriously.

            There are ‘mommy wars’ because in the US we have insane cultural expectations that ensure no matter what women do, they’re wrong, oh, and we don’t have those expectations of men. Yes, it’s sad. It’s not something that we can fix by telling women they suck.

        2. Celeste*

          It’s because men could always be a parent and a worker. It’s newer to the culture for the women to work outside the home. I keep thinking we’re making advances on this, but we aren’t there yet. These mommy wars prove it.

          1. Ruffingit*

            End of the day, I think it’s just about having some confidence in your own choices and realizing that someone else’s choices are not an indictment of yours. Some women seem to see it as such. So when someone says “I’m cloth diapering my child” another mom thinks “OH, so you’re saying I should be doing that??!” UM no. I’m saying that’s what I’m doing. Me. Whatever you do is up to you and I don’t really care about that.

            As well, there are people out there who judge fiercely and think they know what is best for everyone. You have to be able to ignore those people and do what works for you. Not easy, but can be done. In my view, people who spend all their time judging others are seriously lacking in confidence. Be happy with your own choices, let others make theirs and move on.

          2. Rana*

            Actually, women have been working, as mothers, outside the home, for generations: single mothers, working-class mothers, mothers who were slaves, et al. The “mothers should not work” thing is mostly a middle-class thing, and dates back to the mid-1800s, when that luxury started being possible for ordinary people.

            1. Raven*

              This. But also note that society generally has/had disrespected single moms, poor people, and slaves, or seen them as inferior. The fact that most single moms and lower-class moms have been working-moms for generations does little to help improve the image of working moms in the eyes of society. It’s sad and infuriating.

    8. Snarkus Ariellius*

      My sister is an attorney, and she had a pretty good point about the why some SAHP returning to the workforce are better candidates than others.

      Even though some have been out of the workforce, candidates who were more likely to get the job because they:

      stayed up-to-date on the latest developments in their specialization
      understood that you can’t just leave at 3 PM on a Tuesday because of a familial obligation
      stayed until the work got done to meet client/court deadlines
      maintained a flexible schedule

      understood and addressed professional weaknesses

      kept their computer, legal research, and writing skills up-to-date

      didn’t complain about tasks that were expected of every other attorney.

      Unfortunately, the market being what it is, those who never took a break are far more likely to get hired anyway, NOT because of any bias, but merely because of the over-saturation of JD-holders who are in desperate need of work.  When it comes down to that, the person who hasn’t had a long-term break is probably going to be a more ideal candidate.  

    9. Andy*

      Success story per request: I stayed home for the first two years with my boy and went back to work on schedule. (I wanted to stay home for two years and then get a job at *current U*)
      To get back in I signed up with a temp agency and hunted otherwise. I started applying July 1, temped from August 1 till Sept 20 and started the job at the U where I wanted to be three days later. I followed AAM’s advice meticulously and I can tell you (for sure and without a shadow of a doubt) that my cover letter is what got me looked at in the first place. My U is notorious for in-hiring, so I believe that my AAM interview tips kept me at the top of the list through the process.
      (Also my eyes are enchanting deep pools of emotion. I create feelings in others that they themselves don’t understand.)
      But for serious, tho: it is do-able. Know what you bring to the table and figure a way to articulate that honestly. And know what you want. People respond to that.

    10. Julie*

      My mom came back into the workforce just last year. She had dabbled in it while staying home with us kids. She did work-at-home jobs until 1995 and then stayed at home just helping out family through 2003. Then she started working for a business she started for my dad and taught herself a lot of things.

      My brother entered his senior year of high school and she applied for the local government office. I also work for that entity but in a different office so I don’t think I had any real influence on it. She’s in her 50s and government agencies seem to love middle-aged women who don’t plan a lot of career advancement. It keeps management from feeling threatened and it keeps the work moving.

      1. Spinks*

        I suspect it’s because they’re well educated, conscientious, well socialised to the workplace and cheap (I mean salarywise obv :) ).

  2. Anx*

    Does this mean we shouldn’t have a skills format on resumes? It seems like leading straight into education or experience is a little abrupt. Also, I hear that nobody cares about your education unless you’re a new graduate. I’m not a new graduate (2009) but it’s still often the most relevant qualification I have for many of the jobs I’m applying for. Should I still lead with it, or put it at the bottom (layout and formatting favors leading with it, but I don’t want to look very naive just for the sake of making my resume easier to read)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s fine to have a skills section, but that’s not what the OP is doing. She said she’s using a semi-functional format, which is one long list of the stuff that would normally be in bullet points under each job, instead of showing what was done done where. Here’s an example:

      These are horrible and you shouldn’t use them.

      And yes, you should generally lead with your work experience, not education, because employers care most about the former. (If you’re in a field that’s an exception to this, you will probably know it.)

      1. thejordanriver*

        I’ve actually been really curious about this as my career has taken a turn towards more contract based work. I have found myself doing near identical jobs with different organizations – for example, I have a 4 month contract as a volunteer coordinator for one big event, then move on to a 3 month contract as a volunteer coordinator for another big event, etc.

        I have used AAM’s advice of highlighting achievements rather than job duties as a way of not being repetitive on my resume, which I do organize chronologically, but even this is becoming repetitive as my achievements are similar….I expand their recruiting reach, streamline application processes…all very similar stuff.

        Would AAM still recommend a chronological resume even if I do the same job 5 times in a row for 5 different organizations? Is there any advice to help keep this new freelancer’s resume from growing obnoxiously long? (I am about 5 years out of college with consistent work experience, but that still feels rather short to have a 2 page long resume.)

        AAM’s and readers’ take on this would be so appreciative. I’ve been saving this question of how to structure freelance resumes for the next Open Thread, but it seems applicable to this conversation too. Thanks all!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If they were 5 long-term jobs, I’d say yes, they need to all be separate listings. But you’re doing a bunch of short-term contract jobs, you could group those all under one overall Contract Teapot Maker headline.

          1. Nodumbunny*

            Yes, this is what I do – my “job” in the timeline is consultant and then the achievements are the bullets underneath. (I say this as though I really have my crap together but I purchased an AAM resume review and haven’t got my act together yet to send it.)

          2. CC*

            The times I’ve spent doing short contracts, I put on my resume as a single entry “contract work”, then each bullet point is “key achievement at company name”. That way I still name the company I did work for, while making it clear that it was a short contract from the start and I wasn’t laid off or fired.

      2. aebhel*

        Would a field that requires a specific degree and certifications be one of those exceptions?

        I just got my first professional job out of library school (and I’m not looking to move on, quite the opposite, but just out of curiousity), and since I had just got my MLIS, I listed that first, along with the requisite certifications. I’m not sure if that would still be the case if I were to apply for another professional job, though.

        1. Lynne in AB*

          The MLIS is a requirement, but it doesn’t make you stand out at all; every qualified applicant has one. Don’t put it at the top. I don’t, and haven’t seen others do that either, except when they’re straight out of school.

          Congrats on your first professional job! :)

      3. 2horseygirls*

        When is the next resume review? Both my husband and I recently converted over to the skills resume format. His was first, because as I was copying and pasting the last job to update the company, location and dates for the current job, it occurred to me that he does EXACTLY the same thing in every position. However, those job duties were able to be grouped under several headings, highlighting strengths.

        Will keep my eyes peeled for the next offer!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          August, I think.

          But don’t use that format! Use the traditional chronological format. While his duties might have been the same, his accomplishments almost certainly won’t, and that’s what should be on his resume anyway.

      4. ConstantVolunteer*

        Hi OP here of the volunteer question. Thanks for answering Alison

        I don’t use a traditional functional resume, hence the semi functional resume description.

        Basically, I work for myself, but I work contract to contract. And I’m often doing different aspects of my field on each contract. I guess you could say that I have an expanded skills section at the top that outlines key skills that I bring to the job, but I don’t necessarily need on every contract.

        I just counted and I currently have 8 of my most recent contract jobs on the first page of my resume. Under each position is a summary of my job description and 1-2 bullet points of my highlights while on the job.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Skills sections always kind of confuse me, because people list things that I consider fairly basic to any type of office job, like:

      – Microsoft Office
      – skilled communicator

      Or things that are completely irrelevant:

      – Mountaineering
      – CPR and First Aid
      – One guy even listed typing 40 wpm (for a substantive expert position, not an admin assistant, and I don’t think that’s actually that fast either)

      1. Anon (just for this!)*

        Sideways on the topic of resume’s, but Katie, I’ve been meaning to ask you–do you have any advice on converting a standard resume into KSA format? The process seems daunting (and all of those boxes to fill on USA Jobs seems like it’s just asking for a typo) so I was thinking of hiring a professional to do the converting, but good god are there a lot of them and no way to verify their bonafides, it seems like.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’m sorry, I actually don’t have advice because I’m having the exactly opposite problem of creating a non-government resume when I’m used to the resume forms. I’m sorry I’m no help :(

          1. De Minimis*

            I don’t see that USAJobs really requires anything beyond the standard resume format—the bad part is the platform is a little cumbersome. I’ve applied and interviewed for various positions through USAJobs and did eventually get hired at an agency. I did not adapt or change my resume from the way I had it for private sector jobs.

