Mind the gap! You may often hear those words ushered on the London Underground.
You may also hear those same words enter a recruiter’s mind if he sees your CV with employment gaps.
An employment gap can happen for many reasons. You may want to explore the world, try out a new venture, raise children or simply take a step back from your career.
So the question is, have you got employment gaps on your CV?
If that is the case, you are probably quite worried for your future career prospects?
CV gaps can be a big no-no for most employers. Suddenly, they assume the worst. Why could you not work if you are in good health?
Don’t worry, there is always a solution if you are willing to find one.
This page will show you:
- How to explain an employment gap and why employers hate them.
- Use good examples to describe gaps on your CV that recruiters will tolerate.
- How to extract value from employment gaps and make employers think twice.
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How to Explain an Employment Gap
Employment gaps are regularly frowned upon. They have a negative connotation. Since a gap inherently means you have taken time off your career. This can make a recruiter expect the worst.
Avoid being suspicious like the plague. Employers flee CV applications which they cannot trust. The best way to overcome this is to not lie on your CV. If a manager does not suspect it on your application, it will become apparent further down the line.
Being truthful on your CV means:
- Don’t attempt to conceal gaps with excuses.
- Don’t extend your work experiences to cover the gaps
- Show the gaps in your CV and explain them succinctly.
- Assume the employer will find out thorough references (basic employment check)
Pro tip: Honesty is an important trait on your CV. If you make it to the interview stage, you will easily be caught out. Therefore make sure you can always back up your work experience.
Length of a CV Gap
An employment gap should not be more than 6 months long. Explain why there is a gap. Valid reasons include looking for work, family reasons or factors outside your control.
At what point of your career did you experience a gap? If you have been working professionally for 15 years, a gap 10 years ago is irrelevant. There is no need to worry about those, briefly explain them if you want to.
Also, if general economic conditions are very difficult (Financial Crisis in 2008, Covid Depression in 2020), it is very likely you are not the only one with gaps on your CV. Recruiters expect those gaps as long as the general environment does not improve.
Explain the Gaps at Interview Stage
If you have a gap in your CV, rest assured, the issue will come up at some point. The only question is when?
Made it past the first telephone interview without a single question, expect it to show up face-to-face. A recruiter wants to see your facial reaction when asked difficult questions.
As you know this question will pop up, so you need to prepare. Don’t stutter like a car that can’t get out of first gear.
Plan, prepare, execute. The 3 keywords to success.
Here are the steps to follow when a recruiter ask:
- Elucidate clearly the reasons for gaps in your CV.
- Keep reasoning concise and clear. The shorter the better.
- Promise recruiter you will not repeat this misstep.
- Demonstrate you have learnt tangible lessons from this.
As you can see, correcting a CV gap is not that hard if you are well prepared. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the recruiter will be impressed.
Keep reading on if you want to see how you can turn any gap on its head.
Examples to Explain CV Gaps During Interview
Imagine you are running a 100 metre hurdle race. You jump the first few with ease. You see the last two hurdles come up and your stress levels rise.
The same is happening in the boardroom. You are on the final straight line.
A recruitment manager stares you in the eyes and asks: “Could you please explain the gaps in your CV?”
Your palms start to sweat.
Here is how you can avoid this scenario.
- Ensure you will not have gaps on your CV in the future.
- Show proactiveness. Use free time to work on your skills.
- Approach your gaps in a positive manner.
- Write a Cover Letter to explain your past CV gaps.
No More Minding the Gap
Guaranteeing you will not repeat the same mistake is a difficult task. The best way to prove you won’t? Explain clearly the mistakes you made and the lessons you learnt.
Employers get very sceptical with CV gaps. They know that if they recruit you and end up as failure for the company, it will cost a lot to make you redundant. Hiring managers don’t want that risk.
If they ask you to explain why there are gaps, don’t worry.
For example: You have a 6 month gap on your CV. You were unsure what motivated you in life.
State to the recruiter you made a conscious decision to step back from taking a major decision. Even better, show self-awareness. Demonstrate your awareness by showing that you would have been a liability had the candidate been employed. Today, you will be an asset as you know what you want.
Be Proactive With your Free Time
If you are struggling to find work, don’t get stressed by the employment gap. If you feel they are the reason you’re still unemployed, try to remedy this through:
- Volunteer Work
- Professional Course
Sending applications can be time consuming. In the meanwhile, you can volunteer your spare time to help good causes.
Volunteer work is always well regarded in the eyes of a recruiter.
Look out in your local community for ways to help. There is always a need for an extra hand to help good causes. This could be helping at the local dog shelter with help feeding and grooming 100 dogs and cats a day. Or working for the local council, to keep all communal areas tidy.
Seek out a professional course or qualification.
Use your spare time to find a professional course. This can be a great way to reenter the employment market.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “believe you can and you’re already halfway”. Keep an inherent belief that everything can change with a simple action.
Try a course in an activity you have always been curious about or would like to specialise in.
Pro Tip: Working on developing skills is always an asset. It may not bear fruits in the short term,but the more refined they are, the more in demand they will be.
As Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Focus your energy and your skills will be useful for more employers than you can think of.
Positive Approach to Gaps
Turn a negative into a positive. Your CV Gaps do not always need to be viewed in a dim light.
As Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I only win or learn”.
This philosophy can be applied to your CV.
See your CV gaps in a positive manner. If the employer asks, do not try and find excuses. Take control of the situation and state it was a conscious decision. It shows you are in control of your destiny and did not drift from idea to idea. It avoids making you look desperate at your weakest.
If taking a break from work was not your choice, focus on what you have learnt. Demonstrate how you have gained from these experiences and how this will be translated into your future work prospects.
Write a Cover Letter
Can writing a cover letter help with employment gaps?
The answer is yes, but proceed with caution.
Explaining in a cover letter a CV Gap is a double-edged sword. The main purpose of a cover letter is to promote your skills and capabilities. Not to explain why you behaved in a certain manner in the past.
Keep in mind the following, why should a company hire you?
- Increase their operational efficiencies.
- Make them more money than they currently make
- Offer skills no other employees has within the company
Create demand for your services by offering what they need but do not have. It will correct all past mistakes.
Reasons for Employment Gaps
Injuries and bad health can happen at any moment. It often requires you to go on sick pay. If you are unemployed, it can extend your stay out of the workforce.
If an employer asks, simply state the illness you had. Make it clear you have fully recovered and leave it there. The employer has no right to ask further personal questions.
Family issues can arise at any moment. It may be the birth of a child, taking care of an elderly relative or parent, depression or even a complete breakdown.
Show strength and confidence by explaining how it has been dealt with and will not happen again.
An employer can always relate to family issues. As long as you are not recovering from hard drugs abuse or a jail sentence, there should be no further discussion on the employment gap.
Failed Business Venture
Do you have a gap due to a failed business venture?
A failed business venture is not a negative. It can actually show a lot of positive traits.
Show the hiring manager all the skills you developed and lessons learnt.
Even if the business failed as a whole, find the key achievements you achieved in this venture.
List them on your CV.
Key Points to Takeaway
Here are the key points for you to take away for employment gaps. These will make sure you are successful in your applications :
- Express yourself truthfully about your employment gaps. Prepare yourself before the interview by finding valid explanations. If not, employers will quickly become suspicious.
- Prove them you have learnt from your mistakes. Explain what happened and how you will utilise these experiences to your benefit and the company’s.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Develop skills by volunteering or taking a professional course.
Still have questions unanswered on how to explain gaps in your CV? Not sure how to explain the gaps you have properly? Then please get in touch here. We would love to help you reach your dream career.