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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Plugging the gaps in your CV

Having gaps in your CV is not unusual, particularly in the current climate.  Many people have fallen victim to redundancy and are struggling to find a job.  Others who have spent time working in the home are being forced to seek employment to make up the shortfall in family finances brought about by higher taxes, levies and reduced salaries for their partners.

Regardless of why you have gaps in your CV, finding some way of minimising them and distracting the reader is important.

The first thing you should be aware of is that employers don’t necessarily avoid hiring someone because they have gaps but unexplained gaps do raise warning bells and would leave any employer wondering what they might be letting themselves in for!

So here are some does and don’ts to help you address the issue: 

  • Lie outright – telling lies on your CV is never a good idea, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t fudge the truth a little or put a positive spin on something
  • Make it impossible for the company to hire you by telling them something that will be an absolute no-no
  • Apologise – give a brief explanation for the gap where necessary and nothing more, you should always project a positive image
  • Just leave big gaps – I can tell you from experience that it raises to many questions and concerns (around issues like instability, criminality, laziness etc)
  • Use formatting such as bold, italics to highlight dates
  •  Assess how serious the gaps are
  • Where possible massage the timeframe by using years rather than months (e.g. giving employment dates as 2001-2010 rather than Jun 2001 – Mar 2010)
  • Be clear about what you were doing during the gap
  • Focus on what you gained from the time and how it might benefit the company (e.g. skills learned, experience of diversity etc)
  • Use a Profile Summary, Key Skills and perhaps even Key Achievements on page 1 to draw the reader’s attention to what you have to offer before they get to the dates (Page 1 – and generally the first 2/3 of the page are most important in a CV so make sure this presents the most positive information)
  • Use headings such as Most Relevant Work Experience to allow you to highlight those roles that are most relevant – this way you can omit some jobs altogether particularly those 15+ years ago
  • Other Experience – use this heading to draw out other relevant information such as volunteering, unpaid work etc on your CV
  • Use your Cover Letter to explain anything that is difficult to cover in your CV – e.g. time off to look after a sick parent
  • Keep busy with things that will be useful to your CV – try to learn new skills, stay up to date with your profession, network, volunteer etc as this will help you to minimise the gaps and will give you something extra to offer the employer

For related material, articles, services and jobs for which we are recruiting go to http://www.consultingexcellence.ie/main/page_individuals_onetoone.html

10 Top Tips for a successful job search

This article was first published in Sunday Business Post, November 6th 2011

So you are out of a job and the constant search is getting you nowhere.  You are not alone.  The widespread redundancies and general economic downturn has left lots of people in that position.  That means a tighter job market for everyone, so perhaps it is time to take a more strategic approach to your job search.

1. Stop! Take Stock
Often when people are looking for a new job, they don’t take the time out to take stock of where they are and what they want.  Reflect on the job you have done, what worked and what didn’t. 

  • Your strengths, weaknesses and key skills
  • What you like to do and don’t like to do
  • What do you value most e.g. recognition, autonomy, responsibility, pay and so on
  • Are there opportunities that would fulfill your needs and plays to your strengths

2. Research
Now do some research - figure out what is achievable and how you might get there. Identify your best options so you can focus on those.

3. Create a Plan
Your job search needs a plan.  Having one will keep you focused on your end goal (of getting a job) and will help you to maintain structure at a time when it is easy to become de-motivated and despondent. 

4. Work your Network
Failing to “work” your network is an opportunity lost.  Identify all your different networks (ex-work colleagues, college friends, golf buddies, etc) and start systematically working your way through them ensuring that everyone knows what you are looking for and what you have to offer.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

5. Get your CV in order
It is too late to start thinking about your CV when you spot your dream job.  Create a core CV and Cover Letter that can be tailored to individual jobs as they come up. 

6. Build your Personal Brand
The internet is a regular source of “background checking”.  Start a blog and write about things that will set you apart from the competition (in a good way).  Use LinkedIn. Be aware that what you say and do may be viewed by an employer so clean up your online image.

7. Be focused
Job search is about quality not quantity.  Applying for a hundred jobs for which you are unsuited or don’t actually want is not in your best interests.  Focusing on those that you really want and the companies that you want to work for is far more likely to produce results.  And you won’t have that awful feeling of having applied for tons of jobs and having no success.

8. Get creative
Not all jobs are advertised so get creative in finding out where there are jobs.  Look at announcements in the paper that may suggest an opportunity.  Offer to work on a trial basis to demonstrate your worth.  Create your own webpage with a video CV.  Do what others aren’t!

9. Be prepared
Don’t leave it until you are called for interview to start preparing.  Think about your key achievements and strengths and examples that will demonstrate those to a potential employer.  Research typical questions and consider your answers.  Get help.

10. Keep mind and body healthy
Job searching requires a clear mind, good focus, a positive approach and lots of energy. Ensure you have a good diet and exercise.  Maintain structure and have downtime.  Even if money is tight, get out and meet with friends.  Do something that makes you feel good.  If you start to lose faith, take a step back, think of all those things that are good in your life and most of all, smile!

For related material, articles, services and jobs for which we are recruiting go to http://www.consultingexcellence.ie/main/page_individuals_onetoone.html