There can be many reasons why you have a gap in your CV and many try to hide the reasons feeling it will reduce their chances of getting the next job even if the gap was for a valid reason. How should you deal with the career break?
Illness, accident, caring for a sick or injured family member or simply choosing to take time to look after your child. All are legitimate reasons that can cause you to take a break from work. There are also reasons such as deciding to add to your qualifications through a full time course or degree, volunteering for a good cause. Then there are reasons that people may feel more concerned about disclosing such as time spent seeking employment following redundancy from a previous role, deciding to travel or even time in prison.
Whatever the reason for the gap in your CV what should you do when applying for a job?
Don’t try to hide the gap
You should not rely on the prospective employer or recruiter not noticing the gap but address it directly. If you are not open about it, even if it is not initially noticed, it could be an issue if it comes up later in the recruitment process and has not been mentioned.
You should ensure that your CV and covering letter focus on the positives and do not come across as defensive. Refer directly to the gasp and place it in as positive light as you can without appearing to make false or unconvincing claims about the reasons for the gap.
Focus on the positives
In all communications with your prospective employer you should focus on the reasons why they should want to select you for the role.
Most will not be concerned about a career break unless they feel that it indicates that you are not ready to return to work or there is some other related issue that could impact the work they need you to do for them. When looking for a expat role an interest in travel can be seen as a real positive.
Instead of addressing your career gap immediately, it will be best to focus on your strengths and on the accomplishments in previous roles to demonstrate you are the right person for the job.
Don’t say more than necessary
When you do explain your career break it is best to be brief and concise. Going into too much detail will focus unnecessary attention on the gap and my come across as defensive. You can also paint the gap in as positive a light as appropriate without stretching credulity:
- “I took the opportunity to fulfil my life-long dream of travelling through Asia for six months where I gained an understanding of different cultures”
- “I took time off work due to illness, but the time off allowed me to fully regain fitness and used the time to read extensively to improve my knowledge of….”
- “I took time off to care for my son who had cancer”
What you need to say will be affected by when the gap occurred. If you are currently on a gap you will need to address it in the experience section of your CV as well as in your covering letter. Simple, concise, non-defensive language. If the gap occurred in the last five years or so you will need to refer and explain it in the experience section of your CV but may not need to mention it in your covering letter. Where it occurred a long time ago you may not need to mention it at all, especially if you show experience by year rather than by month, unless it leaves a significant gap in your experience and career development.