April 8th, Column

Q. I am an accountant and it has been 18 months since I last worked. How can I portray this in my CV? I feel that I am becoming less employable as time moves on.


This is an opportunity to use the interval in your CV to paint a favourable picture of who you are. Were you involved in local community work or volunteering? Did you complete a course that increased your skill set, or did you use this time to become involved in consultancy work?

All of these experiences are viewed as work and can be included on your CV. A common error people make is to include only ‘a one liner’ about their ‘non-work related’ experience. You should make more out of this experience.

Ensure that you are ready to talk about these details in interview, if asked. Unexplained intervals of time can lead to the interviewer making negative assumptions about you. Show them that you’re the type of person who uses spare time effectively for personal improvement or to contribute to a local initiative or charity, for example.

Highlight your successes so that your employment history can be presented in the best light.

A big misconception about CVs is that a gap or an unexplained period of time is always a negative thing. In current times, a lot of employers are more sympathetic towards individuals either currently unemployed, or who have been out of the job market for some time.

Due to high unemployment figures, it is not unusual for an interviewer to receive multiple CVs with people in these situations. If you feel that you wish to communicate your circumstances to the interviewer, the cover letter is the best vehicle to use to communicate this.

It can read ‘I have 10 years experience as an ACCA accountant and since I was made redundant 18 months ago, I have used this time to increase my academic skills and become more involved in local voluntary work to develop my skills. This has enabled me to become a more rounded candidate for your organisation. I feel that I have used this time to develop and grow as an individual.’

A good recommendation is to have a section at the start of the CV summarising your skills to date. This draws the interviewer’s attention to your relevant skills for the post. This can take the form of three to five bullet points.

For example, you can highlight the portfolio of clients for which you have been responsible, and the various accountancy packages in which you are proficient. You can include your more recent achievements in this section.

It is important to have this information near the top of your CV as this is the first thing the interviewer reads. If the job specification reads that working in a multi-national is advantageous, spell your experience out very clearly. This helps increases your chances of securing an interview more than a CV commencing with your last job which might have been two years ago.

Be open and assertive with the interviewer when talking about your absence from work. Show the interviewer that you have ‘kept in touch’ with the industry though you have not been working in it.

In your accountancy career, you can show the interviewer that you have made efforts to update yourself on changes in legislation and perhaps you have also attended local membership meetings. Do not bring your frustration into the interview. The company want the right candidate for the job and this is your chance to show them that you are that person.

Sli Nua Careers (Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo / Drum East, Bushy Park, Galway, tel 094 95 42965 / 091 528 883, www.SliNuaCareers.com) carry out CV Preparation, Mock Interviews, Interview Training, and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email GetThatJob@SliNuaCareers.com. They provide online CV makeovers at SliNuaCareers.com/cv-preparation/cv-makeover/.