For one reason or another you may have a “gap” in your employment history and therefore your CV. Most gaps are explainable, it could be you were on maternity/paternity leave, travelling, caring for a relative, studying, recuperating from a health issue, or you just couldn’t get a job, any of which may mean there are several months or years unaccounted for.
It’s often a good idea to refer to any significant gaps in your cover letter. Addressing gaps at this stage allows the recruiter to spend more time looking at your CV. You can then elaborate further and provide more detail at the initial interview. It’s important to understand that you need to account for these gaps, so here’s a few suggestions:
Honesty is always the best policy
You should never lie on your CV, and you should never lie about your gaps. Be honest about what happened. You don’t have to go into detail, but leaving it out makes it stand out more. Being prepared to explain a gap won’t harm your chances of employment but lying about it most likely will. Never extend the length of time you were with a particular company. Most employers and recruiters conduct reference checks and a misalignment in your employment history doesn’t look good for you. Likewise if there has been something in the public domain about you and an employment issue, it will be discovered, as we do check.
A gap in your CV means that when interviewed, you are most likely to be questioned about it. Some gaps are easier to explain than others. Sometimes it might be an idea to write an explanation in your CV, for example “Travelling” or “Studying for my MBA”, or “Family responsibilities”.
Focus on the positive
If you were fired or were made redundant, try to turn this in to a positive; frame it as a learning experience. Being able to talk at an interview about “what you learnt” ensures you come across as self-aware, positive and highly employable. You will often be asked why you left a role, so have an answer ready.
Don’t throw stones
Even if you had “issues” with a previous employer and you left under awkward circumstances, don’t come across as resentful and bitter. Be prepared to explain, again “what you learnt” from the job or experience. Most interviewers will understand but it’s critical to remain professional. It’s always a bad look when a candidate “bags” a past employer. Remember New Zealand’s a small place.
Are you healthy?
If you’ve spent some time off work due to health issues or recovering, you need to reassure your potential employers that you are now fit for work, or that the issue has resolved.
The bottom line is that gaps in your CV aren’t unusual and are not usually huge issues, we’re all human and nobody’s perfect. It’s the way you handle and account for these gaps that remains critical. The interviewer just wants to understand your employment history and all its vagaries fully. Remember that the interviewer will need to trust and support you to take your application further.
Julie's original article on LinkedIn can be found here