            I had thought that was part of the point of USAJobs, to get rid of the old resume process that was too cumbersome and put people off.

            1. Anon (just for this!)*

              But my understanding is that you have to include the agency’s KSAs within your resume now (as opposed to a separate narrative), and that’s what I find complex–rewriting my private-sector-neat-concise-exactly-one-page-quantitative-resume so that I can stuff the job description language in there for each job I apply to.

              How did you do it, De Minimis. Did you just rewrite your resume from scratch for every job description, or did you find that just copy/pasting from your resume (with some moderate tailoring) was enough to get the job done?

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Oh, ok. For some of them (really depends on the agency), you can actually add language in your work experience like “this experience supports Mandatory Position-Related Assessment Factor #1 – Underwater Basket Weaving) at the expert level”

                I’m not sure it really helps or not, but you do want to make it explicitly obvious that your experience matches the requirements (using some of the same words. etc), just to get through the machines and HR types doing the initial screens.

              2. De Minimis*

                I just used my regular resume, but in thinking back I think the key reason was that I was applying for positions where my education could substitute for the required experience, so listing my degree and attaching my transcripts was enough to qualify for the position so my strongest qualifications were not really my work experience [I had some, but not a lot.] If I’d had to rely on my work experience it might have been tougher, but overall I just approached it the way I would other jobs I was applying to, trying to adapt my resume to show I was a match for the job description.

                I was also looking at accounting/finance jobs [and occasional IRS auditor jobs] so the skills I needed to emphasize were probably a little easier to define and required less tweaking.

              3. Another Fed Kate*

                I’m a couple days late to this, but in case it’s useful…

                I’ve found that private-sector-concise-one-page resumes are not useful at all for federal jobs. I just pulled up the resume I used for my current position – it’s 7 pages, covering about 7 years’ experience (for a GS-5 position). For this one, I actually broke out my bullet points under each position according to the KSAs they addressed. In my field/agency I’ve found that certain titles tend to have the same basic KSAs, so I had a tailored resume for each job type I was applying for, which was then easier to tweak.

                I was also (usually) able to attach my resume as a PDF through USAJobs, but I know there are some applications that require you to use the (awful) copy/paste system.

          2. Anon (just for this!)*

            That’s okay, I appreciate it! And good luck with your resume rewrite (ugh, don’t they just suck?)

      2. Calla*

        I have a skills section but I agree a lot of people have useless stuff on there. As an admin, mine is mostly specific non-Office tools, like expense/travel (Concur), timesheet/billing programs (like Timeslips), Westlaw, Adobe Creative Suite, my typing speed (actually relevant and much higher than average), etc.

        I’m sure there are still interviewers who are “whatever” about this, but I’ve found that it’s helpful! A lot of the time they are relevant to the duties of the position but the listing didn’t specifically mention the programs (so it’s not obviously assumed that I know them), so it eliminates “We use X program, do you know it?” Or it’s something the interviewer sees as a bonus (my webdesign experience is almost never part of positions I apply to, but I have had interviewers say it’s nice to have).

      3. bkanon*

        I had an interview at one temping place where the required wpm was 35. I do around 100. They implied I’d have a lot of trouble finding work there because I’d make everyone else they hired look bad. o_O

      4. LQ*

        I would consider Office pretty basic too but I feel like I have to list it, when I’ve tried leaving it off people grill my on my experience with it. As I’ve had a job where I’ve ended up doing a lot of Office trainings (as a presenter) there are a lot of people who don’t have the skill.

        That said I sort of bury it under my way more specific and cooler software skills.

        1. Chinook*

          “As I’ve had a job where I’ve ended up doing a lot of Office trainings (as a presenter) there are a lot of people who don’t have the skill. ”

          I have gotten around this by mentioning for one of my jobs, as an accomplishment, creating & presenting lunch ‘n’ learns on Microsoft Office programs. Not only is it a fact, but it also flags my advanced program skills as well as my presentation skills (which are definitely not a given as an admin. or receptionist (which is the job I held when I did this).

        2. CC*

          Then there’s the question of *how much* skill do you have with various MS Office programs.

          In Word, can you write and do basic formatting only? Can you set up page headers and footers, with page numbers? Can you do a mail merge? Can you manage a 200+ page technical document with images, tables, and linked cross-references throughout?

          In Excel, can you make a list with consistent basic formatting only? Can you have equations referencing across more than one sheet? Can you make a sortable list with a heading row that’s always visible? Can you make a pivot table? Can you work with array equations?

          What does “MS Office skills” actually mean?

          1. LQ*

            And that is the piece I always include (when relevant/something I want to do in the future) in the work history. So something like reworked 2000 Word documents for accessibility would be under that work experience.

            I’m leery of listing “Beginner/Advanced/Whatever Excel” like I’ve seen on a lot of resumes because my moderate experience is apparently not what some consider moderate etc.

          2. Trixie*

   is a great free resource for learning or refreshing on MS software.

          3. mjm724*

            If I answered yes to all of those questions, what skill level would you consider that? Because I think I’m slightly better than moderately proficient, especially for Excel, since I’m less familiar with the statistical and valuation formulas. Am I underselling my skills?

            1. CC*

              Honestly, I have no idea. As LQ said, beginner/moderate/advanced means different things to different people. I’m sure many people who have moderate proficiency are considered wizards by some, while still being unfamiliar with, say, statistical or array functions. (That’s about where I am — I never had a reason to use either of those two, so for me they’re a thing that I know about but don’t know how to use effectively. They’re probably my two big excel holes.)

              My only outside/objective measure of skill level that I’ve had so far was from a Udemy course on excel that my previous employer bought and gave all employees access to. There were three “levels”, and if I remember correctly, apart from pivot tables in “intermediate” (which I’ve also never had reason to use, so I only have passing familiarity with, but from what I’ve seen they look like a MS-overcomplication of a type of table that I might set up without going through their wizard if the data I’m working with would benefit from that layout) I knew everything in beginner/intermediate and almost nothing in “expert” — pretty sure that statistical and array equations were considered expert level stuff in the Udemy course.

    3. Sunflower*

      I personally put my skills section at the top right under my contact info and I list it bulleted. I like to do it because I feel like it gives the person reading it an idea of what they’re going to be looking at once they start reading my experience. I graduated in 2011 and am in my second professional job since college. I just moved my education to the bottom but I like to make my college name a little bigger than the rest of the text because my college has a very large alumni network.

      Like what Katie the Fed said, including basic stuff most people can do is a waste. Use stuff that is particular to you. For example, I work in marketing and my section includes copywriting, event management, etc. I have a single line that includes technical expertise where I put HTML programs and email programs I use. I also include Microsoft Project only because it’s not part of the basic Microsoft package that everyone knows how to use

      1. PEBCAK*

        But don’t you have accomplishments that show you can do those things? Listing a skill is, to me, the same as saying “I’m a team player.”

        1. Sunflower*

          I always thought of the section as more of a summary of my resume. If I took it off, my resume risks having too much space too

        2. Esra*

          Depends on the industry. For creative/web jobs, it’s good if they can see right off the bat that you have experience with specific programs/languages.

  3. Tyler*

    #1 and #5, I’ve been busy with volunteer work since I left my last official job. How about starting with Community Involvement followed by Experience to keep it chronological?

      1. Aussie Teacher*

        Even if your volunteer work is more recent than your work experience?

        I’m a SAHM looking to re-enter the workforce later this year and my most recent work experience ended in 2010. I took on a volunteer committee position from Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 so that’s my most recent ‘work’. I’m currently listing it all under work experience (since it’s my only volunteer work) like this:

        Work Experience:
        Enrolments Officer (volunteer) – Jan 2013-Jan 2014
        [insert results here]
        Teacher – Jan 2005 – June 2010
        [insert results here]

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you’re listing it under Work Experience, that’s fine — you just wouldn’t want a Community Involvement or Volunteer section to come before Work Experience.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Yes! Thank you for clarifying that it was volunteer work – I wonder about the honesty of candidates who don’t clarify what was paid and what was volunteer.

          1. LBK*

            I have a tangential question – what about non-charity/community work that’s done as volunteer? There’s a pretty well-known website where the customer service and tech support is provided by volunteers (with the exception of 2 paid staff members that oversee the whole thing). All tech support/customer service requests are public and anyone can write a response that’s hidden until one of the more senior volunteers approves it. As you answer more questions you can submit reviews and get promotions, which come with privileges like the approval ability I mentioned as well things like getting access to more information about a customer’s account. I did this for about a year and by the time I stopped doing it I was an administrator (only one level below the paid staff members in the hierarchy), so I was providing performance reviews for other volunteers like you would do for an employee and granting promotions, addressing escalated customer concerns, working directly with developers on serious technical issues, etc.

            How the hell do I list this accurately on my resume? Right now I just have it included in my work experience with a note that it was on a volunteer basis. Is that disingenuous?

            1. LBK*

              Actually, disregard this, I’ll repost it in the open thread. Don’t mean to derail the discussion.

