What is a career gap?
A career gap is the length of time you've been unemployed. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 46% of job seekers think that career gaps in employment history are a major obstacle when applying for jobs and many employers see them as an issue too - just over 40% say they would not consider hiring someone who has large gaps in their work history.
The key to successfully addressing a career gap is being direct and honest about any time you weren't employed during the period in question. It's not uncommon for people to have breaks from work, but it can be difficult to explain an extended period of unemployment.
When writing your CV, it's important to include the reason you were unemployed, even if that reason is unpleasant. Employers will appreciate your honesty and are likely to have had their own misfortunes in life at some point – such as divorce or illness - so they understand what it means to be out of work for a period of time.
When explaining a gap, it's also important to stay positive by focusing on the skills you gained during this period. Whatever the reason for being unemployed, be it through choice or not, be sure to mention how the experience has enhanced you as a person and stress how you turned a negative into a positive.
During an interview for a job, don't get caught off guard when asked about gaps in your employment history. Some interviewers may be combative, but many simply want to see if you're prepared for the questions they ask. Be honest and specific in your responses; don't make something up or embroider a story unless it is 100 per cent true. If you had trouble finding a job for a prolonged period, say so. If you spent your time in education or taking care of family members, be specific about how it led to an enriched educational experience and/or undeniable talents when caring for others.
Top tips to optimising your CV
- List any relevant volunteer experience you have at the top of your CV rather than at the bottom. Volunteering is a great way to make yourself stand out from other applicants.
- If you were unemployed for a long time, consider including some brief information about the industry that you worked in rather than listing your most recent position. This can show potential employers that even if there was a gap on your resume, you are still very much qualified to do the job they're hiring for.
- Describe what happened during this time period.
- Explain why this is important to your resume.
- Describe what you learned from the experience.
- Describe any skills that were developed during the time period in which there was a gap on your CV.
- If possible, back up these claims with evidence of experiences and achievements outside of your education or employment. This can help employers to see that even though you were unemployed, it was still a period of self-enrichment and self-development.
It's essential to be able to offer a compelling explanation for any gaps in your resume. This article discussed the best way to explain a gap is by telling an engaging story that highlights what you learned during this period and how it has helped prepare you for the next phase of your career. Make sure to take advantage of opportunities at work when they present themselves so that there will not be any significant periods on your timeline with no experience or accomplishments listed. Keep learning from both successes and failures, don't let anything go unnoticed, and gradually build up some momentum again!