Career Development Strategies E067 How To Respond To The Interview Question "Why Do You Have a Gap In Your CV?"

August 30th 2021

What to respond to the classic question “Why Do You Have a Gap In Your CV?” Well, it is not an easy one to answer for the unprepared! But no worries – in this video I review what you should say to impress the hiring manager – and what NOT to say – when you are asked the magic question!

00:00 Hello guys, today I’m shooting in the evening, because I just figured out that there is something really important, I have to share. I was requested to shoot this episode, so I decided to do so spontaneously. That’s why the topic of today’s episode is what to say if you’re asked about the gap in your CV.

00:32 Imagine a situation. You finished a contract for a year or even more, you were traveling around, or you were finishing your projects from the last contract. In certain areas of the job market, it is standard, especially if you work in academia. It’s often the case that your contract formally ends yet you’re still expected to finish your projects nevertheless. And many people do they feel compelled and disciplined and motivated, and also responsible; for their team members, for the project, for their personal development.

01:04 One of them is Oh, yeah, I have a gap in my CV because well, I didn’t have a job. I was looking for a job and some career path. But I just didn’t find any yet. Yeah, I have a gap in my CV. They excuse themselves, why they have a gap in their CV. And it sounds like, apparently, they are not competitive enough in the job market, that doesn’t really look good for the recruiter.

01:04 They still work and finish their projects even though they are no longer being paid. And I had that too. The question is, what do we say once we are asked this question? And of course, if you have a gap in your CV, this question might be asked. When one’s asked, ‘Why do you have a gap in your CV?’ Most people say one of the two things and both of these answers are wrong.

01:48 And second thing they say as well, ‘Oh yeah, I was traveling. I was looking for my way. I was working on myself and I was just giving myself time.’ And that also doesn’t sound good for a recruiter. They will be like, ‘Well, you’re in your 30s. Why do you behave like you are 20 right now? There was time in your 20s.’

02:08 You know, now, if you travel for a year, it sounds like you’re running away from life. It doesn’t sound good to me. It doesn’t sound like professional development at all. In this episode, I’d like to give you some examples of the things you might say to the question, ‘Why do you have a gap in your CV?’, to impress the recruiter? The first thing I ask a person who’s asked this question is, what did you do in this year, or two years or three years, when you were not employed?

02:34 And what we find out most of the time, it turns out that they did a lot, they just don’t know about it. The first message I have for you is, you probably did a lot of things that are good for your professional development in the long run. If you phrase it properly, then you will appear as a responsible person who thinks about professional development and who knows what they’re doing with their life.

02:59 And I have to say, it’s all about how you phrase what you were doing within the time. Number one mistake that people do when they are asked the question, ‘Why do you have a gap in your CV?’, they start excusing themselves. Instead of saying what they were doing, they focused on the things they didn’t do during that period. They say, ‘Well, I did not work because …’, and then they basically list excuses why this is so.

03:28 And people often avoid mentioning about working on their projects from the last contract because they feel that it will give the employer impression that they are not productive enough or they do not think about personal development. And that’s why they didn’t manage to finish their work within a certain timeframe. This really depends on how you phrase the answer to the question.

03:28 The employer doesn’t really care about that. It’s not about what you didn’t do, but what you did within that period of time. You should flip the question and talk only about the things, all the activities that you undertook, within that period of time that might help in your professional development. And believe me, you did a lot. First thing, if you were finishing a project for your previous contract, say it.

04:13 If you say ‘Well, I didn’t finish my products in time so I was working on my projects for longer.’ That might sound fishy. That might sound like you, indeed, didn’t really manage the productivity enough to finish in time. But if you say, ‘The funding for my project unfortunately dried up, yet I felt responsible for the project. I felt responsible for the team. I was interested in the topic. I decided to finish in my own time for the sake of the project because I don’t jump the ship.

04:43 That sounds very different from the first version. If you frame your answer like this, you can be sure that it will be taken as a positive trait. You will show yourself as a responsible person who doesn’t jump the ship, who doesn’t leave their teammates, no matter what. Even if in the unforeseen circumstances, hard circumstances, you still finished the project in order to complete one of steps on your career path. That will be one thing you should definitely mention.

05:08 Second thing. If you were physically ill in this period, for instance, you were hospitalized, there was some illness you were struggling with, but you’re healthy now. I will definitely mention it. Because this is not your fault. This is not laziness. This was an independent circumstance that happened to you; it can happen to anyone. And in this case, it’s important that you mention it because there are two types of illnesses, like two types of reasons, why people are out of the market for health-related problems.