            2. Agile developer*

              I think I would list this under Community Involvement or just in a miscellaneous section in the end. Maybe something like “Other Activities”.

          2. Career Volunteer*

            I’ve done that ever since I got grilled in an interview about my volunteer work.

            For many years I’ve worked on a scholarly journal for free–as many people who work on scholarly journals do. :-) I manage the content management system it runs on, keep it secure, troubleshoot user issues, and do some light design, so this is *actual* experience; it’s just not *paid* experience. I had read somewhere that if you’re doing substantial volunteer work in your field, you don’t need to list it as volunteer work, so I didn’t.

            And then… I went into an interview where the department head said, in what seemed like a rather hostile tone, “So this is what you mainly do?” And I said something like, “Well, it’s where my most current experience is,” and he said, “But you spend most of your time doing this?” and I said, “Well, no, I spend most of my time carting kids back and forth between school and swim practice and speech therapy, but for work, yes, this is what I spend most of my time doing.”

            I got the job anyway. It wasn’t anywhere near the level I had been at before I left the workforce, but it was a step in the right direction. I think part of the reason I got it was that I told the truth (after I got to know the department head better, I realized that he had probably been testing me to see whether I’d be honest or try to bluff my way through), but also because my manager had stayed home for several years with her kids before going back to work, and didn’t have a problem with that.

            So take heart, SAHPs–not everybody thinks you’re a leech or a prostitute (and yes, I’ve heard or seen SAHMs called both of those things; curiously–or not–I’ve never heard it about SAHDs, but they have a whole other set of derogatory labels).

            But back to the topic, I have now put “part-time volunteer” next to my work-related volunteer jobs in the “work experience” section of my resume, because I never want to face that kind of questioning in an interview again. Oh, and FWIW, I have a separate section at the very bottom of my resume for non-work-related volunteer work, like the HOA board, PTA stuff, and community organizations.

      2. Mimmy*

        Yeah this has been my question too–just like Aussie Teacher below, my last paid experience was in 2010, and have been actively volunteering since late 2011. My reasons are different, but I have been listing everything chronologically–no separate work and volunteer sections.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          i think that can potentially work, if the volunteer experience is actually relevant to the job you are applying for. But you do have to list that it’s volunteer. I start to feel misled when they are all mixed in. For me, it’s partially about volume of experience. If you volunteered for 2 years, one afternoon a week for three hours, you’ve got 300 hours of experience at that activity. If you work full time for two years, you’ve got more than 4000 hours of experience. That’s a big difference, and it matters. Also, people are patient with volunteers in a lot of cases – they work for free, so a volunteer who does a good job but does so inefficiently will probably be appreciated and valued at most nonprofits. Not the case with an employee. It can be excellent experience, but it’s not the same thing as work.

          1. Mimmy*

            Thanks. I always forget to think about the number of hours that the work equates to. I’m involved with several groups and a lot of it is more than just menial office tasks.

            My most substantive work so far has been reviewing grant proposals as part of two separate committees since early 2012. Unfortunately, although I put in a lot of hours doing this work (reading the proposals at home, then discussing them at committee meetings), it’s only for 2-3 months at a time.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #1 I would think this would be something better addressed in a cover letter, and even then, it would just be a sentence or 2 explaining the gap in the work history.

    Like Anx said above, it must be really hard in this market to come back after any length of time away. That being said, I really have so much respect for people who make the choice to be a stay-at-home parent. I love my daughter to pieces, but after 3 months of maternity leave I was ready to go back to work. It really is a challenging thing to do, and not everyone can do it well — certainly not me.

    My daughter goes to an in-home daycare provider, and every single day there is something fun planned for the kids to do — crafts, playtime, field trips, you name it. She’s so great at coming up with activities for the kids to do, and it’s always something fun that is also educational and/or helps them develop their skills. I would never be able to do what she does — I’m nowhere near imaginative enough!

    1. Aussie Teacher*

      Yep, I’m hoping to return to work after 4 years at home with my kids – I’m planning to mention it briefly in the cover letter along with my volunteer work in the interim.

      Not quite sure how to word it, though – how does this sound?
      “While I’ve spent the last few years at home raising a family, I’ve also kept busy volunteering as the Enrolments Officer at my local playgroup, where I accomplished x, y and z.”

      1. KJR*

        I would re-word the part about “keeping busy.” I feel like it might trivialize what you did. Maybe say something like, “…raising a family, I also accomplished X, Y, and Z while volunteering as the Enrollments Officer at my local playgroup.”

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I think that is fine in a cover letter, and agree that you should change “kept busy” (it kind of sounds like you were combating boredom, which I’m sure it not what you mean).

        2. Aussie Teacher*

          Thank you – that sounds much better! As I was writing it I thought “being a SAHM keeps me plenty busy!”

      2. CH*

        I don’t have it in front of me, but when I returned to work 4 years ago, I put something like, “While raising my family, I have kept my skills current by ….” and then listed the 2 or 3 volunteer gigs I did that used specific skills applicable to my career (writing/editing).
        On my resume, I did have a job under work experience called “volunteer” and summarized the organizations and my relevant volunteer achievements. YMMV, but it worked for me.

      3. PEBCAK*

        I don’t know if this is a cultural difference, but “Enrollments Officer at my local playgroup” sounds made up and ridiculous to me.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I hate to admit it, but I kind of agree – at minimum, it comes across as a Vanity Title. It’s like yesterday when one of my coworkers was trying to get a stain out of a cushion, and I jokingly called her our “Senior Upholstery Remediation Technician.” Even just dropping the caps (“enrollment officer” rather than “Enrollment Officer”) or using “manager” rather than “officer” would help, I think.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          yes. I would assume that the person made it up to put in their resume, or that the group made up important sounding titles to help SAHMs keep their resume current. I’ve never heard of a playgroup that had any kind of “officer”. It’s incongruous.

          1. aebhel*

            Wouldn’t it depend on what she actually did in that role, though? I’m just curious because when I was a kid, our local homeschool group had something similar (though not nearly as formal), and there was quite a bit of planning and organizing events, purchasing materials, etc. that would probably be quite relevant to at least some kinds of office jobs.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              And that’s where the “I accomplished X,Y,Z” of her example statement comes in. But we don’t those accomplishments overshadowed by a title that a potential employer might not take seriously.

          2. Aussie Teacher*

            Interesting – that’s just what the position title was (and I know people often comment on AAM how important it is to use the actual title of your position as opposed to what you think the position actually does).

            Our playgroup runs 3 sessions per day, 5 days per week. There are 6 committee positions (President, VP, Treasurer, Enrolments Officer, Purchasing Officer and Secretary). Each position had specific duties and got their fees refunded for the year. Most positions could get by with a couple of hours a month (and 6 committee meetings per year) but Enrolments is definitely the most work – still only a couple of hours a week but spread out.

            Basically I took calls and emails from interested parents, placed them into appropriate age groups, organised trial sessions and followed up with them to try and garner enrolments. I also liased with the group leaders to keep accurate records to make sure we didn’t overfill groups (because then if two babies came along and no-one told me they were pregnant, all of a sudden we were over our child limit for insurance purposes).

            Rather than just list the duties, I tried to focus on accomplishments so that section of my resume looks like this:

            • Took back ownership of duties that had been shared out to different committee members in previous years due to workload concerns.
            • Updated many playgroup policies and created written documentation for the different facets of my role.
            • Improved communication between members and the committee by instituting new policies regarding dissemination of information and regularly received unsolicited praise from satisfied parents, group leaders and other committee members.
            • Proposed, created and maintained a website and a Facebook page for our playgroup which generated steady traffic and increased awareness of our playgroup within the community.

        3. Sunflower*

          Yeaaaa I’m not sure exactly what a local playgroup is but if it’s what it sounds like, it sounds like you were queen b deciding who was elite enough to play with your kids.

          1. CEMgr*

            If the playgroup had a >$1M budget, or needed to meet P&L targets to achieve ROI above level X for investors, or had substantial regulatory compliance burdens, or needed specialized technical skills, etc. this is worthy experience.

            Just running a phone tree to get kids together in a sandbox? What are the metrics, what do success and failure look like? What was the challenge?

            1. Aussie Teacher*

              Success looked like:
              -keeping enrolments steady (at a minimum) or increasing enrolments for the year
              -keeping existing groups happy and filling empty sessions
              -managing group numbers by tracking arrivals/departures/pregnancies/births so that we stayed within our number limits for insurance purposes
              -following up with parent queries in a timely manner and providing an approachable and personable ‘face’ to the playgroup
              -tracking the key register (2 keys per group and they moved around group members a lot without notifying me!)
              -actually getting information from group leaders (harder than it sounded! – who has the key now, can you update me on all the email addresses in your group, who is pregnant, who’s had a baby, what is their name/DOB so we can add them to your insurance policy, here is a new person trialling this week etc)
              -making all members aware of the end-of-year AGM by any and every means necessary as it was compulsory to attend if you wanted to enrol for the following year. (This was a huge peeve of many parents who managed to slip through the cracks in previous years so I did my best to plug those cracks)

              TL;DR – not quite a ‘greater than 1M budget’ but more than running a phone tree to get kids in a sandbox :)

      1. aebhel*

        I’m in my last week of maternity leave, and…yeah. I’ve been ready to go back for over a month. I’ve gained a whole new respect for SAHM’s, that’s for sure.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I actually did start working from home half days during my last 4 weeks. I did this because things were a shaky at my husband’s company at the time. I got 8 weeks of short-term disability, and then planned to use 4 weeks of vacation. But since we weren’t sure what was going to happen with his job, using up all my vacation time just didn’t seem very smart…we wanted to keep some just in case.

          Those 3 months at home with my daughter were really wonderful, and I’ll always be thankful that I did that because that’s time that I’d never get back. But I was definitely ready to go back to work.

          Congratulations on your new arrival, and enjoy returning to the workforce! I hope you’re with your daycare arrangements, if you’re doing that. It makes all the difference in the world.

          1. De (Germany)*

            This is really interesting for me to hear, because in my country, you are pretty much seen as a monster if you return before the kid is two years old or even *gasp* one year. My husband and I plan to equally divide the 14 months we get paid between us and I can already hear the screams when I announce that I would be back to full time work within 9 months (at least that’s the plan, we are still two or three years away from this).

            Generous parental leave is something I am grateful for, but it comes with certain drawbacks, among them vilification of the women who don’t stay at home with their small children when they could afford it.

            1. Jen RO*

              When my friend (who lives in Austria) put her daughter in daycare (8 am to noon) at 6 months old, she shocked all her friends. I understand it was unusual, but it’s not like she was abandoning her kid if she sent her somewhere for 4 hours a day.

            2. Jen RO*

              To add to that, here maternity leave is either 1 year at 80% (I think) of your salary, or 2 years at a lower fixed rate, so most office-type workers go back after a year and it’s seen as business as usual.

              1. Felicia*

                Here it’s 1 year at a certain % of your salary (i can’t remember how much!) and although employers don’t have to hold your exact job for you, you have to have a comparable one to go back to that pays the money. So 1 year off and going back to business as usual is normal here and i think in every non-US developed country.

            3. aebhel*

              Yeah, that’s…wow. I mean, not that parents in the US don’t ever take two years off to care for a child, but that would be considered stay-at-home parenting, and you have to re-enter the workforce from scratch. Outside of maybe tenured academia, I’ve never heard of a job that would allow a person to take more than a year off and still have a job to come back to.

              My maternity leave was 7 weeks, and I had to use up all my PTO for that. :)

            4. Aussie Teacher*

              Yep it’s pretty unusual in Australia for a mother to take less than a year’s maternity leave (unpaid although plenty of workplaces will pay you 6 weeks or so) and they have to hold your job for you for 1 or 2 years (or have a comparable job for you to return to).

    2. neverjaunty*

      AAM may disagree, but I would never put this in a cover letter and in fact didn’t when I was returning to the workforce. There is a lot of disdain and disrespect for mothers in the working world, and I didn’t want to put that right up front where an employer would see it and roundfile my resume.

      Of course it always came up in interviews, which was fine; because by that point they’d at least made the commitment to seeing if I was a good candidate, and they had a better sense of who I was and whether I would be a good fit, rather than just looking at words on a page and making assumptions.

  5. Confused*

    2. Recruiter wants me to run jobs by her before I apply

    “I should run it by her so she can see if she has a contact at the company.”
    This doesn’t seem honest. It would make sense if your mentor/friend/teacher/former co-worker offered to do this for you but not here. She’s not involved in your job search as a favor, she is in it to make a commi$$ion.
    IMO, it seems very opportunistic and somewhat sneaky as the recruiter is saying it under the guise of being kind and helpful. I don’t know if I could continue working with a recruiter who did this. If you choose to continue working with her, continue your own search as well and do not involve her in it whatsoever.

    1. Anony Mouse*

      My thoughts exactly. This recruiter reeks of opportunism and misinformation. I’ve personally been burned by a few recruiters who all presented themselves as enthusiastic, competent, and friendly. I was much more naive back then.

      1. Mimmy*

        That’s probably how they get you to trust them, unfortunately. I know I’d fall for something like that.

    2. KJR*

      I always prefer to hire without using any kind of outside help…they’re just so expensive. Especially for positions where I’m perfectly capable of finding someone myself. Except in very special circumstances, I will almost always choose the candidate I found myself vs. the one for whom I will have to pay fees.

    3. Artemesia*

      I would lose this recruiter or certainly not contact them and use them only if they contacted you with a specific job opportunity. By trying to grab onto your other contacts/ins for a job, they are almost certainly destroying any chance you would have to be hired by that organization. When I was hiring, I was contacted a couple of times by recruiters trying to sell their services. We do our own recruiting and would never pay for such a service. If a candidate came to us through them we would not consider that candidate because we don’t pay recruiters.

      This is a really nasty attempt by this recruiter to use you that will damage your search.

    4. MsLee*

      I actually have a followup to this already! I’d emailed her about that job and about how I’d signed up for alerts from another company I’m interested in; she wrote back saying she had contacts at that second company, but that for the one my ex-coworker had mentioned, I could just apply directly to them.
      I really can’t get a read on if she’s sketchy or not–obviously she wants me to go through her so she gets money, but at the same time if she does have a contact, I feel like she could be a great advocate. Plus, alerting her to these would help ensure I don’t apply to something she submits me for.
      After reading the comments, though, I think I’ll be more judicious with what I share with her! Thanks!

      1. LBK*

        I think that’s a good sign that she told you to apply directly. It sounds like she genuinely does want you to run things by her just so she can help you if she happens to know someone. Take it with a grain of salt and make your decisions as needed, obviously, but I think the glut of unreliable, greedy recruiters makes people generally suspicious of their motives. There are some truly great ones out there who are actually trying to help people get jobs, not just trying to get themselves paid.

        1. MsLee*

          I considered it a good sign too. The cynical side of me though also knows that she could have called them to see if they were interested in working with her, and they said no….But the optimistic side is thinking that even if she did that, hopefully she didn’t give my name. I probably should just ask her directly what she does when she doesn’t have a contact at a place I suggest.

          1. Chinook*

            “The cynical side of me though also knows that she could have called them to see if they were interested in working with her, and they said no….But the optimistic side is thinking that even if she did that, hopefully she didn’t give my name.”

            The optomistic side of you forgot to point out that, even if they did turn down her request to work with her, she still encouraged you to apply on your own. This, to me, means you will probably get an honest answer from her if you ask her about what she does when she doesn’t have a contact.

        2. MsLee*

          Also, I worked with a temp agency a few years ago and had nothing but good experiences, so I’m a little biased on the pro-agency side for now.

        3. A Cita*

          See, I don’t see this as a good sign at all. You already had an in at that first company, rather than it being a random company you were considering submitting an application to, so she would have little to no leverage in earning a commission if you are hired. Recruiters are not like temp agencies. Having a good experience with the latte has no bearing on the operation of the former.

      2. CC*

        I had a recruiter say the same thing to me — run a company name by him to see if he (or his company) had any contacts there. He works for a large recruiting firm so there is a real chance he would have contacts at some of the larger companies who prefer to use recruiters.

        I haven’t done so yet, partly because I don’t know well enough if he’s the sort who would be fishing for contacts or if he’s just offering an advantage (in exchange for a commission of course) if he has one, and partly because there are very few job postings in my sub-field right now. If I do see a job posting that interests me that’s posted by his company, I’ll contact him about it instead of re-applying to the recruiting company in general, though — because that’s my personal contact on an application like that.

        1. MsLee*

          “some of the larger companies who prefer to use recruiters”

          Yes! That’s another reason I even approached the agency (might be an important point too–that I approached them first). I figured there’d be a lot of companies in the area that wanted temporary proofreaders or something and for them it’d be faster or easier to go through a recruiter. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens if I get any position when I move.

      3. Anonaconda*

        It is a good sign that she was honest about not having a contact there and encouraging you to apply on your own, but I would take to heart what other people have said about how companies you’re applying to may not want to work with a recruiter. Even if they’ve worked with her in the past, there’s a good chance they’re posting an external ad because they’re not interested in paying recruiter fees. I guess to me, the benefit of whatever “advocating” she would do on my behalf would be outweighed by the fact that I’d instantly become a more expensive candidate. YMMV.

        1. NatalieR*

          Asking because I worked with a recruiter for creative folks here that used almost exactly the same phrasing, and she turned out to be really good.

  6. ITPuffNStuff*

    #1 — I’d prefer not to list anything in my work history that is not relevant to the job. Hiring managers can ask applicants to account for *all* of their time, or they can ask them to leave unrelated periods off of their history. A problem only exists for those managers who are trying to have it both ways. A hiring manager who is focused on finding the best applicant for the job is not going to want irrelevant information, and because of that, he/she isn’t going to ask applicants to list 100% of their work history.


    1. Artemesia*

      Most people who are hiring expect candidates to account for their time and are suspicious of gaps. That is one reason it is so helpful to keep the resume warm by doing contract or consulting work or even volunteer work during long times out of work. Consulting work can be organized under its own single category on the resume with examples of accomplishments.

