Getting the Job Despite an Unemployment Gap
There are many reasons that people might have unemployment gaps on their CVs. The poor economy of the last decade, of course, has had a major impact on employment around Scotland, and many people applying for jobs today might have to contend with having to explain to a prospective boss why their CV includes gaps of months, if not years. Other times, people deliberately choose to take some time off of work for a period of time, either as a means of self-reflection or in order to travel the world. Another possibility occurs when people have to quit their jobs due to suffering from a long-term illness or injury, the recovery process of which prevents them from seeking or carrying out other employment in the meantime.
In the past, employers tended to frown upon CV gaps. In today’s world, these gaps are certainly more common and understandable. The following is a list of tips to help you nail the interview and hopefully get the job whether or not your interviewee is sympathetic to this.
If possible, avoid the issue entirely in your CV and cover letter.
Your CV and cover letter are the places to sell yourself and your strong points and to let the boss know why you would be perfect for this job. Because of this, it is best to not mention any negatives at all. Simply present your information, playing up all of your accomplishments at various previous jobs. If a prospective employer is impressed enough with the good, he or she will likely want to interview you regardless. You can rest assured that, if the gap is an issue, it will be brought up at the interview, at which point you can explain yourself.
Structure your CV in such a way that it doesn’t call attention to the gap(s).
The best way to draw a potential employer’s attention away from a gap is to obscure it on your CV. One useful trick would be to not include specific months when listing start and end dates for each job in the “Experience” section but just the years, instead. This could make the gap seem shorter. For example, if your last job ended at the beginning of February 2017 and it is now May 2018, don’t name the month. If you do, an employer would realise you were out of work for well over a year. On the other hand, if you just write “2017,” there is the possibility that your work ended much later in the year, thus constituting a much less dramatic gap.
You can also restructure your CV so that, instead of chronological order, it is listed in descending order of importance. This way, your most impressive experience will be the first thing an employer sees. Be aware, however, that many employers will realise that this trick is meant to detract from gaps in work, so only do this if it’s crucial.
Also, if you have any gaps in your CV from early on in your career, you could always choose only to begin listing jobs after those gaps occurred, assuming that those early jobs aren’t important to selling yourself now.
If absolutely necessary, you can explain a gap in your cover letter.
If you are worried that the gap is just too extreme, you can include an explanation in your cover letter, though this is not advised. It’s always easier to inspire someone to empathise with your needs or to convince that person to take a chance on you regardless of an employment gap when you do it in person. Further, there is the slight chance the employer won’t have noticed the gap anyway, so why call attention to it?
If you do decide to address it in the cover letter, however, make sure that you only do so after explaining why you would be great for the job. Start off with your strong points because they will stand out more. Afterwards, you can explain the gap, but it is best to spin it positively. Be creative. Explain how this experience of unemployment helped shape your worldview to one that is uniquely suited to this job. Describe what you did to help better yourself during this time. Make a strong argument for why, regardless of this gap, you are the best person for this job.
Remember to accentuate the positives at the interview.
The cover letter advice should be similarly applied to the interview. During the interview, don’t bring up the gap yourself. If it isn’t mentioned, that is a wonderful thing. If it is, which it probably will be, come armed with a prepared response similar to the one described above. To clarify, “prepared” doesn’t mean it should be written down but simply that you shouldn’t let it throw you for a loop. Know exactly how you’re going to respond and how you’re going to sell yourself. Don’t sound overly apologetic because that might come across as begging. Instead, address the fact that you realise that this gap may not be ideal head-on but that there are also many reasons that it won’t be a problem in the future. It will make you seem stronger, more competent, and more confident. At the same time, don’t be boastful as that might come across as over-selling it.
Be honest and sincere.
Try to obfuscate as little as possible. Odds are that you aren’t an expert liar and won’t be able to spin a completely convincing, airtight story. Furthermore, you might later find yourself having to prove that story. If you had to stop working for a while due to a mental illness, you might want to be vague about its precise nature and just refer to it as an “illness”. There is still a societal stigma about this sort of thing. In this case, however, you haven’t lied. Instead, you just decided to not be specific about a deeply personal issue, which is completely acceptable.
In the end, what is most important is that you are as true to yourself as possible. If you know that you are right for a job, don’t let an employment gap on your CV get in the way of convincing a potential employer of that fact. With the right qualifications, a positive attitude, and a strong argument, you will have an enormous advantage before you even enter the interview.
Now that you know how to deal with your career gaps, go and find your perfect job in Scotland. And don't let it stop you!