Work-tips: How to explain job hopping and gaps on your CV

First published in November 2012

CV

One of the things employers look for when recruiting a new member of staff, is how stable their work history is. If a job applicant has jumped around from job to job over the last ten years, the recruiter’s first thought will be “why don’t they stick at anything?” Similarly, if an applicant has a significant length of time out of employment, the recruiter may be suspicious about why.

When you’re in an interview, it’s often easy to explain away jumping jobs, or being out of work, but you may not even get that far if you don’t make the reasons clear on your CV. Here are some tips on what to do at the CV writing stage.

JOB HOPS
The first thing you should do is clearly label any jobs that were short term contracts, seasonal work or temp jobs as such on your CV. Make it really clear that the reason you left the job is because you were only ever employed on a contract basis.

If you were made redundant after a short period in a job, it’s OK to make a note of that too. In the current economic climate redundancy doesn’t have the stigma that it had a few years ago, particularly if your redundancy was part of a large section of your firm being laid off rather than just your role being made redundant.

If you’ve job hopped because you’ve got bored in the roles, that’s much harder to justify and when you secure your next position you must think carefully about sticking it out for a decent length of time, even if it bores the socks off you. Similarly, repeatedly leaving roles due to a personality clash with a boss or team member can tar you with the “uncooperative” brush so it’s not wise to draw attention to why you left those roles if at all possible.

WORK HISTORY GAPS
There are lots of reasons why you may have a gap on your CV. The most common being taking time out to travel, raising a family, illness or bereavement. Don’t leave those gaps on your CV blank – recruiters are a suspicious bunch and will think the worst – so make sure you clearly note what you were doing during those months or years.

If you have suffered with an illness it is important that you make it very clear that the condition has passed, you are fully recovered and it will not affect your ability to work.

If you took time out to raise your children, or simply to take some time away from work to reassess what you want to do with your career, then it’s a good idea to mention anything you have done to stay in touch with the industry while away. Do you still have a good network of journalists in your little black book? Do you regularly read industry publications? Have you taken any courses to update your work skills?

By making it clear that the gaps are not anything untoward, it gives you a much better chance of getting to the interview stage where you may find the interviewer is sympathetic to your situation.