How to deal with a pandemic gap on your CV.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert for job site Monster. “It’s more about how you handle the gap and what you have to do. We’ve been through an unprecedented global collective situation that if you have a gap you’re not alone.”
Here’s how to handle that with potential employers.
Be prepared to face it
If a recruiter or hiring manager talks about your time away from the job market, be brief and focus on the future.
“Suppose they are going to ask,” Salemi said. “Be prepared to say what happened and, more importantly, why you are a good fit for the role you are pursuing.”
She suggested saying something like: “I worked in the hospitality industry and as you know the industry was badly affected so I took time off and reassessed. ”
The key is to be prepared with your response.
“Don’t be embarrassed about it. It may take some practice to appear confident,” said Christy Noel, career strategist and co-author of “Your Personal Career Coach”. “You don’t have to be sheepish, embarrassed, or worried about it, you don’t want to inadvertently fall this way.”
Fill the void with something else
Show off what you’ve been doing while you were away from the job market, whether that be additional education, training and certification courses, networking, or volunteering.
“Not all ‘jobs’ on a resume have to be paid for,” Noel said. “If this applies to the job you’re trying to apply for… include it. ”
For example, if you’ve volunteered to do marketing for a nonprofit and are looking for a marketing position, she suggested including that as an experience.
Look for specific skills or requirements in job postings that are attractive and take this time to fill in the gaps.
“Consider practicing some professional development skills,” said Kyle Elliott, career coach and founder of CaffeinatedKyle.com, who suggested LinkedIn, Coursera, edX, and Udemy to help learn new skills. “Focus on some of those skills that job postings ask for.”
That way, if the break comes during an interview, you can easily rotate the conversation to focus on your skills and strengths.
“Show off what you’ve been doing with your time,” Salemi said. “And how you are the best candidate for the job and why you are interested in it and how your skills and experiences … candidate.”
Leverage your resume and cover letter
Take the time to tailor each CV and cover letter to a job posting. This means using the same keywords as in the ad, detailing the specific results of your job, and also answering any questions a recruiter might have, especially if you are looking to enter a new industry.
“Connect the dots for the recruiter, especially when they’re only looking at your CV and cover letter for literally less than five seconds,” Salemi said.
Adding a resume at the top of a resume can help make a job break less blatant. The summary, which should be no longer than a few sentences, can include transferable skills, past experience, and keywords for job postings.
Use the cover letter to help address any potential concerns and highlight your experience and skills in how they apply to the job,
“The cover letter is precious real estate,” said Salemi, who added it shouldn’t be longer than a few paragraphs. “This could be a way of saying, ‘During the pandemic, I decided to change my career path by leveraging my core strengths and skills from XYZ and that is why I am interested in continuing this work as I think I would be an asset to your organization. ‘”
Don’t be negative
There is no getting around this: the last 17 months have been difficult. But try to avoid focusing on the past.
“Avoid being negative,” Elliott suggested. “A lot of people end up coming to interviews from a place of negativity sometimes because they’re out of work and the pandemic has been super stressful.”
Instead, focus on why you’re drawn to the role and detail your skills and qualifications.
“Do not denigrate your [former] employer, ”Salemi said.“ Don’t focus so much on the past that you can’t pivot to the future. You want to show that you are enthusiastic, passionate and positive. ”