      1. ITPuffNStuff*

        There’s no problem if this is what a manager wants — as long as they are willing to accept the inevitable non-business related information for things like parental leave, periods of unemployment, etc.

    2. Joey*

      I’m assuming you’re not a hiring manager. The first question you have when you see gaps is “what was this person doing?” We’re not only looking for relevent work history, we’re attempting to understand the rationale for job changes to see if the next logical next step includes my job. That’s not always possible, but its much easier to anticipate the next logical step when we have a fuller picture.

      1. Chinook*

        “We’re not only looking for relevent work history, we’re attempting to understand the rationale for job changes to see if the next logical next step includes my job. ”

        In that case, a SAHP has the perfect answer – I took time off to care for my children and now I am ready to return to the workforce again. This is logical and, in my mind, shows me that you know how to prioritize and that you are going back into the professional world willingly.

        1. Joey*

          Its logical, but the perfect answer would be that you kept your work skills up to date and even enhanced them while you were a sahm.

        2. Andy*

          That was my (perfectly honest) answer and I got nothing but understanding nods at interviews.

      2. ITPuffNStuff*

        Again, no problem with this as long as the hiring manager is willing to accept the inevitable non-work related information. Normal life includes periods of parental leave, unemployment, and other non-work-related things. Where a conflict occurs is a manager who wants to see all time accounted for, and *also* wants to receive only work relevant information.

  7. ITPuffNStuff*

    #4 — the other question that has to be asked here is, “If you are not confident this person will work out, why would you put them in a management role?” This speaks to me of a company that does not know how to determine whether a manager is really qualified or a good fit.

    1. LBK*

      Agreed, and in addition to that if someone doesn’t work out, why wouldn’t you just fire them? Every position is technically temporary if the person in it is bad (unless this is union/contract/in a state with more stringent firing rules). This seems like a lazy technique for higher ups that would prefer not to deal with performance managing someone they don’t feel comfortable asserting authority over.

    2. Student*

      I wonder is the staffing agency just looked at the position title and figured it was a secretary-type administrator instead of a management-type administrator. In this day and age, I wouldn’t ever give a manager a title of administrator since it has so widely replaced the title of secretary, and I was a little surprised to see it here.

  8. Nutcase*

    #4 – In the job I have now I wasn’t hired as a ‘temp’ but I did start off in a probationary period for a few months where my notice period was only a week or a few days if I wanted to quit or if they decided to let me go. Hiring someone you’re really not that sure of would be a bad idea anyway but this could be a bit of a safety net without calling your new management person a temp.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    4. Using temp-to-perm for a management position.

    It’s Temp-to-Perm Week at AAM! Is this like Shark Week? I hope so.

    Temp to perm can be a great way to find the right fit of new graduates or people returning to the work force to join your organization in non-management roles. Management? What Alison said.

    I have seen other parts of our company make mistakes like this when trying to fill what should be an important role and, it never ends well.

    Here’s the thing that smaller employers like us have to remember (we’re about 200 employees, which, grand scheme is small): nobody wants to work for us that badly. We’re not glamorous, we don’t have crazy cool benefits or workspaces, we’re not “Call my mother! I landed a dream job at a company she sees in the news all the time!”

    My compadres who have tried to cheap out in the last few years of the “employer’s market” have gotten burned because the candidates that they could get to accept whatever conditions they thought they could impose, didn’t work out well.

    The right person for a key position should make you feel you’d like to court them, not restrict them or hedge your bets on them. Just keep interviewing them until you find someone who makes you feel that way.

    1. Jean*

      (Alison–this is mostly off-topic but I cannot resist.) Re Shark Week: In past years Discovery adorned the upper levels of their headquarters building with a larger-than-life three-dimensional shark head on the front, tail on the back, and fins on both sides. Every year this sight makes me grin uncontrollably. I hope they’re planning to do this forever.

    2. AVP*

      This is true. Particularly during the height of the recession, my boss was the President/CEO/COO of the “Hey it’s a recession lets get new people for cheap and give them no benefits and they’ll have to work for us anyway because they’re desperate!” Club.

      It did not work out. As desperate as people were, the top candidates had options, we ended up with people who weren’t great fits or didn’t have the technical chops, and they all either got fired or left the minute something better opened up elsewhere. And we saved, what, $50k total? Not worth the stress.

      1. Chinook*

        ” And we saved, what, $50k total?”

        Techincally, you saved a lot more on the payroll side and it looks like the company is operating more leanly. True, individual departments have their expense go up as a result (to cover the contractors), but then those expenses are spread out over several departments.

        Not that I agree with this rationale. Personally, I would like it if TPTB I am contracted with would just suck it up and accept that the workload has permantly tripled (due to new regulations) and hire all of us contractors rather than downloading payroll costs on us and risk losing the historical knowledge we are gaining, which is the true cost of hiring contractors. If any of us were to be offered a F/T job elsewhere, our knoweldge, which can’t always be transmitted on paper (subtlties of a project are hard to describe and what seems unimportant today maybe become a vital piece of informatin 10 years form now) would be gone with us.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Mmmm, yes, well, saynomore, I might mention that if you drive a bargain in HR, you just might end up paying a whole lot more in lawyers fees than a good HR dept would have cost.

        For example. If I knew anybody that had happened to.

        (Who thinks a part-time HR person who spends most of her time emailing about employee discounts at the local shopping mall is actually doing the job of HR? That’s what you get for part-time and cheap. )

  10. Sawrs*

    What about significant gaps in employment (say, 2+ years) caring for an ailing relative? It could appear in poor taste and, of course, it’d be far easier and less awkward to address a gap like that, briefly, in an interview. Would a simple entry marked “hiatus” or “extended leave of absence” work better?

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      I think those terms raise more questions than answers. I would leave the gap off the resume entirely. If you want to address it in your application materials, maybe include a brief mention in your cover letter about taking a few years off to care for a relative.

    2. Jean*

      Could you list it as “Sabbatical/Home Health Care” or
      “Sabbatical/Family Care” with the usual starting & ending dates and a brief description such as “Provided personal care, companionship, and administrative support for retired admiral” (or “retired gardener,” “retired homemaker,” “community elder” or some other dignified but impersonal way of describing your relative)? No snark intended; I’m just trying to put “cared for ailing relative” into the usual professional language so as not to jolt the hiring manager or Applicant Tracking System.

      1. BCW*

        Its kind of like I put below, I find that to be more padding than anything because its not employment. Its important, but you aren’t being employed. You didn’t report to someone. There is no record of how well you did or didn’t perform your job. You couldn’t have been fired. This isn’t to belittle the significance, but to call it employment just isn’t true.

          1. BCW*

            I don’t know. I mean, if I get fired from a job, but list taking care of my dog as “work experience” I feel like thats a bit disingenuous. Not that a dog isn’t work, but I don’t consider it work experience. Same as I wouldn’t consider if I had a blog about what its like being unemployed as work experience. Not saying you don’t gain skills, but I don’t think those are things that belong on a resume.

            I just feel like you if you are doing anything, aside from laying around in your pjs, in the time you aren’t working that you could call it “work experience” but at some point you are grasping at straws.

          2. fposte*

            It’s not going to be using the term in the way hiring managers view it, which makes it a problem.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, not with the way the term is used on resumes and the way employers expect it to be used. I mean, cleaning my house is work, but I don’t list it on a resume.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I don’t think “sabbatical” is honest – that normally implies that you’re doing some study in your field and/or personal growth work. “Hiatus” means about the same thing as “gap” – and leads to questions like, “does this person just periodically take a hiatus from work? when will they decide to take another one?”. I agree that you don’t want to share a sad story in your cover letter, so how about “2 years off caring for family” and let people wonder if it was kids or another relative – I hope no one would ask you to clarify.

      3. fposte*

        Agreed. This isn’t resume stuff. Putting it there will raise more questions than it answers.

        1. De Minimis*

          My wife unfortunately had to take significant breaks from the workforce over the years due to this. She never addressed it in her resume, just in her cover letter, and of course in interviews. She has generally been able to get jobs after taking the time off.

      4. Jean*

        Thanks to everyone for the insights here and below. I especially appreciate the nonjudgemental distinction made by several of you that caregiving shouldn’t be listed on the resume if it’s not work-related in terms of work environment or skills curated.

    3. RB*

      I was a SAHM for 5 years until my son started kindergarten (he’s now almost 18). Even then, I put the mention of it in my cover letter and not the resume when I was ready to re-join the workforce.

      As a hiring manager and HR Director now for many years, I have interviewed dozens of people who took a year or more off to raise children, care for an ill parent or relative or possibly had a medical issue that has been resolved. It deserves mention to fill the gap. It also said volumes to me about their ability for sacrifice and patience. Maybe because of staying home for my son and also seeing the challenges of a caregiver with my mom and grandmother before they died gives me some perspective.

      I see this more often today as people are living longer, yet need constant care. I think it’s something that hiring managers are aware of and take into consideration. The key is ensuring you’ve kept your skills up to date and that you can demonstrate it.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        yes – I agree that hiring managers are aware of this, and many have been in this position themselves. A great reason to avoid defensiveness.

