Mind the gap! Can holes in the CV damage your job prospects?
The professional experience section of your CV is the area that most recruiters pay attention to initially, especially if you have more than 10 years’ experience. Although utilising different ExpressCV template styles can shift the focus, glaring gaps of time in your CV cannot be hidden so easily with non-chronological CVs — and nor should they.
Gaps are normal and recruiters know this
Gaps in employment are not uncommon — some people take career breaks to study further, travel, or raise a family. Other people take time out of work due to matters beyond their control, such as company restructuring, termination, economic downturns or redundancy. In this article, we will look at the best way to address gaps in your CV.
Honesty is the best policy — and look for a positive
The first important point to make is the employment gaps are not unusual and most recruiters expect to see this in some capacity, as described above. Always be honest about your employment history and any time you spent out of the workforce. The issue is not if you have gaps, but rather how you can finesse this to [accentuate the positives you drew from it] (https://expresscv.com/en/create-a-cv/professional-objectives), while also simultaneously minimising the attention drawn to it if the gap was due to a more unfortunate reason.
When should I explain gaps in my CV?
Never draw attention to CV gaps in your CV itself. Smaller gaps of 6 months or less can be overlooked. Larger gaps (maybe a 1 or 2 year break) can be addressed in a covering letter (if you took maternity or paternity leave).
Are gaps are not equal! Here’s how to handle breaks in your CV according to situation
If your gap is due to continuing education:
- You can help the CV appear more seamless by including your time spent studying in the CV as if it was a role.
- For example — dates, name of course and educational institution and the entry “sabbatical for Master’s degree” or “Returned to postgraduate studies to complete MPhil.”
- Always demonstrate how the course helped to make you a better candidate for this role!
This is a discussion best had, face-to-face, with a recruiter once your CV has piqued their interest and ticked the boxes for them to want to meet you. This means that you have your foot in the door in terms of experience, professional and personal skills. So, the rest is up to you — the smaller the gap, the less you want to draw attention to it. As mentioned above, paternity or maternity leave can be briefly mentioned in a covering letter, with the dates referred to clearly.
When your career break was due to unemployment, redundancy, or taking some personal time to reassess your career goals, this is your chance to spin the scenario into a positive in the interview. You can show that you used this time to:
- Independently learn a new skill, language or area of specialism.
Begin a freelancing career and broaden your portfolio - you can also place this in the Professional Experience section, to bridge the gap of time.
- Remain relevant in your industry by attending conventions, talks and workshops.
- Actively search for roles that interested you and practicing your interview skills.
- Become newly interested in the career area you are applying for.
- Travelling, volunteering or another still that shows strong interpersonal qualities.
When the gap in your CV was due to dismissal, you need to be a little more delicate but:
- If it was more than 10 years ago, or just a couple of months in length as a gap, it is best to leave the role off of your CV entirely.
- If you include the role from which you were dismissed, always be honest about it. Perhaps the job changed and you no longer enjoyed the tasks, or felt a better fit with a previous team/manager.
- Reflect on the end of the role as a learning experience — be positive about the former employer with respect and grace. Never be critical.
- Talk about what you learned from the challenge and how you would handle the situation differently now.
Remember, dismissals are not always an issue of blame — changes in management or company goals often mean great employers have to move on due to no fault of their own.
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