Ah, the dreaded CV gap, the favorite bugbear of recruiters and HR professionals the world over. And we, the lowly candidates, worry too. But maybe we should be worrying a little less.
If you’ve been in employment for several years you will only be expected to include the highlights of your experience so small gaps may not really be an issue. A few months’ hiatus between periods of employment can also often be concealed through clever formatting – omitting the months and just showing the year. But if it’s much longer than a few months you’ll probably need to elucidate.
If you’re going to explain your gap, though, the trick is not to feel defensive or guilty about it; instead, show how you used the time constructively while you were out of the workplace. From short stints to lengthy interludes, here’s some advice on how to make your time out work for you.
Short gaps of less than a year are relatively easy to account for. In your CV you can refer to any relevant activities such as training courses and language lessons in the education section or volunteering and freelancing in the employment section. More indulgent pursuits such as traveling can be given the right spin in interviews and in cover letters, so long as you highlight the positives you gained from the experience and how they aided your personal development.
People spend several years outside the workforce for any number of reasons, so you should not let it become negative. Periods taken to care for a sick relative or bring up a child don’t fit on your resume so explain the gap in your cover letter so the employer is not left wondering what you were up to. If you can, talk about activities you took part in and skills you gained, and always demonstrate a clear enthusiasm for returning to work
Gaps due to dismissal or illness
There is no written rule that you have to disclose sensitive information on your CV. However, it may be wiser to come forward with information on a job loss or ill health rather than risk exposing yourself to awkward questions during an interview. Again, it all depends on how you package the information.
If you’ve been let go by a former employer, try to frame it as a learning experience, explaining how it alerted you to your personal weaknesses that you’ve since worked to address. The same applies to illness: there’s no obligation at this stage to detail any medical information, though you may want to emphasize that you are now fit and able to return to work.
Honesty is generally the best policy when it comes to all things application related. Don’t fiddle with the dates and don’t be unnecessarily secretive. There is very little nowadays that can’t be found out through some source or another, so ‘own’ the information before it has a chance to own you.