By Elaine Mead
Many people will experience a gap on their resume at some point or other, and with every single industry being impacted in some way by COVID-19 this year, it’s going to be even more common in the years ahead.
Life happens. It might feel awkward having a gap on your resume, but you’re not alone. The good news is, many employers know and understand this. A gap is no longer the ‘big deal’ it used to be — as long as you explain why it’s there positively.
Here are four ways to do just that:
1. Prepare your answer
The best way to explain any gap on your resume is to assume you’ll be asked about it and make sure you prepare your answer.
Time out of the workforce can often make us feel less competitive and cagey about our reasons for taking time off. Spend some time thinking about why you were out of work, how long for, and what you did with that time — what did you learn and how will it benefit you in this role? Keep answers concise and confident.
2. Just be honest
Employers will question longer gaps because they want to make sure you’re committed to the job you’re up for — if you’ve taken time out for medical or family reasons, they’re seeking reassurance you can do the job.
This is your chance to demonstrate your professional honesty. Make sure answers don’t come across as ‘confessional’ but focus on the confidently reassuring the employer you’re ready, motivated and committed to take on the job at hand.
3. Put a professional spin on it
Think about any transferable skills you may have developed. If you took time out following a redundancy to travel, you could share what you’ve learnt and how travelling has helped you improve as a professional (though time management, organisation or adaptability for example).
If you were let go, make sure you don’t bad-mouth your last employer. Stay positive and focus on what you’ve gained from the experience, not what you’ve lost.
4. Don’t panic
Remember: the employer isn’t seeking to catch you out, they’re just curious. Don’t get defensive or anxious if asked about a gap on your resume.
Bring the focus back to why you’re in the room and what makes you the ideal candidate. You don’t have to go into in-depth detail during the interview if the gap was for personal reasons. Advise the employer you took time out for personal/family reasons and it allowed you to refocus on what you’re looking for now in your career. Then launch into how that led you to apply for the job you’re interviewing for and the unique skills you have for the role.
Speaking as someone who’s sat on interview panels numerous times and observed how candidates responded to being asked about employment gaps, I can assure you it’s those who don’t treat the gap as an ‘issue’ that reassure all of us in the room that it isn’t.