In a world that has just endured a pandemic and with volatile economic conditions it is hardly surprising that it is becoming the new norm to have gaps on your CV. Unfortunately, employers often think this makes you look like you can not hold down a job. We have collated a few top tips for broaching your career gap with your potential employer so the gap can become part of the solution and not a problem.
Let us consider how the gaps come about. You might have gaps on your resume due to reasons like:
laid off due to organizational and/or COVID related changes
being a stay-at-home parent or caregiver
recovering from medical leave
furthering your education or training
galivanting aimlessly around Europe on a year long haitus
Unfortunately addressing a career gap, or not addressing it well, is one of the most frequent mistakes on resumes according to Adzuna’s 2021 survey. A career gap can be transformational and be of benefit for the new role you are evaluating - use the gap to your advantage.
1. Be the first to raise the topic
If you find yourself in an interview situation don't be afraid to bring up the topic yourself. Ensure that you remain calm and answer the question with honesty. A lot of the time the gaps are outside your control - or more importantly - the life lessons you have encountered during these gaps are often invaluable. Think of having time off for your firstborn, or nursing your fragile elderly mother. Both are very special times for different reasons. Remember it is often the person conducting the interview that is as nervous as the interviewee! 2. Be honest and authentic
Whatever the reasons for you having an employment gap – the way you frame it in an interview with a prospective employer is an opportunity to showcase your values and your learnings:
Honesty about burnout or being laid off demonstrates courage and integrity.
Turning a gap into an opportunity – freelancing, consulting – shows innovation and problem-solving.
Trying something totally new – shows adaptability and drive.
Taking time to rest and recharge shows self-knowledge and resilience.
By briefly acknowledging the gaps early on, you’ll be able to focus on presenting your employability skills and expertise. The best interviews are ones that are conversational more than Q&A sessions.
3. Think positively about the reasons for the gap
Identify the skills and experiences you’ve obtained during a career break. These don’t necessarily have to be professional to be transformational. Telling your own personal story will give the interviewer something to reflect on and remember you by.
Before heading to your interview, outline for yourself how your time away helped you grow. Focus on transferable skills you’ve acquired, or how your outlook changed in a way that changed your approach to work or life. These are tangible learnings that you can share to demonstrate who you are and what you bring to a role. Remember you aren’t alone in having career gaps and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about! Particularly after the last few years of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should understand how experiences and career journeys might differ.
4. Stay in the loop while you’re away
Even if you’ve been out of the game for a while, before interviewing, get up to speed with what’s happening in your given industry.
You don’t need to stay on top of rolling news if you don’t feel able to. Instead, isolate some key movers and shakers from when you were working in the industry. Follow them and read their recommendations. Set yourself a manageable amount of time to spend each week reading up.
Being able to list and explain your thoughts about recent industry developments will curb any doubts your interviewer might have about the gap in your resume. You don’t need to become an expert again overnight!
5. Define for yourself who you are and what you want
When working on your CV, concentrate your efforts on communicating key achievements, skills, and experiences with the role you’re applying for in mind. This gives a clear picture of what you can do, regardless of where you’ve been. We have more expert advice about how to write a CV that gets you hired!
Being authentic gives prospective employers an easy way to check your suitability for the role and for the team. The focus should be on what you can bring. You are a potential solution to a problem they have. As long as you’re able to present yourself as reliable and consistent, your skillset more than your employment history should interest a prospective employer.
While answering questions about any period of unemployment can be uncomfortable, know that you’re not alone. Finding confidence in the skills you’ve gained during your career break can help you prepare and perform in interview scenarios. Don’t let gaps in your CV detract from your qualifications and damage your employability.