I graduated from uni with a computer science degree a couple of years ago, but for various reasons I haven’t been working. I want to start applying for new jobs but I’m worried about what a potential employer will ask about the gap in my CV. Should I say I’ve been working as a freelancer during that time?
NO! Always be honest. Your honesty can provide you with a competitive advantage in the job market, not maybe as you expect, but advantageous nonetheless…
We see ‘gaps’ on CVs for a broad range of reasons. Most commonly, candidates have experienced something in their personal life that’s meant some time off from work has been necessary. Less commonly, but not rarely, candidates wish to travel or take time out to upskill in their field. Neither should be a turn off for potential employers, but in the era of mass applicants, high competition and highly-skilled candidate pool, employers often filter initial applications on their patchy or ‘gappy’ career history.
It’s important to think about why a potential employer might have concerns about CV gaps:
- What has this candidate been doing?
- Why did they leave their previous role without something lined up?
- Have they been looking for a job for some time and unable to secure something? If so, why?
All three questions are easily managed and answered—but often aren’t. This, unfortunately, results in employers coming to conclusions based on a lack of information and pre-conceived notions of CV gaps (lazy, unmotivated, untalented, etc).
The solution is to be honest on your CV and detail what you’ve been doing. It’s that simple.
For example, you can be as blunt as writing “January 2018 – September 2018, time out to spend with family”, or “January 2018 – September 2018, time out to pursue hobbies and interests”. This allows employers to see what you’ve been doing but also serves to humanise the process. Quite often, these ‘gaps’ can be a vital and necessary time to allow you to firm up your motivations and really focus on what you want from your next role – as long as you’re honest about that, it can actually be an advantage in your search.
If you’ve not spent a career break upskilling, but still feel that you’ve remained 'sharp' during that time, it’s just as important to document and explain that. For example, we encourage all candidates who’ve spent some time out to talk about any blogs they’re reading, books that they’ve read and most desirably, give access to a Github or other online repository where employers can see evidence of their extra-curricular coding/technical interests. This can often be more beneficial than remaining in a role unable to satisfy your technical interests or that fails to challenge your level of ability.
You must be honest about career breaks regardless of how irrelevant they seem. They remove ambiguity and allow an employer to review your CV with complete transparency, more frequently than not resulting in a more favourable outcome. Of course, in an ideal world, your CV would be without gaps – but this is rarely the case and often the reasons for these gaps can be harnessed and used to your advantage, so do so!