How To Handle A Gap In Your CV
28th January 2021
We're often asked by job seekers if a gap in their work history will harm their efforts to find employment. If you feel this way, be assured you're not alone.
A gap is not unusual, employment gaps can be created by many things including redundancy, caring responsibilities, education, travel or a personal life choice. Whether related to the COVID-19 downturn or another reason, what's more important than a gap in your work history is your ability to convey your readiness to get back to work and your suitability for the job you're applying for.
Don't try to cover up the gap by fudging the dates on your CV. Recruiters can check dates of employment so always stay absolutely honest. By being honest in your application there's nothing that can trip you up if you make it through to the interview stage.
Working But Not Employed
OK, you haven't been in employment, but what else have you been doing? If you have taken a short course, volunteered or mentored someone include this information to show how you used the time out of employment constructively.
Perhaps you've been caring for others, home-schooling, getting fitter or starting a new hobby. While these activities may not directly complement your professional work, consider what you've learned and achieved from the experiences.
- Has it made you a more empathetic manager?
- Do you feel more personally resilient?
- Did it build your confidence?
Perhaps the time gave you the opportunity to fulfil a long-held personal goal or implement positive life changes.
The point is, it's really important to highlight the positives around what happened during the gap in employment, rather than dwell on the gap itself. It demonstrates to an employer that you are likely a person who is constructive, progressive and productive. Positivity makes a great impression.
This might sound all well and good – but what if you've spent all your time job hunting? Still, focus on the positive, this time it's all about using a positive turn of phrase.
If you took a stop-gap job to earn an income, don't demean it. Include it in your CV and focus on what you learned about processes, people management, a new industry or your ability to adapt.
If you were made redundant, don't bad mouth the company. This is really important as previous employers make great referees and, in a redundancy scenario they will most likely want to be as supportive as possible in your search for a new job – unless of course, they find out you've been less than complimentary. Focus on your achievements and the work that made you feel proud while you were there.
The perfect place to explain an employment gap is in your covering letter. For example, if you haven't been in work since the summer, consider language like this:
"You'll see from my enclosed CV that my employment at Company XYZ came to an end in July of last year. I was made redundant due to a downturn in business related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then I've focused my efforts on building my network and finding a job where I can use my strengths in fundraising and business development. I've also completed short courses on Linkedin and finally understood algebra thanks to the weeks of home-schooling with my 14 year old son."
- Deal with the gap directly – it doesn't change all the work experience you have accumulated in your career so far.
- Stay constructive and positive (even if that is not how you really feel).
- Use the cover letter to elaborate on the gap, while showing a little of your personality.