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How to write a CV when you’ve been out of work

Posted on: 11 Oct 2018, admin

CV and resume writing is a skill in itself. For most people, writing about themselves doesn’t come naturally. It requires a strong sense of self-awareness and the ability to think objectively. It can feel uncomfortable, in the same way that presenting yourself in an interview might feel awkward and contrived.

Writing a CV can be even more challenging if you’ve taken time off work. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you should mention a career break in your CV, or pretend it didn’t happen and leave it out entirely.

What is classed as a career break?

Firstly, it’s important to identify whether your time-off was in fact a career break. For example, if you left a job without a new one to go to, and you’re actively looking for work, then this isn’t career break. Similarly, if your role has recently been made redundant and you have been looking for work, then you don’t need to mention this in your CV either.

Generally speaking, a career break is when an individual decides to not work for a prolonged period of time – usually three months or more. People usually take time off due to personal reasons. The most common instances are the following:

  • Childcare – this is more common due to the increasing childcare costs
  • Career change – for example studying, becoming a freelancer, or taking time off to explore a business idea
  • Chronic illness – including treatment for physical and mental health problems, operations and recovery time
  • Family bereavement – supporting a loved one, dealing with grief following the death of a family member or friend
  • Travel – going travelling before settling down, taking a sabbatical.

How should I mention my career break?

If you choose to mention your career break and the reasons for this, it’s important to keep if brief, succinct and remain positive. Avoid going into too much detail. Simply state your reason for taking the time off, such as ‘volunteered at an orphanage with a charitable project’ or ‘cared for an elderly relative’, and include the period of time.

It’s likely you gained new skills during your career break and have plenty of examples that you could use constructively. You may wish to include these in your CV to show any key competencies learnt, or you could simply save these for the interview stage.

Make a list of any skills developed during this period. For example, if you cared for a loved one, then it might be that you developed social and communication skills. These are all classed as ‘soft skills’, which are desirable to employers, as it demonstrates your willingness to work as a team.

What information doesn’t have to be disclosed?

If you were recently made redundant, were on a zero-hours contract or were fired from your previous position, you don’t have to disclose this information on your CV.

Simply put the start and finish date of your position, including details of the role itself, and treat it as any other job or previous experience. Instead, it’s best to focus on the skills and achievements gained during each post.

If your reasons for leaving come up at interview stage (e.g. being fired), it’s important you tell the truth and be totally honest about any problems you encountered. Instead of focusing on why you were fired, it’s best to reflect on what could have done differently, and how you would approach the new role.

Try not to dwell on the reasons for leaving your previous position, as this could impact your chances of further employment. We all learn from our past experiences (and failures), and it’s the challenges and shortcomings that enable us to grow as individuals.

Any more tips or advice?

Once you’ve written your CV and made any relevant changes, ask a friend to proofread it for any grammatical errors or inconsistencies. If you have a contact in recruitment or someone in the same industry of work, then utilise this and ask if they’d be happy to read it through.

For more tips on this subject, read our previous posts: How to cover employment gaps on your CV and Thirteen top tops for improving your CV to help you build a professional CV and resume.

Ascendant Recruitment is an innovative and forward thinking recruiter that has helped numerous candidates get back on the career ladder. If you’d like to speak to one of our team to get some help with your job search see our website for contact details.