5 Tips to Explain an Employment Gap in Your Job Search

Whether you’re a parent who took time off to stay home with your kids or a contract employee who spent time off between assignments, managing a gap in your employment history can improve your chances of landing your next position. First and foremost, be prepared with a strategy that addresses the nuances of your situation. To help you determine your best approach, we’ve assembled these helpful hints.

1. Plan ahead when possible

If you know that you will be leaving the workforce for a set period of time, take steps to ensure that your CV reflects career growth during the hiatus. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, career coach Lynda Spiegel recommends that employees on extended parental leave identify strategies “to stay in the game while staying at home.” Doing so “is critical in planning your eventual comeback,” says Spiegel.

Consider taking some online courses in your field, pick up freelance and volunteer jobs that you can reference on your CV. Stay active on LinkedIn by publishing career-related posts so colleagues and future employers see you are keeping up with your industry.

2. Be up front when necessary

If you’ve been out of the workforce for more than a year, it’s best to account for your time off. You can explain your employment gap directly in a cover letter, on your CV and during interviews. Be creative about illustrating how whatever you did during your time off translates into valuable employment skills.

For instance, if you volunteered overseas, you undoubtedly developed skills that you can implement in your next job. It’s equally important not to underestimate more common experiences, such as the skills required to manage a household and parent young children. Emphasise what you learned about time management, prioritisation, conflict resolution, budgeting and communication during your time working in the home.

3. Don’t overshare

Don’t specifically list a “career gap” or “break” on your CV when listing your experience. Hiring managers are known to scan CVs quickly before deciding whether they’re interested in a candidate, so there’s no reason to draw unwanted attention before the review process has even begun. Though you may need to account for employment gaps further along in the interview process, it makes sense to not eliminate yourself before you have the opportunity to explain any gaps. With any luck, by the time your employer talks to references or has you provide exact dates of service, you’ll already have impressed them enough to overlook any significant gaps in employment.

4. Frame employment gaps positively

Avoid dwelling on any personal or professional problems that may have led to gaps in your work history and above all, do not blame your previous employer for losing or leaving a job. Instead, be clear and succinct, positive and non-defensive in your explanation.

5. Rework your CV

Instead of making your CV a list of jobs and dates, use it to highlight your skills. 

If you’ve spent time volunteering, create a section on your CV that’s all about your volunteer work. If possible, provide specifics about the organisation for which you volunteered, your role in the organisation and the outcome of your efforts. If you organised a fundraiser to raise money for cancer research, discuss how you organised the event, how many people attended the fundraiser and how much money was raised. Experiences like this will prove beneficial for just about any career you wish to pursue.

Need more tips for a successful job search? Contact an Aerotek recruiter today.