Top Tips for Explaining Gaps on Your CV
In these economically challenging times we are constantly being told that there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs. If you believe every headline you see, you’d think that everyone was either unemployed or being made redundant and there were no opportunities available.
The fact is, even though it is certainly harder to find work at the moment, there are still plenty of exciting jobs out there – you just have to look for them and put your best foot forward. It is certainly true that the best candidates are getting the best jobs, but wasn’t that always the case? And anyway, if you were the boss looking to recruit a new employee, wouldn’t you want the best person for your business?
So how do you make sure that you are the best that you can be? To ensure that your application stands out from all the other people that quite possibly have excellent experience, great attitudes and plenty of ticks in the right boxes.
The answer is, you make sure that any possible negative question your potential boss (or HR person) could ask you is already answered. That any potential problem has already been considered and a truthful, positive response already prepared. This is not the time for you to stumble through a tricky interview with your fingers crossed and think you’ll still be in with a chance to get the job. You won’t be. Someone else will have done their homework and they’ll get the job, as indeed they should.
Make sure that person is you.
A great way to start this process is to make sure that your CV doesn’t have any gaping holes or obvious issues that will get you put in the ‘reject’ pile even before the first round of interviews has started.
Let’s look at the most common reasons for gaps on CVs and talk through how to overcome these issues well in advance of sending off your application for your dream job.
Taking a Career Break to Bring Up ChildrenThis is increasingly an issue for both men and women, and one which must be handled correctly. There is a fine line between talking too much about your kids in the workplace and having to try and pretend you don’t have a life outside work – neither of which is a very good situation but both are unfortunately far too common.
Many, many people have breaks on their CV because of maternity leave and/or a period of time bringing up their young children, so you will certainly not be the first person that the boss or HR person will have come across with this break on their CV. But what you must do is explain the time clearly and effectively. Don’t over-play what you have learnt at home in a ‘professional context’ as it looks a bit silly to start saying that ‘being a mummy has taught me excellent time management’. But what you can say is that being involved in the PTA has kept up your financial management or events organising skills, for example.
If you have not been involved with any clubs, voluntary work or societies outside of the home during your period of bringing up children, or if you have not completed any type of professional development, don’t pretend that you have. Just be honest and be proud of the time you’ve spent at home with your family, but don’t pretend it was something that it wasn’t as the interviewer will see straight through it.
A Break on your CV Because of IllnessThis is a very tricky situation because inevitably your potential new employer will be wondering how much your illness still affects you and if it will end up costing them and their business money. Of course they can’t say that, but if you were the boss isn’t that what you’d be thinking?
Illness can affect any one of us, so it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but you will need to be able to show that you have kept your professional skills as up to date as possible and that you are now healthy enough to undertake the job that is on offer. Don’t try to cover up your illness on your CV, but neither should you go into too much detail. Something like ‘A six month break to regain full health after a period of illness’ should suffice, but be prepared to answer what could be difficult questions, although of course companies have to be very careful when doing so.
A CV Gap Due to UnemploymentWith more and more people experiencing the stresses and strains of unemployment today, a break on your CV due to being out of work is really not that unusual. How you show that you made the most of that time is the most important thing, particularly as the right attitude can actually turn this situation to your favour. But you must never say you were made redundant if you were actually sacked, unless this was mutually agreed by your former employer.
Think about why you were made redundant or unemployed – had the company faced financial difficulties and went into administration or were you underperforming in your job? See what you can learn about yourself from the situation and use this to explain the time on your CV. It is perfectly acceptable to say that the role wasn’t right for you and that you were prepared to take some time out to work on yourself before committing to a new company, which you now feel ready to do.