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How to explain gaps in your CV

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When it comes to getting a job, it’s important that you stand out for all the right reasons. But even if you’ve nailed everything else, gaps in your CV can still raise a red flag for a lot of employers, especially if you had a fairly varied history before. Although it can be a potential problem when finding employment, there are a number of ways you can ensure that it doesn’t hurt your chances.

Why is there a gap?

The first thing you have to do is work out why the gaps exist – did you quit for exams? Or were you simply unable to find a job? Even worse is a job which ended badly and is now omitted to avoid awkward explanations with your new employer. Being no stranger to any of these scenarios, I’ve found that different reasons require different methods to explain.

What’s the worst?

The worst situation you can find yourself in is the latter. Although it depends on the length of time you spent employed with the company, you can sometimes get away with a gap of a few months – that’s easily explained by the atrocious job market for young people. But anything longer than that, and you really will have to include the employment. Just have a plausible excuse for leaving when you enter the interview room.

Damage control

In fact, a general method of damage control when explaining gaps on your CV is to include reasons for leaving each employer. This lets potential new employers know what your priorities are off the bat, and could eliminate those who expect too much of you, particularly students. Honesty is usually the best policy, and it’s important that your new managers know that you might have to wind work down come exam period. It’s also worth remembering that all experience is good experience: even though you weren’t paid for it, you still got to be in a professional environment and that will reflect well on you to employers.

In all other cases, it’s just best to be honest. Chances are you aren’t entering a highly skilled field as a student and you won’t have to have buckets of experience behind you. If you took a year out to travel or if you just couldn’t be bothered to work for a few months, be upfront but eloquent and articulate. As long as you didn’t clash with previous managers or get fired for a good reason then it shouldn’t affect your chances.

How do you explain gaps in your CV? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Pawel Loj / Flickr

Warwick Editor for Career Camels and Deputy Comment Editor for The Boar.
Nicholas BuxeyHow to explain gaps in your CV

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