    4. Artemesia*

      Gap or hiatus makes the hiring manager wonder if that was for your incarceration or rehab or other nervous making purpose. It is rather usual for women to be in a position of caring for a relative whether child or parent. I think it is more graceful to mention this in the cover letter if it is proximate or leave it out altogether and explain it in the interview rather than add a category that seems to be hiding something.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I worked in a juvenile jail and the kids had jobs there. They were paid something like $1/hour but they were employees and could be disciplined or fired for not doing their job well. I always wondered if they put on their resume:

        Janitor, X Jail, City, State (Dates).

        It would be true and some hiring managers might not catch that they were an inmate janitor not an outside janitor. If there was an employment reference check that would be even funnier. Did X work there? Yes. Was he on time? Always. Transportation issues? Never. LOL.

    5. Sawrs*

      Thank you to the commentariat for your thoughts in this sub-thread. It’s a problem that’s always bothered me and has had heretofore no obvious solution, so thank you, all, again.

  11. Jean*

    (Argh. Hit “submit” too soon.) My sense is that most hiring managers don’t want to be surprised by unexpected language and/or subject matter. I can’t speak about the preferences of ATSs ;-).

  12. BCW*

    #1 I’m not a fan of this. I have a lot of respect for stay at home parents. I feel its probably more rewarding and in a lot of ways harder than may job. And if/when I do have kids, I hope me and my wife are in a position for one of us to do that. However, its not a job, therefore doesn’t belong on a document regarding your employment history. I think because its family oriented, this is going to be a bit more emotional and split than it would if it was something else. But if I got a big inheritance and just traveled the world for 2 years, I doubt people would say to put “2014-2016 Traveled the world.” on my resume.

    1. Joey*

      I would recommend addressing the gap somewhere, not “traveled the world”, but somehow. Context helps and answers a lot of immediate questions that might have otherwise led to your résumé being passed over.

      1. fposte*

        I think in most fields that’s for a cover letter, though, not a resume. A resume is “Here’s what I did that’s relevant to the job.” If you put travel or unpaid caregiving on there, it suggests you think those are qualifications I should care about.

        1. Joey*

          See and I disagree with that. As long as you’re not a “domestic engineer” or list “job duties” I think most good hiring managers are smart enough to figure out the intent.

          1. fposte*

            I think there are two questions here–“Will it hurt you?” and “Is it the best thing to do?” I think if you just put “Stay at Home Parent, 2009-10” without additional explanation where a gap would otherwise have been, it’s probably not going to hurt you, but I also don’t think it’s the best thing to do.

            1. Joey*

              I really wouldn’t care whether its on the résumé or cover letter. The reason I say that is because I don’t believe that your résumé should only include relevant jobs. If they’re old, yes leave off the irrelevant stuff. But if they’re recent Id rather see what you’ve been doing recently than see a gap.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Out of curiosity, what would you say if the person wasn’t traveling or caring for family? What if they just weren’t working and spouse or trust fund was supporting them, and they were gardening and cooking?

            2. Valar M.*

              There is a whole industry surrounding the “gap year” “travel the world” and the general consensus is that those individuals had better success listing that information on their resumes/in their cover letters because it led to talking points, a chance to show how the time away from work/the travel improved their skills, personal growth, etc.

                1. Sharm*

                  I’m inclined to agree with you, but from a purely anecdotal perspective, I know several people who did this, and they found it was a conversation starter with the hiring managers. They were also bloggers, so it translated more easily into the types of jobs they were looking for. They were in their late 20s/early 30s.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Agreed with AAM. Don’t put it on your resume. You can artfully address it in a cover letter. I frequently hire returning to the workforce people. They are some of my best employees. If anything I’m biased against the younger generation as they’ve been the lower performers.

    My caution, and this come from family experience, make sure that when you say you are “keeping up your skills” you actually are. My SIL actually said that using facebook kept up her computer skills. OMG. Teaching yourself java or html is keeping up computer skills.

    1. Allison*

      Agreed. And even more “mundane” office skills can use some sprucing up. I see people insist that their skills are up to date because they used MS Office or Google Apps to, say, plan a family vacation or organize household finances. That’s something, but doesn’t normally convince an employer that you know how to use those things in a professional context.

  14. Allison*

    For #1, as long as they don’t list it in some cheesy/gimmicky way, I have no problem seeing it on a resume. However, I would advise people going back into the workforce after considerable time away take some classes to update their skills and learn how things are done nowadays, because a lot of the hesitation to consider people like that is that their skills and industry knowledge are outdated and they’d need more training than what the company is willing to provide for the particular role.

    1. Phyllis*

      For a period of time I had “care for ill relative” and dates on my resume. It’s been long enough out and I have other things to put in now so I don’t need it, but no one batted an eye; it was just a way of accounting for my time.

    2. some1*

      Ugh, yes. I worked with a woman who had been a SAHM for at least 15 years. She didn’t know how to cut and paste text and she thought the To, CC, & BC lines on an email could only include one recipient each.

      1. Career Volunteer*

        Not that you are necessarily doing this, but… please don’t assume that the reason her skills are lacking is that she’s been a SAHM. As a volunteer, I’ve worked with two people *in the last week* whose jobs require Office, but didn’t even know it was possible to do things like create a whole sheet of labels from a wizard or do a mail merge from Excel to Word. I know that one of them has been continuously employed since the 1970s without a gap of more than a week (she’s only had about three jobs in that time, too–which can be as big a problem in staying current as having a gap is).

        When I was working in IT support, I’d go out on calls and people who were hired primarily to work with Office would ask me how to do basic things like create tables in Word, or they’d ask me how to do something in Excel and it would turn out that they were trying to use it for something that Access or Word would have been a more appropriate tool for. *Most* of the people I’ve seen who use Word on a daily basis never use keystrokes; when I introduce them to ctrl-C and ctrl-V they think it’s miraculous. But then if I try to show them how to, say, create a style and use a macro to apply it with one keystroke, they typically tune out, and I know that as soon as I leave they’ll be highlighting things line by line and using the menus to change the font size and formatting.

        Just knowing what’s possible makes a big difference; if you know what’s possible, you can figure out how to do it if you want to. People who like to learn skills will learn them. People who don’t will not. It doesn’t have much to do with whether or not they’re at work at the time. :-)

        1. neverjaunty*

          Although this is an excellent illustration of WHY you probably shouldn’t put anything about being a SAHP on your resume (or, I think, in your cover letter). People will assume you’re not capable of much more than baking cookies and fingerpainting, and any skill gaps or work experience you’re missing will be attributed to your SAHP-related incompetence.

  15. Who are you??*

    Re: #1 – I leave my years of being a SAHM off of my application but I’ve noticed that more and more online applications require that I account for ALL gaps of unemployment. That’s where I’d put the time frame and reason.

    Personally, I have issue with people who don’t consider being a SAHM as a real job. Unless you’ve done it, you have no idea the sheer amount of work that’s involved with that title. I’m not trying to create a SAHM vs Working Mom debate. I’ve done both. My point is, don’t immediately think that a SAHM isn’t a job. It’s not all cheerio’s and Sesame Street.

    1. Who are you??*

      The first line should have read: I leave my years of being a SAHM off of my resume…

    2. Saturday*

      Can we keep the mommy/daddy wars out of this thread ( for lack of a better phrase)?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes, please. This ultimately turns into a very semantic discussion on what the meaning of “job” is. For the purposes of a resume, it’s usually formal employment (ie. having a manager, paying payroll taxes and social security). All work is not a job. It’s not a value judgement on stay-at-home parents, it’s what is meant by “employment.”

    3. Apple22Over7*

      But being a SAHP is not a job. You don’t report to a manager or boss. You don’t get feedback on your work. You don’t get paid in exchange for your services. There are no professional standards to adhere to. There’s nothing employment-like about it at all, and it is that which employers are looking for.

      Don’t get me wrong, being a SAHP can be hard work, and sometimes is much harder and more taxing than a lot of real jobs. I don’t think anyone here would assume being a SAHP is all cheerios and Sesame Street – of course it’s not. I know that and I’ve never had kids. But being a SAHP is not a job, and it doesn’t belong on a CV or resume for that reason.

    4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Being a SAHM is certainly a lot of work and a big challenge. It’s also a respectable thing to do. However, as other people have pointed out, you are not, in fact, employed. You have no supervisor, no work plan, no customers who will go elsewhere if they aren’t pleased, no references, no possibility of being fired, etc.

      I don’t mind seeing this as one line on a resume to explain a gap, or briefly mentioned in a cover letter. However, I’d had a few candidates get themselves so defensive about whether it was a real job that they answer my behavioral interview questions with examples from their work as a mom. For example, “tell me about a time when you had to juggle competing priorities” and the response is all about the kids and how they won’t leave you alone while you’re in the shower. After a few of these answers, I asked one candidate to please think of examples from a time she was employed (not SAHM examples), and she said that she’d been so absorbed by staying at home, that she couldn’t even remember what it was like at her last job, but that staying at home had helped her gain all these skills.

