Justifying gaps in your employment history is one of the biggest concerns we’re asked about when we’re supporting a person’s job search. There may be any number of reasons why people leave one role and have a gap, of however long, before starting another – from study leave to travelling, redundancy or caring for a partner or relative. The important thing is to be honest about any gaps you might have, and to approach your explanation of them with positivity rather than trepidation. Here’s how we advise our job-seekers to tackle the subject.
1. Use your summary statement to paint the bigger picture
In no more than 100 words, you should use your statement at the top of your CV to weave together your employment history and bridge the gaps. You can talk about how you came to be where you are in your professional journey, the key skills you’ve developed along the way and the ambitions you have for your future career. If you have regular or long gaps, this is the best place to justify them in a powerful and personal narrative. You want to show you’re an employable, reliable and committed candidate, so focus on putting a positive spin on what might initially appear to be a more unconventional or erratic employment history.
2. Tailor your CV to the role
If you’re hung up on what a hiring company will think of any gaps in your employment, you’ll probably focus more on how you can justify them than on showcasing your strengths and experience. Everything you communicate in your CV should be positive, skills-focused and as relevant to the role you’re applying for as possible. Use facts and data to demonstrate the positive impact you’ve had in previous roles, and use strong, bold language to communicate confidence and clarity. Your goal is to make it as hard for them as possible to fault your application so they can’t not invite you to interview – where it’s much easier to talk through gaps and your learning from them in person, if they want to know more.
3. Turn the gaps into a showcase of your strengths
As long as you can show that you're doing something during your period of unemployment, you can appear more attractive to a potential employer. Activities which bolster your CV are things like training courses, learning new skills or a language, volunteering or creating your own project. You can position these activities in the appropriate sections of your CV so your gaps in paid employment become examples of your proactivity, creativity, autonomy and ambition. Try to explain these activities in a way that is directly and obviously relevant to the role you’re applying for – don’t give the hiring company any reason to doubt your suitability or commitment.
4. Be prepared to talk about the gaps at interview
Once you’ve wowed them with your CV and have been invited to interview, you will very likely be asked to elaborate further on the gaps in your employment history, so preparing for this is crucial. Think about your justifications beforehand, remembering to focus on what you have learned and the benefit you can bring to the role from these periods, so that your answers come naturally and easily, and complement the experience you’ve achieved in your paid employment. People respect honesty – sometimes the gaps in your CV will be for difficult reasons, but as long as you can demonstrate learning and efficient use of time during them, you will give them no reason to doubt your ability to commit to and deliver in the role. As with all job interviews, do your research on the company, the culture and the role and show you have put time and energy into your preparation – if you come across as someone who’s invested themselves in the job application process, and who is able to show their passion and enthusiasm for the company and the job, you’ll prove your ability to focus and commit. Interviewers like to see people who have done their homework so even if your skillset is not as up-to-date as others, or you have trickier gaps in your CV to justify, your dedication and focus to the pre-employment process will help you to positively stand out.
If you’d like any personal advice or support on your job-seeking journey, please do give us a call on 01932 355000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – we are here to help you.