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How to handle an employment gap on your CV

career advice

You have your reasons for being away from work – from taking a short break from your career, to struggling to land a job, to personal reasons such as recovering from an illness or wanting to spend more time with your family.

But no matter the reason behind your hiatus, not knowing how to address them properly can become an imminent obstacle between you and your next job.

When recruiters notice the employment gap in your resume, they ask themselves the following questions:

1. Why did this candidate have such a big gap between jobs?
2. What did the candidate get up to during the gap year? What happened?
3. Should I be worried about this behaviour?

While each situation is unique, the following steps give you a good idea of how to explain the different phases of your career comeback:

During your break

Keep yourself updated with industry happenings
The workplace is constantly evolving and a lot can change while you’re away – even if only for six months. When looking for a new role, do your research, read the news, and learn about the latest market trends or development. Knowing industry happenings can give you a better idea of what hiring managers are looking for in potential candidates.

Upgrade your skills; learn new ones
Understanding the changing needs of today’s workplace is important; you should never be satisfied with your existing skillsets. Always be proactive about unlearning and relearning old skills, or picking up new skills that may come in handy in your future workplace.

In your resume

Pick the format that best showcases your credentials and qualifications
When returning to work, most job seekers want a functional resume that can mask the employment gap. But instead of focusing on the gap, why not focus on putting your best foot forward?

We’d recommend taking on the reverse-chronological resume format. Unlike traditional resumes, this format places your job-related experience and accomplishments at the top of your resume, giving employers an instant overview of your capabilities.

Don’t disguise your hiatus
If you’re worried about employers probing about your unemployment, and plan to get away with it with false employment details – STOP!

Being the resourceful creatures that recruiters naturally are, it is very likely that they will contact your previous employers to learn more about you. Lying about your employment history will hurt your career more than when you acknowledge your job hiatus.

Don’t bring attention to dates
When crafting your resume, avoiding surrounding your dates with white spaces – which will draw more attention to your unemployment than necessary.

Place them in parentheses next to your job titles instead, like this:
Account Executive (June 2014 – February 2016)

Show your enthusiasm to return to the workforce
In your cover letter, do briefly explain why you left your last job, emphasising on the fact that you’re now available and excited to return.

At your next interview

Exude confidence
Always pre-empt the interview questions relevant to your situation ahead of time, and rehearse your answers to them. Show that you’re knowledgeable about the current industry environment, and always display an eagerness to be back and to learn again.

Honesty is your best policy
It is inevitable that your interviewer will ask you about your hiatus. You’re free to share about what you got up to during your break, without needing to go into the nitty-gritty details (unless the situation calls for it, while others will really benefit from discretion).

Lying or avoiding the topic altogether can arouse curiosity, and may even raise suspicions about your character – which may affect your chances of moving ahead in the hiring process.

What’s the next step in your career? For more job interview tips and tricks, click here.

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