Is there a block of time in your resume when you were not employed? Have you ever thought messing with the dates between jobs to cover your employment gaps?
Having time out of work can happen for several important reasons and believe it or not happens to a lot of us. Sometimes it’s hard for a candidate to know exactly how to explain the gaps especially when you’re trying to impress a potential employer.
Below are some key tips to help you explain the career gaps in your resume.
Career gaps are not unusual:
It’s important to remember that career gaps aren’t always a bad thing. There are several positive reasons why a candidate might have a career gap: having a baby, starting full-time study or possibly taking a year off to go travelling.
There are also some more challenging reasons, such as personal health problems, being unable to secure an opportunity, redundancy, being fired or even career burnout.
It’s not unusual to have an occasional career gap through your work life-cycle – perhaps now more than ever.
The global pandemic has affected almost every sector in the last two years, forcing a high number of redundancy and job losses. Employers are much more understanding today if you’ve been let go or have been made redundant.
Make sure that you are always honest.
You might be hoping that your prospective employer simply won’t notice the career gaps in your resume. But in reality, it won’t escape the eagle-eyed hiring manager or recruitment consultant.
A resume that has small unexplained gaps or even just one large gap may raise some alarm bells for employers, and more often than not they won’t have time to find out more information if you don’t provide it to them in the first place.
If you don’t there’s a high chance that the employer will reject your application straight away.
You may find yourself tempted to alter the dates and extend the years and months of your employment a little to cover the gaps. But think twice about embellishing as there’s a good chance the truth will come out during the reference check, anyway.
Don’t try to cover up your career gaps or pretend that they didn’t happen. Be honest about why you took your career gaps right from the beginning of the hiring/interview process.
Some practical examples:
Here’s some common reasons for career breaks, and some tips on how to explain them in both your resume and cover letter.
If you were made redundant or couldn’t find work:
If you were made redundant, then it’s understandable that you had some time between roles. If you were let go this is fine but you will need to explain the circumstances in which this happened.
Turn the situation into a positive by explaining how you broadened your skill set during your time out of work. That applies if you’ve had trouble finding work for an extended period, too.
Did you do further training or any volunteer work? If not, what other skills did you gain? Where possible, take this opportunity to show that you’ve been productive.
It is fine to speak about taking the time to find the right role, rather than rushing into something that may not end up being the best match for you. It’s important to be honest, but also to bring attention to any positives associated with the career gap.
If you had a long-term illness:
It can be a difficult task be open with prospective employers about a physical or mental illness that’s kept you out of the work force. But if you couldn’t work for a lengthy period, you’ll need to acknowledge it.
You do not need to go in to specific, in-depth details if it makes you uncomfortable. Explain that you had some time off work whilst you were sick, but you’re now ready to enter into work again and that you are sincerely looking forward to returning.
Living with a long-term illness or injury – and going through any recovery process – takes both strength and determination. Focusing on any positives that were achieved from that experience can sometimes work in your favour.
If you had caring responsibilities:
It is also common to take time out of the workforce to care for young children or family members, so don’t be afraid to be open about that.
If you have children that are now older and are in school or possibly childcare, explain the situation and that you’re now keen to return to back your career.
Similarly if you cared for a family member, explain the situation with as much detail as you’re comfortable to share with your prospective employer. The skills that are required to support others, such as dedication, kindness, and planning, reflect well on you as an individual.
If you took time off to go travelling:
While currently many of us around the globe can’t travel, plenty of employers see value in taking time off work to travel. Extended time spent travelling can show independence, personal growth, and broad cultural awareness.
If you’ve taken time to travel in the past, highlight how your traveling experiences – both positive and negative – have given you new perspectives and skills that you can apply to the role on offer.
What to say about career gaps during an interview:
During your interview, you will probably be asked to provide more details about your career gap. The hiring manager or recruiter will be looking for more detail to understand how you spent your time, and how it was productive.
An employer wants to know how you dealt with difficult situations, too, and what it shows about your character and resilience.
“Nearly everyone has challenges and gaps during their career path. Showing how you dealt with any adversity in a positive way can again work in your favour during the recruitment process
No matter how much you want to work, career gaps can sometimes be totally unavoidable. The best approach during the job application and interview process is to be transparent and honest. Where possible, always show the employer how you faced any challenges with strength and resilience, and how your experiences gave you skills that you can use in your new role.