The best ways to explain those dreaded employment gaps on your CV during an interview

Hello everyone,

A common problem that job seekers struggle with is explaining the employment gaps on their CV to an interviewer.

This weeks interesting article is taken from LinkedIn, it gives a great insight on how to overcome the worry and fear of explaining as it says " Those dreaded employment gaps"  here's how you can justify those gaps without losing any brownie points

We all need a break from work but sometimes those breaks turn out to be longer than usual. These long breaks, commonly referred to as employment gaps, refer to those periods of time during which an individual was not employed. Whether it was to follow our dreams / passions, look after a loved one, recuperate after an illness, or rejuvenate, employment gaps are a tricky thing to explain. It is difficult to hide on resumes and is often one of the first few things that a candidate is asked about. 

Often, candidates are unable to clearly communicate the reasons behind those gaps in their employment. In these cases, the recruiter / hiring manager is left with an inaccurate and unfavourable impression of the candidate. With some preparation and these tips, you will be able to give those gaps a positive spin and bridge the gap between you and the recruiter / hiring manager.

Some Common Reasons for Gaps in Employment History

- Parenting leave: An extended maternity / paternity leave in order to take care of young children at home

- Looking after a loved one: Long-term leave to look after a loved one suffering from some injury / illness 

- Following dreams / passion: A sabbatical to pursue goals and dreams that one feels passionate about. E.g. travelling       around the world, volunteering stint

- Setting up one's own business: An entrepreneurial venture 

- Recuperating for health reasons: Extended medical leave to recuperate / rejuvenate after stress/injury/ill health

- Termination of Employment: A long period of unemployment after the loss of a job 

How to Deal with an Employment Gap on your CV:

1. Don't bring unnecessary attention to it 

If your employment gap is for only a few months, try to avoid bringing attention to it by mentioning only the year of employment. For e.g. if you worked at Company ABC from May 2011 - December 2012, traveled across Asia from January 2013 - Jun 2013 and then worked for Company XYZ from July 2013 - April 2017, limit yourself to only listing the year like below:

2011 - 2012 | ABC | Assistant Marketing Manager

2013 - 2017 | XYZ | Head Marketing Manager

2017 - Present | Current Organisation | Regional Marketing Manager

If the gap was for more than a year, the above method would not work. Therefore, the recruiter / hiring manager has a very good chance of noticing the gap. However, we recommend that you should not try to explain the gap in your cover letter. It's best to do it over the phone or face-to-face so that you have the opportunity to immediately address any concerns.

2. Don't Lie

In your attempt to avoid bringing attention to it, you should not make up false details or lie on your resume. Employers can verify your employment details easily and if you're caught in a lie, you could lose your job offer. 

3. Prepare for Questions 

Any recruiter worth his / her salt will not miss out on a gap in your employment history, especially if it was for more than a year. Therefore, you should be prepared to answer any questions they may have. You should list down how your time away from a full-time job has helped your grow in other ways. 

Tips on Dealing with Questions in the Interview

Whether it's an interview or an interview screening call, it's important that you prepare to answer questions regarding your employment gap. Here are some tips to help you get started

1. Make a list of the experience / skills / knowledge you picked up during your gap

2. Give your gap a 'positive spin'. Try to find some value in it, regardless of how negative or positive the experience was. 

3. Don't get defensive. If a recruiter / hiring manager questions your decision, don't get angry. Remain composed and explain your reasons for it.

4. Avoid being apologetic. Don't say sorry for taking time off from work. You should be confident and comfortable with your decision. 

5. Emphasize on your renewed focus. Convey to the recruiter / hiring manager that the gap has helped you to put things in perspective and that it has helped cement your love for the job / role. 

Acknowledging Corporate Reality

The sad truth is, the corporate world doesn't look too favorably upon those who have too many gaps in their employment history. Working mothers who take an extended maternity leave to help raise their children often find it difficult to rejoin the workforce once they feel comfortable enough to start looking for work. Likewise, employers may not be too understanding towards those who took time off to start their own business, or travel. Nevertheless, don't apologise for prioritising other things over work. Stay calm and confident and you're guaranteed to win over the recruiter.

Own your employment gap. Let your confidence shine through and you'll bridge the 'gap' between the recruiter and yourself. 

Have a great weekend.