The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted more than our health. Millions of people have lost jobs since the pandemic started over a year and a half ago. And while some have found new positions, others are struggling with the lasting impact of the disruption.
If you lost your job due to the pandemic, you may be wondering how to explain this employment gap to potential employers. You may also have gaps in your work history due to long-COVID, being furloughed or having to leave your job because of childcare problems.
There are many reasons why you might have gaps in your resume. However, if you know how to explain it well, it won’t hinder your job search. In fact, according to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, 49% of US employers said that resume gaps are becoming less of a red flag as a result of current market conditions. But that doesn't mean you won't have to talk about your work history.
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“People tend to worry about gaps on their CV because they feel it can be a red flag to an employer, or at the very least raise awkward questions,” says Victoria McLean, CEO & founder of career consultancy and outplacement services firm City CV.
“You may also feel that it suggests you jump between roles, and generally reflects negatively rather than being something that was very positive for you and could actually benefit a potential employer,” she says.
“Additionally, we worry because an extended career break can mean we don't feel 100% 'on it' when we return to the workplace. We might lack a little of our previous confidence or not be so sure of our capabilities.”
Despite this, it’s important to remember that vast numbers of people have experienced furlough and redundancy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Employers are aware of the situation and the unprecedented problems many workers have faced. To some extent, McLean says, this has normalised the issue of having gaps on CVs.
“More people will have gaps on their CV or had a huge change in their circumstances, and that in itself will hopefully mean that it's less likely to be seen as a wholly negative thing,” she adds.
However, you may still be asked about your work history during the pandemic. So how should you go about explaining a CV gap when job hunting?
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While you may be tempted to skirt over the topic or make up an excuse as to why you were out of work, it’s better to be honest with potential employers about your employment gap. Many recruiters will be understanding about gaps due to COVID-19 and won’t hold this against you when considering you for a position.
“If asked, I recommend you express the gap as intended and planned — if it was,” says McLean. “Briefly explain what you did over that period, talking about the positives and any achievements.”
Focus on your professional achievements
Panicking about employment gaps can lead job seekers to overlook their wealth of experience and achievements. Instead, concentrate on selling yourself, your skills and your attributes that make you the ideal candidate for the job.
“You don't need to focus on the gap, instead focus on your professional experience,” says McLean. “I'm not encouraging you to lie and taking this tack doesn’t undervalue what you may have done in any gaps, but ideally the interview should focus on your professional experience and be about strategically aligning you to your target role.”
Don’t be tempted to lie
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to explaining employment gaps. If you were made redundant, explain that the company had budget cuts or restructured during the pandemic and that you were let go. If a potential employer asks why you left your job, be honest without talking badly about your previous employer or boss.
Hiding gaps in your CV is definitely a bad idea, but you don't want to focus on them either, advises McLean.
“Instead, you could briefly showcase any gaps as something positive by outlining achievements, such as voluntary work or helping friends with start-ups,” she says. “If you didn’t do anything commercial, you don't need to say anything, but if you want to, you could include a short career break activities section — put it immediately below your professional experience.”
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