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Have gaps in your CV? Here’s how to get around this in an interview

By Thea Watson, Marketing Director of Hays UK & I and UK Board member

It can be common to have gaps within your CV. Examples can range from looking after a family member or applying for a new job. You may have been travelling abroad, spent your time caring for your children, or decided to go back to education. 

Gaps are becoming more and more common within people’s careers, as many people find themselves working until they reach their 70s and 80s. This growing trend is likely to lead people to have more gaps within their CV, as more people are adopting non-linear career journeys. Our CEO Alistair Cox talks about how these trends are becoming more common in his recent LinkedIn Influencer blog.

But how can you get past this in an interview which makes the client want you as an employee, rather than turning you out the door?

Techniques to use to explain your gaps in your CV

Firstly, there are several guidelines you can follow before looking into the most common CV gaps:

  • Be positive when talking about why you may have taken a break.
  • When speaking about what you did during you time away from the workplace, it’s crucial that you highlight how this was beneficial to you. For Example, you may have kept up to date on certain industry news, been volunteering or had a part-time job on the side. If this is the case, you should highlight it, as well as the lessons you’ve learnt.
  • Whatever reason for your CV gap, be clear and genuine with your response, without going into unnecessary detail.
  •  Start by explaining why you were out of work, then go on to explain what you did with your time, and lastly emphasise why you think this is the right opportunity for you.
  • Direct your answer to explain what you did during your time away, and why what your learnt is applicable to this role, rather than explain the causes for the gap.

Common reasons for CV gaps, and how to get around this is in an interview.

1. You’ve been searching for a job

  • Explain how you your time away developed your skills and kept you informed about industry trends.
  • Make it clear that you have used the time to really think about what you want from a new role and a new employer.
  • Explain how you have been continuously looking for a new job.
  • Highlight why this is suited to you – you’re looking for a role which is a good fit for you, not just any role.
  • Example answer: “Once my part time job came to an end 5 months ago, I instantly started looking for a job which would allow me to push my career in the right direction, be impactful, as well as develop my skill sets. Whilst I’ve been to a number of interviews, I haven’t found the role that suits me yet. I’m particularly interested in the possibilities that this job would provide me, such as X, Y, Z”.

2. You've been looking after your children

  • Clarify that you took time away to prioritise your family.
  • Explain that you’re ready to get back into work and are looking for new challenges.
  • Let them know why this particular role will be a good fit for you.
  • Example answer: “I became a father and needed to focus on my family and raising my daughter after leaving my last role. I am now eager to start working again and take on new responsibilities, pushing both my professional and personal development.”

3. You went back into education

  • Explain the specific skills you wanted to gain or the qualifications you wished to require.
  • Example answer: “I made the decision to return to education to enhance my career and upskill. Now that I’ve finished, I’ve been looking for new opportunities in which I can put these new skills to the test. When I saw this role, I thought it was an excellent fit and place I could add value.

4. You went travelling

  • Be keen and enthusiastic that you’re now ready to return to work
  • Explain why you decided to go travelling, whilst focusing on developing your new cultural understandings, broader mind set and personal development.
  • Tell your potential employer what you like about the potential opportunities this role has to offer.
  • Example answer: “I took a year out to be exposed to new perspectives and exciting environments by travelling to Cambodia and Thailand. Not only did I achieve my goals during this time, but I learnt valuable life lessons. I’m now ready to commit to the next stage of my life, as an executive data analyst. I’m impressed by this agency’s commitment to both professional and personal development, as well as their desire to grow within the market, as well as their incentive on a healthy work balance life”.

5. You had to take time off due to illness

  • Let them know that you’re ready to get back into work, highlighting why you think you’d be a good fit for the role.
  • Don’t feel obliged to give specific information about the illness
  • What did you do during your time. Did you volunteer locally, or develop a certain skill set, or keep up with certain industry news.
  • Example answer: “I felt unable to continue within my previous job due to a recurring medical issue. However, I am now ready to return and make a meaningful impact within this role. It’s a position which very much suits my skill set, fits my values and gives me the opportunity to make a difference every day.”

6. You were caring for a relative

  • Make it clear that your relative has now recovered or is being supported elsewhere.
  • Be enthusiastic and state that you’re ready to start work again.
  • You don’t need to provide any information into the cause of the illness or your caring responsibilities.
  • Example answer: “I had to leave my previous job to care for one of my family members. I’ve done this for the past year. My relative is now being looked after fully, so I’ve started looking for a job again. I am now looking for a role within a new and dynamic company that will allow me to build on my current skill set, as well as thinking this opportunity was a good fit.”

Remember that there’s no shame in having gaps in your CV. Gaps in your career isn’t something you should hide from an interviewer. So, when you’re asked about any gaps on your CV by an interviewer, answer honestly and confidently, give concrete examples of how you’ve used your time outside of work, and why you’re enthusiastic about the role you have applied for.

To discover further insights into how automation is impacting jobs and the steps you can take to prepare, request your copy of the Hays What Workers Want Report 2019.

About this author

Thea is responsible for the UK & I marketing team as well as driving the strategic direction of the marketing function, looking closely at opportunities for growth, positioning in the marketplace and sales support. She was appointed to the Hays UK & I Board in July 2017, following joining the UK business in the summer of 2016. Prior to her current role she was the Vice President of Marketing for the Hays Americas business, joining the business in 2012. Under her management she built the marketing function from general support to a strategic driver of sales, establishing a central marketing unit supporting Canada, US and four Latin American countries.

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