When you're applying for a new position, you want to ensure that your CV and cover letter are perfect. You record every relevant piece of experience. You lay out your skills and academic career. But what about when you have a gap? That's right, for whatever reason, you have several months to years of space between jobs or school on your CV. Does this look bad to an employer? Do you need some job interview tips to prepare you if they bring up the gap? Gaps in employment or school shouldn't be a big deal as long as your work has been consistent, you have an impressive work history and good references, but it's still good to prepare yourself. Keep reading for a few ideas on explaining gaps in employment just in case it comes up.
What Not to Do
Before we go over what you should do to explain the gaps, we'll go over what you shouldn't do. It's easy to panic when this question comes around and do more harm than good mistakes. To help you avoid these mistakes, here's a quick list of "don'ts."
First, don't panic if there's a brief gap in your resume. Employers understand that. Between needing a short break, travelling, gap years, and job hunting, gaps of six months or less won't even register on your employer's radar. It's also not uncommon to leave out months on resumes, so it may not even be noticeable. Some applications require months, but this isn't a given. If you have a six-month gap, don't mention it unless the employer does. It's okay, and they won't mind.
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If you have a gap of longer than six months, don't try to hide it. You should always assume that your employer will find out anything, even if you omit it from your resume. They may not, but by assuming the worst-case scenario, you'll prepare yourself for when the question comes up. Hiding the gap means omitting dates overall. While you may be able to get away with leaving months out (especially for jobs that you worked a long time ago. The specific months could be unclear), leaving years out always looks suspicious. While you don't have to mention the gap during the interview, don't hide it on your resume. You can even include it if you think it will help you.
You don't have to grovel to the potential employer if you have a gap. There's no need to feel ashamed of it, and that uneasiness may be a red flag to the person who's interviewing you. If you need to explain your gap, do so with confidence. In the next section, we'll discuss spinning it to a positive (if you have to).
Job Interview Tips: What to Do Instead
Now that you know what not to do, what are you supposed to do? You've included all of your dates on your resume, you've dropped your gap-period shame, and you've determined whether or not your gap is significant enough to fret about. What's next? Here are a few tips on how you should handle any questions about your gaps in employment so both you and your potential employer will feel comfortable.
When your potential employer asks about your employment gap, you don't have to go into great detail. You can offer a short response covering all the essential facts and move on to the next question. If you have your gap written on your resume, they may ask for more information. It might be out of curiosity rather than suspicion. If the interviewer asks for more information, speak with confidence. For example, if you needed to take a year off to take care of a sick family member, you needn't say anything more. Many interviewers won't feel that it's appropriate to ask further personal questions. It's concise, and it's something that they wouldn't be able to track, so they're likely to leave it at that.
If you're nervous that your gap is unacceptable, try to think of ways to be positive rather than negative. Remember, you want to focus on strengths for a job interview. Some people will recommend lying about your gap to make it sound better. Again while you can do this, remember that you want to assume that your employer will find out. Honesty is the best policy. Instead, think of ways that your gap was helpful. If you spent a year looking for employment, talk about how you've been determined to find the right career path rather than 'any' job. You're looking for something specific, and you've seen it in the job you're interviewing for. This makes you seem like a determined and confident potential employee who's committed to the job.
If you took a year off to travel or work on personal projects, talk about how you were learning and trying to gain unconventional experience to expand your skill sets and perspective. With all of this in mind, again, you don't always have to give this extra information if your interviewer doesn't request it.
Gaps In Employment on Your CV are No Big Deal
It's okay to have gaps in your employment on your CV. If you prepare yourself for your job interview ahead of time, talking about your employment gap should be as easy as talking about your strengths and weaknesses. When you make it to the interview stage, the employer is already interested in you. Think about the interview as a conversation rather than a test. You don't fail if you have an employment gap.