Skills and experience can help you close the gap

Q: For 17 years, I worked in two jobs: one for nine years, the second for eight. I took the redundancy package just over a year ago, and haven’t worked since. Initially my plan was to take a few months off to recharge the batteries before getting back into the workplace. While I wasn’t complacent about picking up a suitable role, I was confident my experience would land something for me. It hasn’t worked out that way. I feel employers don’t like the gap since my last job. Any thoughts? (IL, email).

A: Employers don’t like unexplained gaps on CVs – they raise questions.

Use this time to undergo some training. Apart from what you will learn at that two-night-a-week course, it will also boost your CV.

A note like this in your CV can explain the gap:

“Oct. 2012 to present: After accepting my redundancy offer, I took a number of months off to pursue some personal projects. Now actively seeking employment. I am also using this time to up skill myself by studying the following courses {list courses here}.”

In the current environment, it is commonplace for candidates to have some gaps in their employment history. In my experience, employers focus more on relevance than chronology. They look at your CV through the filter of appropriate skills and experience, and, as long as there is no unexploded bomb lurking in the gap, they tend not to fixate on finding someone with an unbroken record of employment.

So, the advice is to make sure your CV highlights the value you can bring to the company. Ultimately, that’s where the game is won and lost.

This week’s top tip

In job interviews, as we have repeatedly said here, the key issue is what the employer is looking for – so you should begin your preparation by first of all ascertaining their needs, and working back from there to those points where you can help them meet their needs.

The same theory applies if you are networking with a view to finding a job.

Don’t begin a conversation with an industry figure by saying “I’ve got {insert skills / experience / characteristics] and I’m really just looking for a chance to get back on the ladder.”

Instead, begin the conversation with a question. “What skills, experience and characteristics does your company look for when hiring?”

It’s a question that all too frequently goes un-asked. Job-seekers tend to focus on themselves, not on the other side of the fence. Inviting an employer or industry figure to enunciate their needs can be extremely powerful – it’s a question they might not have been asked before by a job-seeker, and it might even cause them to reflect on what exactly it is they actually do look for in a candidate.

This question leads to a more intelligent conversation. The employer has now established the context for the discussion, and, if you have what they’re looking for, you can slowly but surely make them aware of the fact.

To blunder in the other way – speaking only of what you possess – runs the risk of missing the target, and also makes you just one more person looking for a start. My advice is to let others tell you what they are looking for, and then, and only then, join the dots that lead back to yourself.

Sli Nua Careers ( have offices in Galway, Dublin, Limerick, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Their services include CV preparation, interview training and career direction. For more details, visit If you would like their Job-searching Checklist, email with ‘Job-searching Checklist’ in the subject line.