05:39 One of them is physical illness; second is mental problems. This is often the case today. A lot of professionals suffer with mental problems, burnout, depression. Of course, nothing is wrong with that. But the point is, for the employer, there’s a fundamental difference between the two ones. If you suffer from a physical illness, and then you get over it, there is a good chance that it won’t come back. Even more importantly, it’s not contagious.

06:06 If you were physically ill, let’s say you broke your leg. Now you’re fine; back on track. This will not transpire to the rest of your team. Whereas, if you had severe mental problems, for the employer, this might be reason to worry. Because there might be a reason to think; maybe this person is just not strong in their mind, maybe they are not resilient to stress. This is a problem that might come back in the future. And for wars, this is one of the issues that often are contagious.

06:37 If this person becomes too deeply unhappy and unmotivated to work, that might also spoil the atmosphere on the team. Other team members might also lose their morale, lose the motivation to work. This is even more than a problem with one employee, then it becomes a problem of the dynamics of the whole team. If your illness was purely physical, I would just mention it because it’s much less of a problem. It’s a logical reason why you have a gap in your career path and on your CV.

07:09 Nothing wrong with that, it can happen to anyone. Even if you spend a year or more in your bed, it’s not a reason to feel intimidated. There is always a way of framing your answer in a way that makes you even more credible and even more appealing as a potential employee to the employer. For instance, you might say something like, ‘Well, indeed, I was away from work for 6 months, or 12 months. I was lying in bed; I was thinking a lot. And now I feel more motivated than ever. I love my work. Now I know it after being away for such a long time. I miss what I was doing. I know now that this is what I want to do for a living. And I cannot wait for the day when I can get back to my desk and do what I used to do and love. And I hope that you’ll give me a chance to start over with you and to work on my professional development.’

08:05 And this is a perfectly fine answer and that’s a heartwarming story. It has a good ending. It makes the employer know that you’re motivated. And now, let’s talk a little bit more about the situation when you didn’t have any health-related issues. But yet, you want to say something because, of course, you’re asked to explain why you were not working and what was happening during this spirit.

08:34 As mentioned before, even if you formerly didn’t have any job, you definitely did a lot to improve your position in the job market, and you might just not know it. The first question you should ask yourself is, did I take any courses? Perhaps you did. It might have been a course that is closely related to your profession. It might also be a course that is loosely related. For instance, it might be a mindfulness course. It might be a course on productivity. It might be a foreign language course.

09:08 But nevertheless, most courses are quotable. You know, there’s almost nothing I can think of that might be unrelated to your work that is not worth mentioning. If you took any courses, I would say, ‘I was broadening my perspective in the job market by increasing my scope of knowledge; increasing my skills. I was working on my qualifications and personal development by taking online courses and practicing even though I was not employed.’

09:33 Second thing you can say is, ‘Well, I was working on my professional network.’ This is also very important and I’m sure, within that period of time, you were attending online conferences or meetups or maybe on-site meetups in-person. You have friends whom you were talking to in private, who have interesting professions who are in your field.

09:55 Even that counts as building a professional network. If you frame it like this, it sounds like you take your career seriously. You never sleep; you’re never out of the market free of cost. Even if you formerly don’t have a job for a period of time, you still work on your long-term professional development by increasing the breadth and width of your network.

10:17 The next thing you can say is, ‘I was working on my productivity. I was working on finding the optimal scheme, and I was experimenting to figure out how I can make myself most productive.’ And that’s also perfectly fine. I still do that, I experiment. Experiment with different waking hours and different productivity tools. And I’m trying to figure out how I can reach my optimal productivity scheme.

10:44 It’s still not obvious for me, what is my perfect scheme. It’s better to say that you were working on yourself, even if it’s just about productivity. Because it’s closely related to your professional life in the long-term. Rather than saying, ‘Well, I did not work because this and that’, and you know, like, ‘I was trying, but there are no jobs available on the market.’ Just focus on the things you did, even if it’s as little as trying pomodoro, a different ratio between work and rest.

11:12 Also, everything that is related to creating new intellectual property is good, such as; writing an E-book, or blogging, or maybe you were trying some new YouTube channel in that period of time. Every initiative that is related to creativity and creating your own content is positive and count in your personal development. It is evidence that you are productive, you have your own ideas and employers look for it.

