HR Series with Selina Buabeng: Three tips on how to explain the employment gaps in your CV

HR Series with Selina Buabeng: Five tips to help you ace a virtual interview

An employment gap is a period of time (months or years) when a job seeker was unemployed. This could be a voluntary decision to take a career break for reasons including raising a family, schooling, travelling, health issues etc. It can also be as a result of redundancy. If you have gaps in employment, you might be wondering if you stand a chance. Gaps on a resume – especially if they are a lot – are a big red flag. Without explanation, it can affect your chances of being hired and employers may assume you are disloyal, lack stability, lack credibility among others.

As a rule of thumb, be prepared to explain any employment gap that is four months or longer when you go for an interview. Employers tend to be interested in what a candidate has been up to. Give a brief overview but don’t go into too much detail. Explain why you were unemployed during that time, what you did, and emphasise why you think the role you are interviewing for is the right fit for you.

Another thing you need to do is to rework your CV to highlight your relevant skills and experiences. Two formats work great for resume gaps. The ‘combination resume’ and the ‘functional resume’ focus on relevant skills. The combination resume is a hybrid of the chronological and functional resume. The functional resume, also known as skills-based resume, highlights one’s skills and abilities. It is most suitable when making a career transition.

Here are three tips and an example that will help you explain gaps in employment on your resume and come off as the great candidate you are:

Be Transparent

Be honest and be your best professional self. Dishonesty gets discovered and is grounds for withdrawing job offers and for firing. Transparency is key when explaining employment gaps to employers. Be honest and concisely explain why it occurred. Highlight what you learned during your time away from the office by sharing soft skills, lessons or any other essential takeaways you learnt during that period. However, you need to identify achievements in the employment gap that fit the job offer. In other words, conduct research to find out what the company needs and highlight relevant accomplishments in line with that on your resume.

Assure that it’s not a pattern

Tell your story to show that the employment gap will not recur, and erase any form of doubt the employer might have. Employers want to ensure that you do not have a tendency of job-hopping every few months and you are not susceptible to doing that in the role they are hiring you for.

Be prepared

Before explaining a resume-gap, know what you are going to say before the fact and stick to the script. Without one employers will assume the worst, and you will want to avoid fumbling or else the employer will feel you are unprepared or you are trying to conceal the truth. Transition by aligning what you learned and accomplished with why you would be great for the job at hand. If you quit your job without having another one to fall back on, explain what you learned and achieved, what you are looking for in your next job and role, and why that led you to apply to for that job.

This is an example of an explanation you can give when posed with the question:

For example, I made a difficult decision to take a break from my professional life to focus on helping my family or further my education. During this period, I kept my professional skills up to speed by undertaking short courses and certifications in Project Management. I was also able to hone additional skills in problem solving, communication and negotiations.

It’s not unusual to have a gap in your employment history, and it’ll only stand out if you don’t explain it. What employers want is for you to demonstrate your enthusiasm, value and commitment you will bring onboard. Finally, confidence and honesty are desirable qualities for any interviewee. Approaching the situation with the right degree of both will speak volumes about your personality. So, be honest and always attempt to address the issue early. That way, you will have nothing to worry about.

 >>>Selina Buabeng is an HR Practitioner with over 11 years’ cross-industry experience in Ghana’s banking sector. She is a Certified Human Resource Practitioner with certification from the Institute of Human Resources Practitioners Ghana. She holds an MBA in Human Resource Management and BSc. Human Resource Management from University of Ghana and Valley View University respectively. Connect with Selina via LinkedIn: Selina Buabeng, Instagram/Twitter: @ selinabuabeng, YouTube: Selina Buabeng


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