What should I do about an employment gap on my CV?
You only need to show approximately the last 10 years of work experience on your CV, so if there are any gaps prior to that then it won’t matter. However, you will of course need to explain any recent gaps.
A short gap of a few weeks or even a couple of months could easily be explained by stating that you were looking for another job – which is the most common reason for an employment gap. If however the gap was longer, there are still great ways of explaining this to a potential employer without putting them off.
Here are a few fantastic tips to help you understand how to fill an employment gap on your CV…
Any period between employment should always be a proactive one, and there are lots of ways to keep busy between jobs. For example, you could volunteer, conduct research or start a project, or even take additional training. If you’re career is focused on one particular role or industry, then not only should your gap in employment be filled with searching for another role, but utilising that time to continue to research and train in that role/industry.
Any of the above will look great on a CV, and won’t just plug a gap. It will also reflect positively on you as a person as it shows initiative and hard work during your time of unemployment. Employers are fully aware of how competitive the job market is nowadays, so would be forgiving of a large gap whilst you are looking for work. But when you don’t actually have a gap as such if you have continue to be proactive, then even better!
Be prepared to be asked
The worst thing you can do is ignore the gap with the hope that the employer will not spot it. We can promise you this won’t be the case, because if your CV is shortlisted for a potential interview, your work history will be fully read and acknowledged. It is extremely important for any employer to see how experienced you are before getting you in for an interview. Even if experience isn’t important, it won’t take very long for your gap in employment to be spotted.
If however you plug that gap as suggested above, then you shouldn’t have a problem. But you still may be asked about your time away from work, so be prepared to discuss what you’ve been up to. Having a pre-planned answer will instil confidence in the fact that you have been proactive during that time. Any kind of doubt in your response will also make the interviewer doubt your sincerity.
Be honest about any gaps
Above all else, be completely transparent when it comes to every aspect of your CV – especially any employment gaps. Think about the three options you have when it comes to tackling a gap in your work history. The first option is to hope they don’t see it, which is extremely unlikely to happen. The second is that you fabricate a story to cover the gap – for example, stretching out the previous role. The third option is to be completely honest about the gap – which is especially easy if you were proactive during that time.
The second option is one we would strongly advise against taking, as it will most likely result in you being caught out. If at any point during the interview you are found to be untruthful about the employment gap, then the interview is pretty much over as well as your chances of a job. It’s also possible that the hiring manager figures out the fabrication whilst reading your CV, so you may never know why you weren’t called for an interview in the first place. Finally, the employer has grounds to dismiss you if you were to get the job and they later find out your were lying on your CV – no matter how small it may seem to you.
In the end, it just isn’t worth the trouble as you are taking a huge risk when you could just be honest to the employer from the start.
Don’t worry about taking a break
If the reason for your gap in employment was down to a holiday or gap year, then don’t hesitate to explain this on your CV. There is nothing wrong with taking a break for a long period of time, and perfectly acceptable. No matter what the reason for your holiday, make sure you detail the positives on your CV. In other words, add value to your CV by explaining what you learned from your experiences. Always avoid stating that it was just a holiday and nothing more. This will not go down very well with the employer.
Let’s say for example you visited a few countries during your gap year and experienced other cultures – this would be something you could easily use to add value to your CV. For instance, discuss the many different cultures and interactions that taught you more about social behaviour and communication. Maybe you were quite shy before you set off on your adventures, and now you are much more outgoing and confident in your own abilities – and thus, ready to seek employment with a much stronger foundation of soft skills.
Don’t panic if you were sick
If you were away from work because of personal health reasons, you again shouldn’t worry about what an employer might think. You don’t have to go into any detail if you don’t want too, and simply stating that you were away for health reasons is perfectly fine. Always put a positive spin on your situation by saying that you are now ready and eager to get back into work.
Being unable to work for your own personal health issues or because you had to look after a family member is a part of life. Any reasonable hiring manager will understand, and will have likely experienced something similar in their life too. It shouldn’t hold you back and make you nervous about writing a CV and applying for a job.
Jen Wiss-Carline has been a Senior Manager and Consultant for several sizeable companies which included dealing with all aspects of staff management and recruitment. She is also a Solicitor and Chartered Legal Executive, having been admitted as a Fellow in February 2006.