      I didn’t disqualify her because she had been a SAHM – I disqualified her because she couldn’t get her head in the game and actually talk to me about her work experience.

      1. Felicia*

        Wow, when you specifically asked her about her work experience, she should have gotten the picture. Being a SAHM sounds hard, but people who want a job again need to realize it’s not a job. Plus working moms still do all those things in the hours they’re not working.

      2. Jax*

        Ugh, that is very sad, and I don’t blame you for disqualifying her.

        I blame the Rah! Rah! We’re sacrificing and we’re amazing! cheerleading that goes around in SAHM circles. On one hand it’s needed, because a lot of the world sneers at women who stay home and it’s great to have that support and validation (speaking as a former SAHM here). But too much of that group think leads to overinflating the work, like calling showering around kids “juggling priorities”.

        Which, not to be a complete jerk, ALL parents have to do each morning until the kid hits 7–and even then they try to have conversations with you through the shower curtain.

      3. Cube Ninj*

        This reminds me of the most out-of-left field answer I’ve ever been given in an interview.

        I asked the fairly standard “tell me about a time when you had to overcome an adverse situation” style question. So, naturally, my interviewee broke down in tears and regaled my co-worker and I with the story of how she forgave her fiancé for cheating on her while serving overseas. It was, as you can imagine, amazingly awkward to the point that we didn’t even do follow up for a more work related answer.

    5. LBK*

      Unless you’ve done it, you have no idea the sheer amount of work that’s involved with that title.

      I don’t think anyone would argue that being a SAHP is easy, but that still doesn’t make it employment experience. Training for and running a marathon isn’t easy but I wouldn’t put it on my resume.

        1. Cat*

          For some reason, a lot of law schools tell students to put an “interests” section on their resume, and it is a bonanza of things that should irrelevant to the job search. Like “Crossfit.” Come on, that just makes me worry that you’re going to be one of those people who can’t talk about anything but Crossfit.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              You better be in spectacular shape if you put that on a resume. If I was the HM and received that resume, I’d interview the person just to ask them to do 300 burpees on the spot. Bwahahaha!

          1. Allison*

            undergrads are told to do this too, because (in theory) it’ll make them seem interesting and stand out among the other applicants. In practice, people list a lot of really boring or normal activities, like reading and cooking, or stuff that might be a bit controversial, like mentioning their religion or obsession with guns. It just seems unnecessary.

          2. Heather*

            OMG, the Crossfit people. Why can’t they talk about anything else? Maybe the first rule of Crossfit is “Never STOP talking about Crossfit”?

            If I saw it on a resume, I’d be afraid if I hired the person I would hear about it all day, every day.

    6. fposte*

      It’s not the level of difficulty that makes something a job or not, though. I’ve had insanely easy jobs that were still jobs, and I’ve had very hard non-jobs that still weren’t jobs.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      Honestly, I think much of this comes from the fact that parenting is such an overwhelming responsibility that most people have some sort of insecurity about it, or doubt themselves and the choices they make in parenting their kids. I certainly do this — you do what you think is the right thing for your child, but then you always question your decision, and wonder if you could have handled something differently or better.

      And I think that manifests itself by people judging others who make decisions different than theirs. So this leads to the stay-at-home moms who think that working moms are being selfish or are too materialistic (or whatever), and the working moms thinking that stay at home moms are just uneducated bumpkins who aren’t smart enough to find themselves a job. Neither of those things are true, of course.

      I just wish the pot-stirrers on this issue would just agree that every parent is entitled to make the choices that are best for their own families, and that those choices might be different from theirs.

  16. M. in Austin!*

    Is it okay for anyone to use a functional resume (or semi-functional)? What about new grads with no internships or office experience?

    My fiance has no office experience, and he’s having a hard time getting an entry level IT job (with a traditional resume). Though I have helped him create a pretty awesome cover letter (thanks to AAM’s advice!), and he’s finally getting calls.

    I’m just wondering if there’s ever a time when a functional resume is appropriate. I agree that it would look fishy if you have a work history.

    1. LBK*

      I’d say no. Even in your explanation here, you’re essentially saying that your fiance would be trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t have internship/office experience by using one. What has he done that qualifies him for these positions? Presumably he’s gotten his IT knowledge somewhere.

      1. M. in Austin!*

        Good point!
        I really didn’t think he should use a functional resume… I was just wondering if there is ever an appropriate point in one’s career to use one.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      My dad was a minister for 30+ years and used a functional resume after he left his last church position. Most people don’t understand what a “minister of education and music” does and how it completely relates to the business world. He’s a hospice chaplain now.

    3. fposte*

      I hate functional resumes. I want to know what you did and when, and they make it hard for me to get what I want from the resume.

  17. Annie O*

    This is probably a dumb question, but is there any substantive difference between being temp-to-hire and having a probationary period?

    1. LBK*

      If you’re truly a temp for the beginning part of your employment, you probably won’t have access to any of the company benefits and you’re paid by the temp agency via their contract with the company, not by the company directly. Not sure if there are other differences but those are the main ones that come to mind.

    2. Joey*

      Absolutely. No unemployment liability, less benefit costs, and less legal liability are probably the most common reasons to do temp to perm through a 3rd party.

      1. Annie O*

        That makes sense. I’ve seen a lot of jobs with probationary periods that don’t offer benefits until the end of the probation, so I wondered what other differences there were. The unemployment liability piece sounds like a key difference.

  18. J*

    I’m OP for #3 and just wanted to thank you for answering. This is what I had figured. As a somewhat relevant aside, do you think that the office size is enough of a reason to give for leaving a job after, say, 8 months?

    1. fposte*

      Not unless the office shrunk drastically after you accepted the job–if it was small when you accepted, that’s part of the deal you agreed to.

      1. LBK*

        To be fair, though, I think it’s something that would be hard to know doesn’t click for you until you’ve done it.

        1. J*

          This exactly. It was my first job after graduate school as well, so it was at a time where I really couldn’t turn down a job offer.

          1. fposte*

            I can certainly understand how it could happen that it wouldn’t be a good fit for you, but you’re still asking about a really early departure from a situation you knew about in advance. That would raise an eyebrow from me if I heard that in hiring, because it means you might walk away from the job I’m hiring you for too.

            1. Bea W*

              Yup. This would likely be a deal breaker for my boss unless there was some other really compelling reason to take the chance, especially if there is a lot of time and effort put into training. When it takes upwards of 6 months to really get into the work and understand it, and longer to be truly comfortable, having someone we like and can do the work ditch out at 8 months or even a year is a waste of everyone’s time. That’s why we ended up insisting one of our FSPs agree to a minimum of a 2 year commitment of persons working with us. When I evaluate CVs of potential resources available to work with us, I do look closely at employment history and longevity among other things to try and determine the candidate’s likeliness of staying put at the company at least 2 years.

              My situation may be a little weird though. Continuity is important for the work we do, partly due to the true ramp-up time and because these are complex long term projects and I work in a field where most projects are short and less complex and/or people only have to focus us on a particular phase or function, thus the ramp up time is much shorter.

    2. Annie O*

      I think that one short stint isn’t horrible if you stayed much longer at your other jobs. And I think it’s okay to say something along the lines of, “This was my first experience working in a really small office, and I’ve found that I prefer a larger organization.”

      1. fposte*

        After a year or two, yes. After eight months and no other real employment record, that’s questionable no matter how well it’s phrased; it risks sounding like “It wasn’t as fun as I thought.”

        1. some1*

          True, but she has been there eight months. Hiring can take quite awhile as we all know so I don’t see an issue with the LW starting to search elsewhere. By the time she gets interviewed at some places she’ll be much closer to the year mark.

          1. fposte*

            Not close enough to make that reason not seem flimsy. Wait it out a little longer or have a different reason.

        2. Annie O*

          Did the OP say they didn’t have a real employment record besides this job? I must have missed that part. If that’s the case, I agree that it’s not great to leave after 8 months.

          Additionally, the OP doesn’t know how bad their next position could be. If the OP leaves this job early, there’s way more pressure to stay at the next position for years – no matter how toxic it turns out to be.

          1. De Minimis*

            Unless there’s something seriously bad going on, the OP should at least finish out a year. We’re only talking about a few months at this point.

            I can see leaving if it’s for a much better position, but Annie O. is 100% right, you are going to have to stay at the next position a heck of a lot longer. I’ve been thinking about that a lot too.

          2. fposte*

            I extrapolated from “Would you have a slightly different view if the person didn’t have much professional experience in general? Mostly internships, for example.”

  19. Felicia*

    I think for #1 that explanation would be good to put on a resume, hopefully followed by what they were also doing to stay employable (volunteering, professional societies, freelance etc.). They’ll probably run into the same problems any long term unemployed person for any reason would, but that seems the place for it. And maybe people will like it better that they chose not to work rather than everyone chose not to hire them, which is would look like without the explanation. Since I don’t closely know anyone who’s had a baby recently, I wonder how people put their maternity leave on their resume here. Here in Canada, everyone gets a year of maternity leave, and most people take it, but you have your job waiting for you to go back to after the year, and you’re still employed by the company. You haven’t worked there for a year , but do people still use continuous dates? Or indicate they were on maternity leave? I guess it really doesn’t matter if you worked there for like 5 years before and 3 years after or something. I’ve never thought about that before! But I hope to have kids some day and will probably take the 1 year maternity leave like pretty much everyone else, so I guess I’ll need to know at some point. I think a lot of people just don’t put it, like they say January 2010-present, even if from let’s say January 2011 -January 2012 they were on mat leave.

