Deciding to address the gaps in your employment history is often met with slight anxiety. After all, a sabbatical isn't unheard of, so why do we feel so uneasy talking about it?
Reasons for taking a break from workplace are normal and varied. Some may have faced a redundancy from a niche position, which resulted in a lengthy job search. Others may be battling an illness or caring for a family member. Of course, there's the fun reason for taking an extended break. Travel, parenthood, relocation and even renovations spring to mind.
Despite the legitimacy of our break, it can be awkward mid-interview when a hiring manager asks "So... What were you doing in-between?"
Prepare with an honest answer
It's understandable to want to tell a white lie, particularly if the reason for your break is close to home. Yet, it's better to be honest to the best of your ability. Jade, Recruiter for The OCA Group says,
"Being honest on your resume about why you have taken the break will shine you in a more positive light."
Harvey goes on to say that no explanation could be subject to a recruiter’s imagination.
"Leaving it blank, even if it's just six months, can lead to assumptions. A recruiter might question why it's taken so long for you to find another job and draw their own conclusions".
Harvey also urges that it comes down to the industry too. Depending on the type of work or the field, a recruiter might not place focus on why you might have an employment gap. Regardless, Harvey recommends preparing an answer anyway.
"Like you would prep to discuss your previous positions, have a response ready which addresses your career break - just in case".
So, do you address your career break on your resume or once you’ve secured interview?
“Both. If the reason for your break is self-explanatory, include it in your resume. Then it's in the recruiter’s hands if they'd like to discuss it further".
Harvey also suggests listing your career break in your resume like you would with a previous position.
"Fill in the dates of when you started and finished your break, followed by the general reason. For example, Travelling around America, Relocation to Australia from the UK, Completing a course with Online Courses Australia or Parental leave".
If your break was due to medical reasons, it's understandable to want to leave it out of your resume. But a recruiter still might want to chat about it during the interview. If it does, don't feel pressured to go into too much detail if you don't want to. Employers or hiring managers are generally happy with a response like, "I took some time off to have a medical procedure, but I'm healthy now and ready to get back into the workforce".
Think outside the box – Put a spin on the new skills you’ve learnt on your time off
Many people learn skills that aren't job related, so why not shout about it! After all, skills that can help you in your work life aren't always experienced in the office or classroom.
For example, if you've done some independent travelling, it's likely you're a solid communicator. Or if you've taken time off to look after your children, you can talk about the strengths required as a parent, like organisation, discipline and the ability to multi-task.
Remember, gaps in a resume aren’t uncommon and while answering questions about any period of unemployment can be nerve-wracking, you’re not alone. Being prepared to chat openly and professionally about the gaps in your CV can go a long way in securing the job of your dreams!
- Career Development