Whether you job hopped,  did nothing after uni, never went to uni but spent those years working in a box factory with no idea what you wanted to do with your life, or have a strange 2 year gap of nothing between two jobs (because you did… nothing), here’s how to style it out on your CV.

We spoke to Declan Collins, the resourcing manager for O2 in Telefónicas European People Services Centre, about what to put when there’s nothing to put. He looks at CVs every day, and deals with all the cover letters too, so it’s not surprising that he knows his stuff.

Honestly explain the gap in the cover letter

No need to beg forgiveness and devote huge paragraphs of your time to  why you took a year out, when you could be talking up your exemplary skills – but it’s important to explain. And to do it honestly. “It’s vital you tell the truth about gaps, being found out as dishonest is worse than any gap,” says Declan. “Just explain why the gap happened or if you were legitimately just searching for a role, explain why you felt it took as long as it did – was it because you missed a key skill? If so what did you do about it?” See it as a positive, life-affirming phase you went through, rather than a total waste of time. 

All gaps are created equal

As in, rejoice and stop staring at that post-uni black hole and wishing you’d done it before on some sort of gap year. “I don’t think there is any real concern when it happened. What you want to avoid is lots of gaps in your CV especially between relatively short term roles that you chose to end,” explains Declan. It’s how you deal with it (see above) that matters, rather than the actual gap itself.

If you job-hopped, have an explanation ready

Got lots of short term roles? You moved house a lot. You weren’t sure what you wanted to do, but now you totally are. You were looking for short term contracts and now you’re looking to settle down and devote all your time to one company. “Lots of short term roles (other than contract roles) may suggest to the employer you may only be with them for a short time as well,” says Declan. “Keep in mind they will (hopefully) be investing time training you and bringing you up to speed. They don’t want to do this and then have you leave quickly.”

It’s all about the transferable skills

Unemployed for a year? This taught you about determination, time management and persistence. Went travelling for a year? You learned how to communicate with a wide range of people, became able to work as part of a team and discovered where your true passion lies: [insert name of the company]. “You need to point out any positive experiences you may have gained from what you were doing during the gap period – what did you learn? Any transferable skills? Tell them why it could benefit you in terms of the job you are applying for,” Declan advises.

Want help with your CV? Send yours to the experts at O2 for help and advice

If you liked this article, why not take a look at…