  20. Mike B.*

    #3 – Your reason for leaving a job in under a year frankly strikes me as pretty poor. This isn’t a hostile or otherwise untenable working situation; professionalism dictates that you should deal with it for a period that justifies your employer’s investment in your training.

    1. J*

      Fair enough, but as I was alluding to there were other reasons and this one seemed to be the easiest to explain.

      1. OhNo*

        I wonder if it would be helpful or harmful to allude to the multiple reasons, but only mention the size of the office. Something like, “Company X was not the right fit for me for several reasons, including the fact that I prefer to work in a larger corporation/office such as Company Y.”

        While that does open you up for questions about the other reasons, I’m sure there are other things you could mention that don’t come across as complaining about your current job.

      2. Mike B.*

        Well, those other reasons don’t appear to be significant enough for you to get into them, so I’m still skeptical. If you’re coming home in tears or drinking to dull the pain, perhaps it’s an extreme case, but it sounds like the general malaise of a job that you’re not terribly fond of.

        You’re not going to be terribly fond of every job you have, though; that’s an unfortunate fact of life. You can certainly look for something that’s a better fit, but it will not reflect well on you to not even wait out the year before doing so.

    2. Joey*


      If you use this I’d want to feel comfortable that you care about having stable work history. So unless all of your other work is stable, this reason will cause problems

      If you decide to say the terms of the job changed, just know that it will only sound reasonable if they have significantly changed.

      1. J*

        Would you have a slightly different view if the person didn’t have much professional experience in general? Mostly internships, for example.

        1. Joey*

          Frankly I’d worry more. Id worry that you may leave the moment you decide you don’t like some aspect of the job. I would assume that creating a track record of stable employment isn’t real important to you.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      One of the main attractions for me when I applied for my current job was that I’d be joining a team of people doing a very similar job to mine. I was coming from a department where I was the only person with that role, and it was really quite isolating.

      In my cover letter and interview, I spun this by saying that I was excited to join a bigger team because I was hoping to begin to specialise in a couple of specific parts of the role (which you can’t do when you’re a team of one), and was looking for opportunities to move into management in a couple of years (also not possible in a team of one).

      I am indeed now specialising in one of those specific parts of the role, alongside my other duties, and it is AWESOME!

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I should add that I’d been in my previous job for more than four years at the time. Saying that you want to specialise after 8 months may or may not work, depending on your field – after 8 months I didn’t have enough context to know what I wanted to specialise in. I’d say it took a couple of years.

  21. Furniture Girl*

    1 -I once received a resume for a sales manager position where the candidate had listed a few things under “Awards” and then proceeded to list “Father of the Year – Awarded annually by the Jones Family”. Let’s just say he wasn’t on my short list.

    1. Joey*

      I know these things are highly subjective, but if everything else was otherwise professional I would would probably see that a a sign that the guy liked to inject benign humor into the workplace which I would welcome.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*


      Actually, that’s one of those things that might work for the right audience, assuming the rest of the resume was very strong. I can think of one company offhand that would eat this up with a spoon.

      IF this were my gimmick (and yes, I realize it’s a gimmick), I’d be tempted to put “2010, 2011, 2013” and see if they ask what happened in 2012. ;)

    3. Sydney*

      I’d get a kick out of that one, or Persephone’s example below about only winning some years. I would give the guy a point for humor and hope in the interview he knows it was a joke. The problem would be if he came in and talked about that award like it was a real award.

    4. Chris*

      I, for one, agree with you. I don’t think it’s cute or benign, it’s an eye-rolly gimmick. I love humor in the workplace (probably 40-50% of my brainpower at any given time is dedicated to thinking of puns), but this is a resume. If I’m hiring for a MANAGER, I want to see a professional figure. The interview can be the place to be charming, and drop a few well-timed jokes, but not on the resume.

  22. bearing*

    On #1 – I expect Alison could sell a whole series of columns aimed at stay-at-home parents wishing to reposition themselves for the workforce. I think part of the reason people do things like try to list it on a resume (other than bad advice) is because they don’t always distinguish between “this experience was valuable and worthwhile to ME” and “this experience is valuable and relevant to AN EMPLOYER.”

    But seriously, since we’re supposed to account for employment gaps and yet never mention our family in our resumes, the advice to make a brief mention in a cover letter (rather than on a resume) is the kind of advice that SAH-parents like me actually are looking for. Understand, though, that for a lot of us it is too late to adopt the advice to stay connected in our fields, so some “okay, we’ve been completely out of the loop for years now, what do we do now?” would still be helpful.

    I’m one of those who hasn’t kept up with any sort of paid work or even professional networking or “staying abreast of my field” (which was a technical one), since we’ve been home-educating our kids; that probably is too family-centered ever to mention on a resume, but it completely fills my time. I’m still in the midst of it and don’t have any plans to seek work soon, but I think I might like to start digging myself out of the Hole Of Inexperience it’s created for me so that in a few years I’m better positioned than I might otherwise be. But it’s a funny situation to be in; I trained to be a scientist, and at this point I’m not sure I could land a job in retail.

    1. Jax*

      Have you thought of getting a master’s in education and teaching high school science? With your homeschool experience, it might be a logical career move.

      1. Kat*

        You could also tutor in math or science. Maybe a local school needs volunteer tutors for an after school program. Or, maybe someone in your neighborhood needs tutoring and is willing to pay. It could be a start.

      2. bearing*

        I already have a doctorate in engineering. The last thing I want is another graduate degree.

        1. bearing*

          oops, hit send too soon. Volunteer tutoring is a good idea, though. Technical editing and technical writing is what I’d really like to break into (I’d rather teach grownups!), but I don’t feel I have the business skills to develop a clientele.

  23. Bea W*

    #3 might want to consider sticking it out at least a year. Short of getting laid off or something seriously messed up or being in a temp position, looking to leave a job that early doesn’t look good. If a person will leave that quickly on account of just wanting to work in a bigger office, I would have doubts they wouldn’t move on just as quickly from the next job.

  24. Tiff*

    I’m a hiring manager who is not automatically turned off to see sahp or caring for relative on a resume. Shoot, it’s what you were doing. I might wonder if you’re planning on having more kids and go down THAT particular rabbit hole, but then I’d remember that I also can’t predict if you’ll get hit by a bus tomorrow and just concentrate on what you can do.

    1. Kalliope's Mom*

      I have taken time off to care for my grandmother and years later when I had my daughter. I simply address this in the cover letter or during the interview. When asked about my skills, I relate back to actual job experience.

    2. ITPuffNStuff*

      It doesn’t seem smart to ask in an interview whether a candidate plans to have future children. This is not a job-related question and would be a huge red flag to me if my interviewer asked it.

  25. Kerr*

    For OP #2: Exactly what Alison said. Don’t do this! It may indeed hurt your chances with a company that doesn’t want to pay an extra fee.

    FWIW, every staffing agency I’ve ever worked for works exactly the same way: they get a payment from the company for your services, which should be entirely separate from the pay rate expressed to you. You should never be paying out a percentage of your earnings to the agency. It may functionally work that way on the back end (e.g. Company has an agreement to pay Agency $20/hr., or maybe a flat fee, and you get $15) – but the agency will just tell you that Company pays $15.

  26. Bluefish*

    #1: I don’t hate it. I actually think it might be helpful. I think the fact that it is stated alone comes across as more of an “answering your question before you ask it” statement. In my mind it’s more helpful then hurtful. With just the gap, you’re alienating those that won’t take time to find out, plus those who are going to make assumptions without more information. With the statement explaining the gap (nothing else) you’re only going to put off those that would be turned off by it anyway.

  27. Chris*

    #1, I see how this is tough. I am not a hiring manager, but I personally would want to see the reason for the gap. “Stay at home parent” to me seems perfectly reasonable (I will defer to the experts, though). “Raising two beautiful children” or something like that, absolutely not. I say, get the minimum amount of information required to explain the situation while still staying as professional as possible.

    In terms of SAHPs in general… I know it’s tough. Well, I presume that it’s tough. But the way things are right now, it’s tough for EVERYONE. In my field every position posted, even PT, gets dozens of applications, sometimes hundreds. If you weren’t doing something, even relevant volunteer work or education, in that time, it’s going to make it even harder. Being a parent is tough, no doubt. But while I think that having at least one SAHP is probably ideal for the development of the child (at least before school age), many, perhaps most, parents DON’T do that. And for some managers, this will be an issue. “Why should I hire this person who wasn’t working in the field, when there are a dozen qualified applicants who were?”

    To be clear, I don’t think it’s a problem personally, as long as we’re not talking a 15 year hiatus from work in a fast-moving or technical industry

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