How to fix gaps in your employment history
In spite of what others may have you believe, no one has the perfect resumé. Some gaps are more obvious than others – for example, a year and a half out in your late twenties may be more difficult to explain than a three-month break in your late teens. Don’t panic! Whether your gaps took place years ago or you are just returning to work after one of them, this guide will give you some tips to making yourself look like a great prospect to future employers.
Honesty is generally the best policy
Most gaps can be reasonably explained by honest and frank discussions. Don’t forget, employers are human too. Most of them will have gone through difficult (although not necessarily similar) experiences in their lives. A frank discussion about gaps may enhance your chances – few people are prepared to be open and honest at job interviews,
something that can infuriate employers.
The difference between a CV and interview
A CV or resume is there for you to highlight your achievements and skills. You should not feel obliged to highlight where you have not succeeded or not worked on a CV (although some employers will ask for a complete, dated employment history). Interviews are a different matter – your future employer will ask questions about your background and it may prove much more difficult to hide things you would rather not discuss.
Prepare what you want to say
If you’ve decided to discuss a gap in your employment history – and remember it might not necessarily come up in the course of an application – try and plan what to say in advance. If the experience was a particularly difficult or complex one, it might prove difficult to discuss it in the way you want to at interview. Running over what to say in your head will be a great way to make sure you get it right when it matters.
What have you learned from your experience?
When applying for a job you are essentially trying to sell your skills and knowledge to an employer. Think about how you can sell gaps in your employment history – did it allow you to reassess your career, or has the challenge forced you to confront things in a different way? Such responses may sound trite, but you can gain a great deal from working out how your experiences helped change and develop you – even if you don’t think they will look good to future employers. Remember there is always a positive side to employment gaps –time off for children might mean you are now ready to focus on your career. If you were laid off or made redundant from a previous post, maybe it made you more determined than ever to succeed!
What did you do when you weren’t working?
Even if they weren’t the primary reason for your taking time out of work, think of other things you did during your employment history to ‘keep in the game.’ Remember, it’s often more about you as a person than a bad or indifferent experience in your life. For example, how did you keep abreast with developments in your chosen industry. Conversely, if you have been laid off or made redundant, try and stay active by taking part in activities such as industry-related blogging. It will be a real help in the future.
Remember, the past is past
Interviews are particularly difficult as they mean that you – the potential employee – will seek some kind of approval from a stranger – who could turn out to be your boss. It is important you remain confident and assertive whatever challenges are presented by an application process. Don’t let your worries over your employment history get in the way of otherwise great interviews.
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