Although it’s not uncommon for people to have gaps in their work history, there has always been an undeniable stigma attached to having a gap on your CV. It can make candidates self-conscious when applying for jobs.
In the wake of the pandemic, there has been a massive and understandable increase in CV gaps due to Covid related issues such as furlough, redundancy, family care needs, delayed education and burnout. As a result, it is perhaps more important than ever for many individuals to be confident about explaining a space between jobs as people return to standard working patterns.
Here we explore some of the best ways to manage a career gap and how to handle explaining it to a potential new employer.
Honesty is the best policy
It might be a cliché, but when it comes to a gap on your CV, it’s generally best to be honest about the reasons for the break. In a post-Covid world, employers are generally far more sympathetic about the immense amount of disruption which everyone has experienced over the past couple of years, and no one will be surprised if you couldn’t get a job because you had just graduated or if you had to take a step back from a demanding role to home-school your children.
Regarding non-Covid related gaps, being truthful about the reasons is still advisable. Companies will look more favourably on candidates they know they can trust, and if there is a valid reason, you are better to ‘own it’ and explain what happened than trying to cover it up.
Being prepared to talk about a gap on your CV at an interview can help you relax and become confident in your actions and decisions regarding why the break occurred.
Another helpful tip is always to try to put a positive spin on things when discussing the gap. For instance, you could say, ‘I took a career break for five years to look after my child’, but you could enhance this by saying, ‘Having taken a career break for five years to look after my child, I am eager to return to the workplace now that I have more time and flexibility to focus on a new role’.
What to include on your CV
Existing advice suggests you only need to address a gap of more than three months. If the gap was a long time ago, anything less than six months could just be listed with one short sentence of explanation rather than wasting lots of space on your CV, as employers are generally more interested in what candidates have done recently.
If you have a long and more recent employment gap, you could consider listing this as if it was a job with the applicable dates to show a continuous timeline rather than leaving it to a potential employer to spot the space between dates and draw their conclusions as to why you were out of work.
Where possible, include details of unpaid work experience, volunteering or personal development you undertook while unemployed, and information about what you were doing. This could be webinars, charity work or online courses, but something as simple as adding skills and experience you gained from teaching your children, caring for an elderly relative or setting yourself a home-based project as a hobby could add some value to an otherwise empty space.
Employers will generally be pleased to see that you have utilised the time to improve yourself and be proactive even though the ‘work’ hasn’t earned you a salary.
Every cloud has a silver lining
As mentioned above, the good news is that Covid may have done us all a favour. Recent reports suggest employers are becoming more open to considering employees with CV gaps. While this is partly down to a level of understanding about the disruption caused by the pandemic, there is also another reason. As the war for talent continues, the staff shortage in many industries means that employers can no longer always be so choosy when rejecting candidates with a gap on their CV.
Employers are becoming more compassionate when it comes to gaps on a CV, but some are even taking it a step further to combat staffing issues since Covid. For example, the State of Utah is trialling a new initiative called Return Utah, which aims to attract candidates with a gap in their CV. Government officials in the US State have realised that people with a CV gap can be valuable to the organisation, often being; mature, experienced, educated and very excited about the prospect of returning to work, making them good candidates for the roles on offer and assisting the State with finding enough individuals to fill their vacancies.
So, perhaps the stigma of a gap on your CV is not the issue it once was. With the careful presentation of your time away from the workplace and an open and honest approach to explaining it, candidates can be confident in applying for any role they set their mind to.
If you are a professional who would like advice on how to present a gap on your CV or you want to secure your next career move, contact our expert recruitment team at McGregor Boyall and find out how we can help you.