With the UK economy struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19, unemployment is rising. More applicants are applying for fewer jobs, and the situation may worsen in the coming months.
Faced with growing piles of CVs, recruiters will be looking for quick ways to thin the herd. Unexplained gaps in your employment history give recruiters an easy excuse to reject your application.
This article will help you turn gap-related weaknesses in your CV into strengths.
Does your CV have a problem with gaps?
A gap of a few weeks won’t be an issue for most recruiters. Longer gaps also won’t be much of a problem if they occurred five or ten years ago.
However, an unexplained gap that’s longer than a couple of months, and within the last few years, could affect your chances of getting an interview.
If you make the cut but don’t address a recent gap at the interview stage, a prospective employer may have still unspoken reservations that could still harm your prospects.
Your rights vs reality
A prospective employer should not discriminate against you just because you have gaps in your CV.
Chris Salmon, Director of Quittance.co.uk said, “UK law protects workers and job applicants from discrimination in relation to a wide range of factors, called protected characteristics, including illness and disability. Time off work due to injury, illness or psychological issues like stress, should not affect how a future employer considers your application.”
An unexplained gap in your CV could relate to a health issue. In theory, at least, employers should avoid rejecting your application on the basis of an unexplained gap as this might amount to unintentional discrimination.
In reality, an unexplained gap creates uncertainty in the mind of a recruiter. Even the most conscientious employer will be wary of unanswered questions. When choosing between two equally-qualified candidates, a recruiter will usually favour the applicant with a more coherent, more complete CV.
How do you fill a CV gap?
If you had six months off work ten years ago, you probably don’t need to mention it. That said, you are taking a risk by leaving more recent gaps on your CV without offering at least some explanation.
Even if you think the reason for a gap isn’t particularly relevant or impressive, like you had to take six months off work because you had a serious road accident, you should usually still include that information on your CV.
There are several ways to tackle CV gaps, some more effective than others. These include:
- Hiding a gap by fudging dates (not recommended)
- Leaving a gap (depends on the circumstances)
- Giving details and “selling” the benefits of your time off (usually the best option)
Should you fudge dates to hide a gap?
How you order and present the information on your CV can hide a multitude of sins. Instead of listing job tenures by months and years, you could hide almost a two-year gap by just listing your job history in years.
Recruiters are wise to most tricks, however. If you manipulate dates to hide a longer gap, you could be setting yourself up for failure. If you only reveal a gap when asked for more detail in an interview, the recruiter may think you were trying to hide something (which you were).
Hiding a CV gap can look dishonest, and saying nothing means you are unable to put a positive spin on the gap when a recruiter does spot it. Manipulating dates to hide a recent gap is not recommended.
Private reasons for a gap
If the reason for the gap is something you don’t want to discuss publicly, like a traumatic injury, you have every right to keep this private. In this case, it would be helpful to a recruiter to state something generic on your CV, rather than simply leaving a gap.
You could write something like “In 2018, I had to take several months off work due to health issues. These are now fully resolved.”
A good recruiter will know not to press further. If you are offered an interview and are concerned the issue might be raised, you could contact the company’s HR rep or the recruiter before the interview and explain that you don’t want to discuss it for personal reasons.
Far from negatively affecting your prospects, this approach will show that you are a proactive problem-solver.
Turn CV weaknesses into strengths
Putting a positive spin on a gap in your CV will usually involve a change in mindset. Don’t approach your CV as just a list of qualifications and jobs. Instead, try writing your CV to emphasise the skills and experience you have gathered. A gap doesn’t have to mean wasted time.
During your recovery from a serious injury, you could have spent time coding HTML, or learning to speak Spanish. You could have taken an online course, set up a website or blog, or done charity work or mentoring.
Even if you don’t think you have much to show for a long absence, you can still emphasise your emotional or psychological growth. Anyone who has suffered a serious injury or illness knows that recovery is a long process. You could focus on how you have developed stronger willpower or become more resilient as a result of your experience.
Be more memorable
Whatever the cause, most CV gaps can be spun. By clearly explaining what happened, you can avoid the risk (and anxiety) that a problem is discovered later. If you did hide something, and it came to light later, your employer may revoke a job offer on the basis of perceived dishonesty.
Taking an open and honest approach here will show your whole CV in a more positive, trustworthy light. Your more rounded application will be also more memorable, giving you a better chance for reaching the interview stage and improving your prospects of landing the job.
Our Career Coaching programmes can help you identify a coherent and convincing career narrative’. For further info contact CCS today.