11:38 Because they don’t want to get another ‘copy of a copy of a copy’. Another graduate who thinks that they are a snowflake, and they have high claims high expectations, but they don’t really want to give. They want someone who’s creative, who is naturally motivated, who is a fountain of ideas, who transpires their enthusiasm to people around them and who is focused on professional development. If you voluntarily create content just because you are like that, you wake up in the morning, and you just have that inner desire to create and create and create, you will be wanted (desired).

12:09 Next, if you have any experience with volunteering. If you’ve volunteered at any project, if you’ve built an online community. Even if it was for a short period of time, or even if your initiative didn’t fully work out, it’s still good to mention. Because again, this is a sign of initiative. This is a sign that you’re not the person who sits still with arms crossed, you always are occupied with something constructive and productive in your professional life.

12:38 This is a common desire people have. They want to contribute. They want to build something; a nonprofit project. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. If you had any initiative operating in that period of time when you were not employed, definitely you should mention it. It is the same with trying to pull off a business.

12:40 During the period of time when you were not employed, you had a plan to launch your own company or your own freelancing practice. Yet, for some reason it didn’t work out. I would still mention it. Because again, it’s a sign of initiative, it’s a sign of self-development, it’s a sign of a drive to build something new and to build your career path. Employers know how hard business is and most new businesses fail.

13:24 And most people who, eventually, managed to build the business fail multiple times at first. There is nothing to be ashamed of, if your business idea didn’t work out. It’s a reason to be proud. Because it’s something that most people think of at least once in their lifetime and most of them never have enough courage to try. If you had enough courage to try, even if it didn’t work out. For the employer, it’s a sign that you have a wide range of positive traits that will also make you a good employee.

13:59 And lastly, what is really smart to say and what very few people do. Yet, I think the recruiter that you will have an interview with would really enjoy hearing is talking about finances and the general knowledge about the economy. If you’re reading anything about, you know, the market. If you’re thinking about your savings, creating some financial cushion. If you’re reading anything related to finances, economy, investments, etc.

14:29 You can say something like, ‘I was working on creating a financial cushion. I was working on figuring out what is the best investment strategy for me. I spend a lot of time reading about this because I know that for my long-term professional development. It’s really important that I have that financial safety. I can peacefully work without feeling afraid that I will lose my job.’

14:52 Because there is a stereotype. There is this common stereotype that employers love employees who are dependent; employees who are in debt, employees who are insecure financially. No. What employers want is a happy employee who is confident who chose them because they wanted to, not because they had to. And who is aware of their finances of economy of how the world outside looks; Who is conscious and who knows themselves very well; Who has all the areas of life sorted out properly and is over all happy not just, you know, glued to their job because they have nothing else going on in their life.

15:30 If you say something like this, ‘Well, I was working on my knowledge about the economy, on my consciousness about what’s happening in the markets right now. And I sorted out my finances so that now I feel safe. I feel confident. And I am safe and sound in my life, and that’s what I spend my time on’, then it will be respected. The recruiter will be like, ‘Okay, well, this person is serious. This person knows what they’re doing with their personal and professional life and they stand on their feet. They will be definitely … They’re reasonable. They will be nice to work with.’

16:05 I cannot stress this enough. People naturally like company of people who are money aware. There was a period of time when I was looking for jobs as well. And every single time I mentioned to the recruiter, ‘Yes, I spent a few months sorting out my finances and learning about the economy and investments.’ Every single time the response was very positive. They were like, ‘Oh, maybe you can teach me something at lunch.’

16:31 They were starting to think, ‘Hey, how can I get around this person? This person knows something that I would like to know myself. Like, everyone needs to know how money works, how to make investments.’ If you are aware of the economy, of finances, of investments, personal investment strategies. If you have that aura of wisdom around money, people want to deal with you, people want to have you around; people feel safe around you.

16:59 There is nothing wrong mentioning about the fact that you are money aware. These are the tips I have for you. These are the things I think will work well to say once you’re asked, ‘What were you doing in your gap year?’ 

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, July 27th). Career Development Strategies E067 How To Respond To The Interview Question “Why Do You Have a Gap In Your CV?” Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e067-how-to-respond-to-the-interview-question-why-do-you-have-a-gap-in-your-cvcareer-development-strategies-e067-how-to-respond-to-the-interview-question-why-do-you-have/

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