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How to Explain Gaps in Your CV at Job Interviews?

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Redundancies and job losses have been rife over the past five years. One effect of this is that, when it comes to putting together a CV, many people are finding they have career gaps they fear might put off potential employers. The question is, how do you present these gaps to those potential employers? That all depends on the reason for your gap and how long you’ve been out of work. Here are a few tips:

Reasons for Career Gaps

There are hundreds of reasons you might have a gap in your CV and have spent an extended period of time without a job. The most common of these are redundancy, taking time out to travel, and taking time out to become a parent. In modern society it is quite common to take a gap year or time out for ‘personal travel’. It is also common for new parents to take time away from the work place to spend time with their small children. Rather than view gaps for these reasons as a negative thing, emphasize the positives you have learnt, and how that time out will enhance your ability to perform your new role. Staying at home with a baby will have improved your time management and your ability to multi-task. Taking time out to travel will have broadened your cultural understanding and you’ll have probably learnt a thing or two about money management as well! Focus on these positives rather than the negatives associated with being away from the workplace. If you have gap in your CV for a reason you don’t think would be viewed favourably, because you were spending time in a rehab facility, for example, or because you took some time off to deal with a family bereavement, then it’s probably best not to discuss these at your first interview. Having career gaps due to illness, unemployment and rehabilitation will suggest you are a ‘high risk job seeker’ and might dissuade the recruiters from meeting with you again to learn what else you have to offer.

Focus on Years and Not Months

One tip for presenting very small career gaps in a way that won’t be noticed by recruiters and potential employers is to focus on the years you were in certain roles on your CV, rather than the months you were there. Rather than write:

March 2010-January 2012. Marketing Executive.

April 2012 – Present. Marketing Manager.

you could simply write;

2010-2012 Marketing Executive.

2012 to Present. Marketing Manager.

By doing this there is no gap on your CV to explain. If your career gap is longer than a couple of months, though, this technique will not work: when it comes to applying for new roles, honesty really is the best policy. If you lie on your CV you’re likely to be caught out and may lose the role you were given anyway.

Talking About the Gap

If you do have a long career gap, during the interview process, particularly if the recruiter is reading your CV, they may ask you to explain it. The most important thing to remember is to think positively, and draw attention to all the positive aspects of your CV, rather than focus on the bits that are harder to talk about. As already mentioned, draw on the new skills you learnt during your career break and compare them positively to the skills you would need to complete the role you’ve applied for. Perhaps the trickiest kind of extended career break to explain is one for illness or rehabilitation. Rightly or wrongly, potential employers may view this with concern, fearing you’ll take an extended period off work again. The best thing to do in this instance is to keep your explanation short and to the point: you took time off because you were ill, but you’re firing on all cylinders again now and ready to get back to work.  If you did anything else during the time you were out of work (such as volunteer work or training for a marathon) then now is the perfect time to mention this too.

A career gap can be difficult to explain but if you’re open and honest then it shouldn’t prevent you from gaining the job you deserve!

Thanks to guest contributor Emma Crosby for this great article.

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Author: Ben Logan

Software Developer & Solution Architect, currently in the Financial Services domain.

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