I was asked a question last week by someone who applied to one of our vacancies about how they should tackle an employment gap in their CV.
It got me thinking and it sparked a lively debate in the office.
“It obviously means they’ve been to prison,” was one of the sweeping generalisations I heard. But in truth, having a huge gap on the employment record part of your CV does raise questions. More often than not they’ll be negative ones.
Think about it from a recruiter’s perspective. Typically speaking, someone assessing upwards of 100 CVs for a role has about 30 seconds to rule someone in or out of the running for a particular vacancy.
It’s often a ruthless process. If there’s any doubt about your application whatsoever it can mean the difference between going forward to the second stage or being ruled out.
I’m not saying that an employment gap can’t be completely justified and the gap doesn’t always mean you had a stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure!
But if the gap isn’t clearly and explicitly explained in your CV, you ultimately leave the recruiter guessing as to what you’ve been up in that time. In turn this means that they then have to:
a) Rule you out completely, or
b) Investigate your situation further
Given that most recruiters are inherently lazy they’ll probably opt for the former (I apologise for my own sweeping generalisation of the recruitment industry there!).
I think some of the best advice I heard when I was jobsearching over 15 years ago, and the advice I still give out today to anyone that asks, is if you’re looking for a job, put yourselves in the position of the person receiving your application.
- Is the application relevant to the position?
- Can you demonstrate that you are able to do the job?
- Have you written a detailed covering letter identifying your key strengths in relation to the position you’re applying for?
- Are there any – yes any – negatives on your CV/application that could raise doubts? If you have any doubts about this one, as Chris Tarrant would say, phone a friend.
To maximise your chances of finding a position you need to reverse-engineer your application and build it in the eyes of a recruiter.
Treat the job advert like an exam question, make sure you address everything that the recruiter is asking for in the advert either through a CV or a covering letter (or ideally both), and most importantly don’t leave your CV in a position that means the recruiter has some basic and obvious doubts.
You want the recruiter to want to talk to you, but for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. Leave them thinking you’re the perfect person for the role and you’ll have opportunities flooding your inbox.
It could mean the difference between helping you secure that next big career move or not.
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