Most CVs are chronological and document your working life in order, this highlights any gaps. Life is complicated and it doesn’t always follow a nice straight line without holes, interruptions or breaks. If you have a gap then you are certainly not alone and are one of an increasing number through the recent tough market.
Your break/s may be due to illness, unemployment, relocation, travel, parenting or care provision and many more reasons as varied as the individuals taking them. Yet how should you present such periods?
1. Don’t Lie. It will always come back to haunt you. No matter how small or ‘white’ you believe your lie to be, the consequences of being found out could be far greater. Offers can be rescinded and employment contracts terminated.
I once came across a candidate who said during interview that he had spent a portion of his gap travelling abroad to meet family. This was a lie, he hadn’t left the UK. He was offered the job and was delighted to end a three month stint of unemployment. The problem was the offer process involved a security clearance which needed to document the exact times and locations of his travel. The fact that he hadn’t been anywhere in the last 12 months was not a problem, the fact that he lie about it was and jeopardised his position.
2. Be Prepared. Don’t put your head in the sand. You know at some point it is highly likely that a Recruiter will talk through your CV and question breaks so prepare beforehand.
3. Don’t Fudge It. Being vague will not help. I’m always puzzled by candidates who ‘um’ and ‘ah’ their way through, with excuse such as “I don’t have the dates in front of me, I think I took an extended holiday? Was it three weeks or six months?” I don’t know I’m asking you!
4. Be Consistent. The dates must match up with all different versions of your CV or profiles such as those on LinkedIn. Beware that social media must give proof to the information you provide. If you said you were travelling photos may add to your creditability, whereas long periods on twitter bemoaning your unemployment will not.
5. Don’t Over Complicate Or Shroud In Mystery. Some candidates place emphasis the phrase “personal problems”. Yes you do not need to disclose every issue you have although beware, people’s imagination can be far more inventive and subsequently damaging to your case. The other extreme is to give a blow by blow account of your messy divorce for example. Too much information can also be destructive.
6. Stick To The Facts. Whatever the reason simply state the general fact and why now or at what point you were / are able to return to work. This change in circumstance or motivation is important as it highlights why things are different now.
The same can be said for long job searches, I have been looking for the right role and believe this role to be the one because…
7. Show How You Have Kept Up To Date Or Developed Further. One of the main objections to periods of absence from employment is centred on how your experience and skill set may have lost relevancy. Overcome this by highlighting examples of courses, training or reading you have done. Also show how you have developed during this time and how any change you may have gone through, or experience you have had, might add to the organisation.
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Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket