Effective Ways to Include Self-Employment on Your Resume

Self Employed

During the economic recession, many enterprising individuals compensated for a lack of work by striking out on their own. Whole families were kept afloat by the dedication of those who carved out their own clients and businesses. Of course, the history of self-employment dates back far before the recession. No matter how long you’ve been out of the job market, integrating self-employment into your resume is challenging and full of potential traps.

Despite changing attitudes, employers are still hesitant to take on someone who’s spent years being his or her own boss. No matter how impressive your achievements, the wrong information on your resume could land you in the reject pile without a second glance.

The Good

Self-employment does not need to sink your job prospects. It shows initiative and the ability to manage time, particularly if your work was successful. Anyone who has run a small business knows how to network and find creative solutions to problems. People who have worked for themselves have a deep, practical knowledge of the industry and may even bring a list of resources and contacts to the company. If you can back up your resume, self-employment will not be a problem.

The Bad

Unfortunately, not everyone in charge of hiring looks at self-employment as a positive. It’s often used by less scrupulous job hunters to cover periods of unemployment, because it is difficult to verify and looks better than a large gap between jobs. Employers have wised up to this tactic, and it’s just as damaging for those who were legitimately self-employed. Companies also worry that freelancers and business owners will have trouble falling back into a corporate hierarchy or will leave as soon as they are able to support themselves. Simply put, the risk of hiring someone with an unorthodox resume is too much for companies flooded with more traditional applicants.

Examine Your Circumstances

The question, then, is what to put on your resume to give you the strongest chance of being called for an interview. Think about it from the company’s perspective. What do they want to see? What will raise red flags? If your self-employment is ongoing, will you continue once hired? Are there possible conflicts of interest that will arise? If a potentially controversial item will not leave a large hole in the resume, leave it off.

Treat Self-Employment Like a Normal Job

Most importantly, minimize the impact of self-employment on your resume. Treat it like any other section in your employment history. Emphasize the skills you learned, what you did on a day-to-day basis and the results you achieved. List a job title and company name if at all possible. If you worked with a partner, mention it. It may help to look at similar resume samples online. Have a reference available to lend credence to your claims and prove that you weren’t actually in jail or sitting on the couch all day. Don’t make it a big deal, and your prospective employer will be more likely to gloss over it.

Questions You Need to Answer

Once you have an interview, your self-employment will likely be one of the most difficult questions raised. People will want to know what you did, why you did it and why you’re now seeking a job. Have an answer for each of those questions that makes you look reliable and truthful. Emphasize that the job would always be your first priority if you plan to continue freelancing, and explain your time management process. The interview is the chance to both address any concerns about your past and move beyond them.

Depending on who you’re talking to, self-employment is either a good sign or a death knell for job applicants. You need to assume that you will be at a disadvantage and act accordingly. Power past their reservations, answer all of their questions and you make your prior experience in the industry work to your best advantage. With a strong resume, you’ll be back in the corporate world without difficulty.