Explaining Gaps in Employment History
We’ve been asked numerous questions by people wanting to know how they should be explaining gaps in employment history so we’ve put together a guide outlining some of the best ways to address different gaps in employment history.
Gaps in employment history are a common problem faced by candidates writing their own CVs. Whilst the person may not have been in a traditional job for a period of time, there may well be other key experience or knowledge they gained during that timeframe, which would read well on their CV.
There are lots of reasons why people may decide to take a career break or find themselves with a gap in employment history and knowing how to overcome these breaks on a CV can often prove troublesome. Some gaps in employment history are easier to demonstrate than others but if you approach it correctly, it shouldn’t hinder your chances of securing an interview.
Below are some handy hints and tips on some of the most regularly asked problems:
Q1: How do I explain an employment gap in my CV?
There can be a large number of reasons why you might have a gap in your CV and these could be issues such as:
- Career change study or other educational pursuits
- Professional development course
- Caring for children or perhaps, a sick or elderly relative
- Illness or accident recovery
- Voluntary or charitable work etc
It is important to try to fill any gaps where possible with plausible and truthful situations to reassure the potential employer you are a dependable and that the gaps are unlikely to arise again. We would recommend you take a step back from your every day busy life and think hard about all the things you have been doing in the time you have not been ‘formally’ working. You will likely be surprised by just how much you have indeed done over that period of time. Try to translate those skills and experiences in to beneficial and meaningful subjects to include on your CV.
Some ideas for gap fillers
- Were you on the PTA or a committee member?
- Were you working on a part-time basis
- Did you do anything charitable or on a volunteer basis?
- Did you help a friend of family member with their business?
- Have you done any consulting or freelance work?
- Have you been studying or mentoring?
- Did you help out with school groups or local projects?
Q2: What style of CV should I use if there are gaps?
Sometimes it is more appropriate to us a functional style CV, rather than the more commonly known chronological CV as this will help you to concentrate more on key skills; placing less focus on your career and of course, gaps. Omit months from the CV and use the year by year system. Some people prefer to use a chrono-functional approach and each case should be judged on its own merit.
Q3: How can I minimise any gaps in employment?
Well, never lie – that is the first rule and do not be tempted to over-stretch your duration of employment. A few checks by a savvy employer will soon uncover the truth.
Did you know there are also specialist CV checking companies out there?
You can cloak over gaps by omitting months from your CV and just stating the years but make sure this is consistent across the CV. An employer is likely to be less phased by a short break than a long one. If you have significant gaps, these are better explained in an accompanying cover letter.
Q4: What can I credibly do to help smooth over employer concerns?
- Make sure you have stayed in touch with the industry and are aware of any recent developments or changes in legislation.
- Read articles on the subject online or in the library if you are unable to subscribe to particular journals or publications.
- It is always useful to maintain your network of contacts, where possible.
- Attend seminars, events and avail of networking opportunities to maintain your awareness fo the industry.
- Perhaps consider undertaking some voluntary, freelance or contract work for a period of time to show your commitment to the industry.
They key is to make your employment background appear stable without large unexplained gaps, which would be a concern for most people. However, do not be tempted to lie. If you are unable to fill the gaps credibly, then explain the reasons in a cover letter and present the skills you have been using during that time.
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