“Gaps” or “holes” in a resume are popular terms used by law firms and other employers to describe an employment record that is not entirely smooth and uniform. That is, there are unexplained “gaps” in the chronological dates of employment set form in the resume that suggest periods of unemployment or underemployment (such as less prestigious employment outside of the law profession). Gaps are another form of “red flag” to law firms. Candidates with red flags – especially multiple ones – typically do not get hired.

In my prior article, I discussed “hopping,” which is another common red flag. Hopping describes attorney candidates who have worked at a relatively large number of firms in a relatively short period of time. The two types of red flags are similar because law firms usually make negative assumptions – often unfounded – about the candidate. In the case of hopping, the popular assumptions are that they are either always unhappy wherever they go, or that they always create problems causing their firms to push them out. Similarly, the common assumptions with “gappers” is that when they lose a job, it must have been their fault (because they are either a poor worker or a problem worker); that when it takes them a while to find another job, it again must be entirely their own fault (ditto); and that any other gap can only be explained by something bad (they were in jail, goofing off, etc.). Of course, while there are undoubtedly some instances where these assumptions may be true, there are many other instances where they are not. Yet the innocent often get lumped in with the guilty, and otherwise great candidates lose their ability to even be seriously considered.