Most hiring managers these days tend to be pretty sharp in noticing CV's that contain small or indeed significant gaps in employment history. These gaps could be the result of a number of reasons and how you respond in explaining these gaps will either reaffirm existing doubt as to your credibility as a viable candidate or will help to strengthen your case to be given the benefit of the doubt. Whether you were off work due to sickness or as the result of being made redundant, you will need to be able to explain these gaps succinctly and with confidence to the hiring manager during the interview.
Trying to hide any breaks in your employment history is never a good idea, and we would always suggest that honesty is the best policy. Candidates should always be upfront and forthcoming with their new employer as references will always certainly be checked and crossed referenced, and if it was deemed you were being economical with the truth you will most certainly lose out on the position.
Below we have listed the most common reasons for gaps in employment history that are likely to be discovered on a candidates CV, together with how they can be explained in an interview.
With the workplace as volatile as it is many hiring managers are more likely to be sympathetic and understanding to those candidates whose gaps in employment were due to being laid off. Most will recognise that candidates were not to blame. The concern from a hiring manager’s point of view would be though if the unemployment period was over 6 months. Any longer then the hiring manager is right to ask what it was you were doing in that time to get back into the workplace. If you can demonstrate that you were actively looking not only for work but were also keeping yourself marketable through completing a study course or perhaps voluntary work, then it will look more favourable. Remember to include any voluntary activities in your CV as these can be included as work and listed down as such e.g. title, company and job description.
If you were laid off due to your previous company downsizing remember to provide evidence of your skill set and in what context it was used, this can be obtained from your supervisor or previous colleagues. Always speak in a positive way, even about a negative situation, tell the interviewer what you have learned from the experience. This information will help to strengthen your case and to turn around being laid off into an opportunity for you to say how your skills gained in one working environment can be used and are a perfect match for the new job in hand.
Many people take a career break either to look back and re-evaluate where they are in their working life or just to relax and unwind, and employers are aware of this. Whichever category you fit in again must be explained to the best of your ability and as truthfully as possible. Remember to emphasise the positive elements e.g. what did you learn or gain? The hiring manager will be able to get a better understanding where you are in your career aspirations, if you are looking for a more challenging career coming back from a break may reflect your intensions to settle down and to work hard. If you travelled to experience a new culture or learned a new language this will all look positive from an employer’s eyes, if for example the role you have applied for is based abroad and requires an understanding of foreign cultures or language skills.
Gaps due to family commitments
Taking time out of work due to family issues is very common these days, whether it is due to a family member being ill or due to starting a family. Again you need to be open and honest with the hiring manager. If the reason was due to family illness make it clear to them, being uptight and saying “I’ve had family issues which I would rather not divulge at this stage” will not help your case. Turn the negative experience into a positive, so rather say “I spend the last 6 months caring for a family member, however they are how much better and I am ready to get back into the workplace and this position I feel is perfect for my strengths”.
Ideally we would advise you to state any career breaks in your covering letter as this will allow you to tackle these issues head on if you are then are selected for an interview. By doing this you are letting any future employer know you are not hiding away from any issues and will leave you better prepared to answer these tricky issues during the interview.
We would suggest that you explain any gaps in employment history due to illness in the same way you would approach gaps due to family commitments. Sickness that is over a long period and in a recent working period needs to be explained in a way which reflects your desire to start your career again with a new approach as well as your ability to do the roll in question. Being ill will be outside of your control so is never planned, all you can do is adapt and show how you have managed to deal with it in a way which will assure the interviewer that you are the perfect candidate for the job.
Many individuals will have gaps in their employment history so it is important to know that you are not alone. The only difference will be the way in which you are able explain these gaps to the interviewer, as they are looking for key signs that you are ready and willing to re-enter the workforce again. Knowing what to say to with confidence so you can respond in an open and honest way will help your case to secure the role in question.
Need help addressing a gap in your CV? Share your questions with us below.