Bill Bennett


Employers dislike CV (or resume) blanks

Employers don’t like unexplained time on a curriculum vitae (CV) or resume. This is a hangover from when people didn’t flit between jobs.

They expect a list of earlier employers with starting and finishing dates. Nobody gets excited about a missing week or two, but unexplained periods of longer than about four weeks ring alarm bells.

We’ll look at how to deal with blanks in a moment. First, let’s see why they make employers nervous.

I once interviewed someone with a six-month blank on his CV. His career looked solid until that point, but the job after the blank was a clear step down from the earlier positions.

There might have been a perfectly reasonable explanation – six months travelling overseas or a full-time education course not related to career matters the – interviewee had been in prison.

CV blanks may hide sackings or illness

This is an extreme case. Hopefully, it doesn’t apply to you. The other serious negative possibility is a forced break after dismissal.

Sacked people have difficulty finding another job, particularly in a tight-knit industry.

Less negative, but still of concern to a potential employer is blank CV space due to illness. Companies are unwilling to hire people with medical problems – despite skills shortages.

CV blanks are common

No-one has a job for life and being made redundant is a rite of passage in the tech industry. It can take weeks or months to find a new job after sudden redundancy. What’s more, people burnt out by struggling companies need a rest between gigs.

Even without redundancy, knowledge workers are prone to CV blanks by the nature of their work. Many move from job to job rarely staying with one company more than two years.

Moving from one company to another is not always smooth; it’s possible to fall between the gaps. I’ve twice started new jobs only to discover within days that I’m in the wrong place. No doubt readers will have found themselves in a similar position.

Don’t forget the children

Women have extra reasons for career gaps: children. And then there are short-term contracts – jobs that only last for a specified period. It isn’t always easy to finesse a smooth transition from one job to the next.

So, we all have blanks, most are reasonable but employers don’t like them. What’s the best strategy?

The first rule is to turn those blanks into meaningful yet honest CV entries.

Leaving unexplained blanks is bad but not being truthful only makes matters worse. Be upfront about any time when you were not in paid work.

If it was only a matter of weeks then be ready to say that you ‘took a holiday’ or ‘needed a rest’ or ‘painted the house’ between jobs. That’s enough explanation. It’s also perfectly OK to tell an employer that you waited for the right opportunity to come along.

If the absence was linked to illness (or childbirth) tell the employer the truth explaining, assuming it’s true, that you are now fully recovered and keen to work to your full potential.

If you spent the time in prison… well, that’s a whole different story.