Explaining The CV Gap
CV gaps are periods in your life when you weren’t employed. Long has the employment gap in a CV been something people have been trained to fear, if it isn’t explained by something obvious. But has that all changed?
The world of work saw a major shake-up in the last few years brought on mainly by the pandemic, with huge numbers of people leaving their roles. There were thousands of layoffs and furloughs, and even the Great Resignation. A lot of people made those changes without having a new role to move into straight away (there were 1.7 million people looking for work in the UK in June 2022).
Whether you have a career gap because you made a voluntary decision (starting a family, sabbatical, or travelling), or it happened due to something out of your control (change in personal circumstance or redundancy) it’s important to remember that getting past it isn’t impossible. The bottom line is that you need to know how to communicate the reasons for your gap when applying for a new role.
So, let’s take a look at some myths and ways to go around explaining the CV gap!
How to explain career breaks in your CV
We are going to look at the most common CV gaps in a bit, however to start let’s see what the best ways of explaining career breaks in an interview are.
Use of your time
When you have a career break, regardless of reason, employers want to know that you used the time to do something productive as well. No one is expecting you to learn three new foreign languages while caring for sick relative, but some form of productive use of your time while out of work will show employers you understand that your own development is important.
So, in an interview setting ensure that you mention that during your break you took the time to do some volunteering, upskilled, studied, freelanced, or even that you kept up with industry developments. It’s vital that you demonstrate you’re both productive and proactive- qualities that all employers look for.
It’s important to remember that any unpaid or volunteering activities you undertook can be included in your CV, as well as any qualifications gained outside of the workplace.
Structuring your answer
The way you lay out your answer is key when discussing your career break. There’s no need to go into extensive detail, but you can briefly explain the reason for your unemployment, followed by the activities you undertook to keep yourself productive, and finally make sure you emphasise the reasons you believe the role you’re interviewing for is the right one for you.
The right focus
You can be tempted to go into detail about why you have a gap in your CV, but instead of giving too many specifics around that, shift the focus on how you used your time then. Tie in the things you did to the role you’re interviewing for and how they can help or why you think this is the right role for you.
You should keep attention to your CV, cover letter and interview on what you can bring to the table presently and in the future. Employers want to know that you are skilled, reliable, and loyal.
When discussing your career break ensure you use positive language. The perception you give the interviewer is key, so put a positive spin on it. And never apologise for having a gap, or taking a break in your employment.
Honesty is the best policy
It’s important that when explaining a gap in your CV you keep things honest. While you don’t have to delve into every detail of the situation, lying or leaving it out of completely may make the gap stand out more.
Don’t be tempted to extend periods of employment in previous roles just to cover up the gap on paper. There is always the chance that your interviewer will follow up with your previous employers to check your time there. If you acknowledge and explain a gap, your chances of employment won’t be harmed. Lying however, will.
The most common reasons for CV gaps and how to explain them
There is a wide range of reasons for a gap in CVs, however there are a few that are most common. Here’s how to explain them:
There’s no need to go into the nitty gritty of illness relating to a family member, or what your responsibilities were. You can explain however that you now have care arrangements for them in place, or that they have recovered. Tell your interviewer that you are now ready to commence a new position and further underline why the role is the one for you.
“I left my previous role to care for a sick relative and have been doing so for the last year. Their health has now recovered and I’m now ready to start a new position. I’ve been looking for a company where I can work on innovative projects and develop existing and new skills, and I believe this opportunity would be ideal.”
Again, there is no need to give details of your illness, but instead demonstrate that you are now ready to return to the workforce.
“Due to a medical condition I felt unable to continue in my previous position and decided to take some time off to focus on my health. I have now returned to full health and feel ready to take on my next challenge and I believe this role will give me the opportunity to add real value.”
If your reason for a CV gap is travelling, then focus on the reasons you decided to go while underlining your mission to gain new perspectives and develop yourself personally.
“I took a six month break to immerse myself in different cultures and to gain new perspectives. Not only did I achieve both while travelling to Zanzibar and Namibia, but I also learned some life lessons that I believe are invaluable. The time spent travelling has given me a fresh perspective and now I am ready to focus on the next stage of my career. I have been following your company for quite some time and I am impressed by your culture as well as projects, and I believe I would make a real difference within your organisation.”
Being made redundant is no longer an issue. With the work landscape going through shifts in the last few years, a lot of people have been affected. It’s important that you tell your interviewer the proactive steps you took to look for a new role and how you took the time out to really think about and understand what it is you want from a new position and a new job. Tell them how you took the time to learn new skills and how you kept up to date with the industry. Following that, tell the hiring manager why the role you’re interviewing for matches your goals.
“My previous employer was forced to make a series of cuts due to budgeting issues and unfortunately they had a “first-in, last-out” policy. I was relatively new to the company so I was made redundant. I immediately started looking for a new role and am currently seeking an opportunity that’ll allow me to continue advancing my career. I have interviewed with a couple of companies, but I haven’t found the right fit yet. I believe this opportunity with your company will match my goals, while I believe my skills will be an asset to the team.”
A lot of people decide to go back into education to either upskill for a career change, or to gain further skills and qualifications.
“I understood that I had a skills gap that I wanted to address, therefore I made the decision to go back to full-time education to benefit my career in the long-term. I’ve completed my studies now and I am ready to return to work, with new skills that can benefit my new employer. I believe this role is a great fit to which I can bring skills I developed over the years and the new ones I gained through the course.”
It’s not unheard of, or unusual for people to have gaps in their employment history. Just make sure that you explain it and while doing so demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic about getting back to work. Be honest, and confident in your interviews- qualities that all employers look for. Address the gap with the interviewer, focus on your skills, and what you can bring to the business and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
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