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  • Writer's pictureNathalie White

How to Explain Professional Gaps

Either by choice or because it has taken job-hunters some time to find a new job, employment gaps on CVs are more than common. If life's unexpected instances have left their mark on your professional career, there are always ways to explain why you were unemployed at some point in your professional life while crafting your CV or during a job interview. Some of them are mentioned below:


How to Explain an Employment Gap on your CV

1. By Listing Older Experiences When Gaps Are Irrelevant

Scaling back the detail, especially if you have held a number of different positions, is an easy way to take care of a few employment gaps that will appear but are irrelevant to the current situation.

In general, if you have been in the workforce for many years, there is no need to include all your experience in your CV. As a rule of thumb, we tend to find it acceptable to limit the years of experience you can mention on your CV to 10 years whether for high-tech and technical positions or managerial and professional jobs. Those last ten years should be detailed about your responsibilities and mention your main achievements.

2. Through Formatting – Be transparent

Although quite tempting, listing only the year, rather than the full date (month+year), when you started and ended your employment, as a means to hide a gap is not recommended. Instead, be transparent. If, for example, you have taken some time off from February 2013 to March 2015 to take care of your family, do mention it on your CV.

Many job seekers also extend their period of employment in a previous position to hide their employment gaps(s). This is something an interviewer can easily find out by simply calling the previous employer so why put your candidacy at risk for no good reason?

Finally, make sure you start your CV in a way that highlights your accomplishments and skills, while also mentioning your motivations and reason to go back to work if your gap was recent.

3. Through Mentioning Experiences Gained During the Gap

List other experiences you have gained while you were unemployed. Did you take up a volunteer position? Relocated abroad as a following spouse and learned about a new culture and habits that helped you become a great bilingual speaker? Consult? Freelance? Took a class?

If, for example, you have stopped to take care of your kids, you can say that it was planned and that you wanted to put maximum effort on your children's education. Maybe you took the opportunity to learn something during this time, perhaps work related. Include all this information in your CV just like you would do with any other job (with job title, job descriptions, company name, etc.). They emphasise positive aspects of your time off.

4. Use Your Cover Letter Wisely

Briefly explain the employment gap in your cover letter if necessary (i.e. you took some time off work to raise a child or complete coursework). However, the cover letter is of better use to demonstrate your motivation to join and to project yourself into the job.

5. Honesty Matters

No matter what you do, do not lie. Recruiters and employers have a way of verifying both your education and work history. So, if you misrepresent yourself in any way, chances are it will come back and haunt you at some point.

Simply explain exactly what happen during your gaps (see #2), based on your skills, competencies and potential. A recruiter will help you articulate those gaps in case you are asked during your job interviews.

Tip: Avoid any negative characterisation of your previous employer. Prospective employers might project your comments about them and will not value this as a positive reason.


How to Explain an Employment Gap During your Job Interview

If you are presented by a recruiter, you can ask him some feedback and tips on how to turn this gap to support your candidacy. The recruiter will be interested to make sure you sound professional during your interview hence will give you all pieces of advice needed to secure this meeting. Other than that, you need to:

1. Be Prepared

If your CV is successful, you will most likely be offered an interview. Inevitably, you will be asked about the employment gaps in your CV during that interview. Practice your response so that you are not caught off guard when the question comes up. Just make sure it is short and relevant.

Also, you should research the industry and company as a means to prove to the hiring manager that your passion for the profession has remained intact by your absence and that you have always made sure you stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends.

Note: Try to put a positive spin on the gaps in your professional career and make sure you do not sound apologetic.

2. Be Forthright

Being straightforward and direct is probably the best approach. Provide the hiring manager a clear rationale for the reasons behind your break, especially if you left voluntarily. Make it clear that whatever reason made you take time off from the workforce now belongs to the past and that you are 100% ready for full-time employment.

In case you have been dismissed,which is something that happens quite often considering the fact that many companies have to “right size” teams to keep competitive during economic uncertainty periods, don’t blame yourself for it, and ensure you have good references from your colleagues and past clients to rely on.

Having a gap in your professional career is not unusual. Explaining it while also demonstrating readiness and enthusiasm to re-enter the workforce is what the overwhelming majority of employers want from you. And, don't forget that honesty, paired with confidence, are qualities that will speak volumes about who you are and what you stand for; qualities that no hiring manager can overlook, without a doubt.

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