Career Tips: Resume Gaps and Salary Discussions


Rather than my usual lead article, this month I've concentrated on answers to two notes I received. I'm going to do the same for December, and would appreciate questions from readers to help fill the pipeline.

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Dear Career Tips: Filling Up The Resume

I have a titled entry in my resume called "Temporary Caregiver: XXXX to present." There is no expansion under it. I have also been doing some upskilling. I'm wondering if the title should be changed to "Sabbatical" or something like that and list caregiver and upskilling under it. What are your thoughts/advice?



Dear Upskilling:

  1. What was the upskilling you have been doing, and how closely does it relate to your career search target? If it's pretty much irrelevant, such as teaching yourself photography (assuming your job wouldn't involve art), then I wouldn't bother. If it's relevant, then definitely include it.
  2. Did you do anything else during that period, such as continuing education, on-line courses, teaching, tutoring, mentoring, or leadership roles in a volunteer organization?  Those would also be worth including.
  3. If neither of the above qualify for inclusion, then I think 'Caregiver' is as effective as anything else you might put. I wouldn't bother with 'temporary.'
  4. Is the caregiving over and done?  If the resume shows 'to present', the question can arise as to whether you are currently available or will be distracted, and you will need to be prepared with a good answer as to why that won't present an issue.


Also think about whether there were any particular skills or leadership qualities demonstrated through the caregiving, or the way you handled everything during that period. Those could become bullets under the caregiving section. Possibilities might include juggling conflicting priorities, organizational skills, or planning. Just don't go overboard and stretch to try to fill the space.

Most important is to simply have an authentic answer when questions come up, and a focused story you can tell at the opening to any interview or longer 1-on-1 meeting.  

Your answer should be something you can present with confidence, that spends as little time as possible explaining the gap, and pivots quickly to what you will be able to do for an employer going forward.

Handling Salary Questions: A Case Study

I presented a (true) case study in a publication I edit, involving a candidate who did a poor job of handling the salary discussion. (You can read the situation here.) One of the readers included this in their response:

"I've been a part of the same company my whole career, so maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but it seems odd to me that Alan (the hiring manager) wouldn't have his desired offered compensation ready as the opening salvo. I was coached years ago to leave that line as "negotiable" when filling out an application so you don't knock yourself out of contention – it's foreign to me that he would expect Jennifer (the candidate) to make the first move."

Here's what I wrote back to him:

I think (as a candidate), you need to have thought through various scenarios, and how you will handle them.


As a hiring manager, I'm always curious how a candidate is going to handle salary questions, and might very well ask the question Alan did. It can reveal how comfortable a candidate is with delicate situations, as it did in this case. I'd be prepared with a range I have in mind if she asks, but probably wouldn't open by revealing it.


My experience is that it's very common in initial interviews for the salary question to be asked, often by HR. The legal landscape is changing, such that in most places one can no longer ask about past salary, but asking about expectations is still OK. And it can be revealing to see how the candidate handles the question. 

  • Did they prepare ahead of time, and have an idea what jobs like this pay?
  • Do they have a good sense of their own self-worth?
  • Are they comfortable talking about money?

I invite readers to weigh in with their own thoughts on the case study and the discussion above. In a future issue, I'll share some of the other responses I received, as well as what actually happened in the case in question.

In the meanwhile, you can read this for more on handling salary negotiations.

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