Ask a Recruiter...
Our senior consultant Emma Acton-Bloom shares her pearls of wisdom about this interview question that is as common as it is tricky.
Why are there gaps in your CV?
Emma’s number one tip when asked this? Never lie as you could very easily get found out.
All that you need to do is put a positive spin on your circumstance.
Change the narrative from “I could not find a job” to “I decided to take a couple of months out to re-focus my career within this industry” – this seems thoughtful rather than reeking of desperation.
You might ask, what if I didn’t choose to? – again, positivity goes a long way. In this situation, focus on what you learned from the experience and talk about what you are going to implement to your career to improve your skills.
There is always a valid reason for a break so just tactfully explain your specific situation.
Here are some ways to explain some of the reasons I frequently come across:
- Career break – to go travelling or to upskill yourself by learning a new skill or taking a course or two or volunteering – be proactive in explaining these.
- Travelling - You could say “I took a few months to go and see the world and to dive into different cultures. This experience has been invaluable and now I am ready to start focussing on me and my career.” I would advise you not to say, "I left and went travelling and I was not ready for the world of work and I don’t remember most of it"…
- Looking after a sick relative – this happens, as life does, but it’s how you explain your narrative that counts. Keep things positive, don’t dwell on what’s happened – but explain what you did when you were looking after a sick relative (same as above bar the travelling of course). You could say that they are a fit bill of health now, so I am getting back into the game myself.
I wouldn’t recommend you saying “I have had personal issues and I don’t want to talk about them.”
– Honesty again, is best! I know you are not after a pity party, but it shows you're compassionate and now ready to hit the ground running again.
- If you are sick – explain that you felt that you were unable to continue to work due to a reoccurring medical condition, but you are now fighting fit to take on your new challenge. Don’t say it made it difficult to work and hold down a job.
- Back to work mums – well, we all know that having children and looking after them is hard work and provides you with loads of transferable skills – so be proud, act like it’s on your CV and explain what the invaluable experience has taught you.
- Redundancy – be positive! When someone is made redundant, it is not because of you doing a bad job, it’s because the company can’t afford you. So, I would say that "due to budget cuts in my previous studio, they had to make some tough decisions and made me redundant due to financial cuts. I am very proud of what I achieved there" and tell them about it. Avoid sounding bitter and avoid saying things like “they had it in for me” or “my line manager and I didn’t see eye to eye.”
Once you get the interview – it is inevitable that you will be asked about these gaps – so be prepared!
Remember be positive about them and you won't get caught off guard. Also, show the interviewer that you have done your homework on the studio – mention projects that you like the look of, ask them questions about it – this shows that you are passionate.
Mention what you like or even didn’t like about a particular project or how you would have executed it differently, as this shows that you are up to date with what is going on in the industry (it shows that you have spent your time not working, well).
Confidence, honesty and positivity are qualities that speak volumes! When you speak about your experience, use these traits and you will have nothing to worry about.
All your experience is relative. Planning is definitely key here. Interviewers are not there to trip you up – they are wanting to get a better sense of you. It is not unusual to have gaps in your work life, and it will only stand out if you don’t explain it. The main thing here is to show that you are now ready to get back in there and do what you love and do it well.
To contact Emma regarding creative roles, drop her a line here.