Dear Sam: I need help with a resume decision. My company closed its doors earlier this year. I worked there for five years and was both devastated and exhausted when the ultimate decision was made to shut down the business. I took several months off for various reasons, and as it was challenging to find that “right” opportunity, about three months ago, I took a short-term temp assignment through an agency with one of my past employers.

I am not sure in what order I should list these experiences given I returned to a previous employer. Should I list the temp agency twice on my resume, or is there a way to demonstrate I have been doing something other than being unemployed for several months? I don’t want to decrease my chances of acquiring gainful permanent employment with a company that may judge me for the employment gap. I need to secure a permanent full-time job with better pay and benefits in 2021. – Stephen

Dear Stephen: Terrific question and not an uncommon situation, believe it or not. As we do not list months of employment on a resume, you have little to worry about, especially given the unemployment situation during the pandemic. List the current agency first, introducing the experience with a phrase such as, “Returned to the agency to provide…”; that way, the hiring manager will understand that this agency was a prior employer. List that experience as “2020-present.” Next, list your employer of five years, which, based on your description above, would be presented as “2015-2020.” Voila! There is no gap evident on your resume. Even if there was, in today’s market, that is not something to be overly concerned about. You only took about six months off work, so your skills didn’t become stale or outdated; charge forward knowing that you did something to benefit your candidacy. You continued to engage in the professional arena, you did something related to your career, and you demonstrated that a past employer was willing to welcome you back; these are all things that add value to your candidacy.

Now, given I am not sure how related your temporary role is versus your career position of five years, there may be a need to utilize a combination design to your resume. If what you are doing currently is not related to what you did prior, perhaps using the combination resume format would be best as it would allow you to focus on relevant instead of recent experience. If using this approach, you would open your resume with a “Qualifications Summary,” which would position you how you want to be seen in today’s market. Next, and the key to the combination format, you would present a “Select Highlights” section (or a similarly named section). In this area, you would pull out key points of interest, primarily from the role you held for five years; that way, you still would be able to communicate, upfront, the relevance of your candidacy to your current career targets.

Following the Highlights section, first, you would present your temporary work, followed by your employer of five years, followed by your earlier engagement with the agency. Doing this will create a resume that is easy to understand, highlights your most relevant qualifications, and does not show evidence of any gaps in your career. When at an interview, do not worry about talking about the gap; employers understand that companies close and have layoffs, especially after the year we have just had—the hiring manager has likely been in your shoes—and the fact that you picked yourself up, reengaged, and leveraged a past relationship to secure gainful employment, albeit temporary, shows resilience in the face of adversity. Good for you!