I have a big gap on my CV – what should I do?

Grant Thornton - Top employer answers your toughest job hunt questionsTOP EMPLOYER GRANT THORNTON TELLS GRADUATE JOB HUNTERS WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW

Looking for a graduate job? While there is plenty of basic advice around, you’ve probably learnt that finding answers to some of your trickier questions is much more challenging.

> Applying to Grant Thornton? Don’t miss this NEW article! How to get a graduate job at Grant Thornton

Should you fudge a CV gap? When should you declare a disability to an employer? Do employers discriminate against unemployed applicants, preferring those who already have a job? How do you spot an organisation that is really great to work for (rather than one that just says it is)? And how exactly do you prove that you have a great ‘attitude’?

These are great questions – and most don’t have simple answers (probably the reason you don’t see many articles written about them!). But that doesn’t faze us at Graduate Fog. In fact, that just means it’s even more vital that we tackle them here.

Last year, we welcomed our first Graduate Fog sponsor to the website – top accountancy firm Grant Thornton. As one of the UK’s most innovative employers of graduates, who better to ask for extra advice on your behalf? So this month we thought we’d quiz Nadine Barr, Grant Thornton’s Brand Resourcing Manager, for her take on the top five trickiest questions that our readers ask. Here is what happened when she spoke to Tanya de Grunwald, Graduate Fog’s founder and author of How to Get a Graduate Job Now, about the questions that come up the most…

Should you fudge a CV gap?

QUESTION 1
“I have a big gap on my CV. Should I fudge it, or ‘fess up?”

Tanya de Grunwald, Graduate Fog:

“There are many reasons why graduates may have a gap on their CV. It could be from illness or family circumstances, or perhaps just because they’ve been busy with their job search full-time. While I warn graduates against lying on their CV (it’s illegal!) I also remind them to be sure to include anything at all they were doing during the ‘gap’, even if it was a little bit of freelance work for a friend, volunteering for a local group, or a few bar shifts. If there is nothing at all to attribute to the period, then it’s not the end of the world. Just be ready to explain the gap if your application progresses to interview stage. Do you agree with that advice, Nadine?”

Nadine Barr, Grant Thornton:

“Yes, definitely. I’d also add that most employers are pretty understanding of the situation graduates are in, and a gap of a few months on your CV is unlikely to alarm us. We know it can take time to find a job, even if you’re really motivated and focussed – and of course it takes a bit longer if you struggle to maintain momentum with your job search, which is very common. It’s also important to remember that employers are simply looking for the best person to fill the role available. We don’t look at candidates’ CVs and think “Right, what’s wrong with this person?” We’re looking to see what’s right about your application, so we’ll view it as a whole. If you have lots of other great stuff on your CV, a gap is fine. If we have questions about it, we’ll ask you in the interview, and you’ll have a chance to talk to us about it then.”

Tanya, Graduate Fog:

“What about the opposite problem – if an applicant has had several different roles since they graduated. Will employers think they’re a ‘job-hopper’”?

Nadine, Grant Thornton:

“No – again, most employers should be understanding. We know it’s common nowadays for graduates to be offered short-term contracts or internships. As long as there is a common thread running through them, or you can explain why you took each position, employers are likely to view all experience as good experience.”

QUESTION 2
Do employers prefer applicants who already have a job?“Do employers prefer applicants who already have a job?”

Tanya, Graduate Fog:

“Many graduates believe ‘You need a job to get a job’ – in other words, that employers look more favourably upon applicants who are currently in work than those who aren’t. For obvious reasons, this can be dangerous as down-on-their-luck graduates become convinced that their joblessness is the reason why they’re still jobless, which saps their confidence further. What are your views on this?”

Nadine, Grant Thornton:

“It’s disappointing to hear that some graduates feel there is a bias here. At Grant Thornton we would never favour an employed applicant over an unemployed applicant. We offer the role to the best person for the job, who’s shown us they really want it by preparing for and engaging with every stage of the process, and proving they really want to work for us. Most employers want to help tackle youth unemployment, and we want to help to solve it. Personally, I love it when we offer a role to a graduate who is really happy to get it.”

When should you declare a disability?QUESTION 3
“I have a disability. When should I declare it to employers – if at all?”

Tanya, Graduate Fog:

“We’ve created several advice articles for graduates with disabilities and conditions – including dyslexia, Asperger’s and dyspraxia – and the reader comments suggest many graduates are concerned their condition will count against them, despite knowing it’s illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of disability. At Graduate Fog, we suggest graduates seek employers who have identified themselves as being ‘disability-positive’ – like those listed on MyPlus Students’ Club. And when applicants choose to declare their disability, we encourage them to be as clear and confident as possible, so that the employer understands what extra support they need. What is your take on this and do you have any further advice for disabled graduates who are looking for jobs?”

Nadine, Grant Thornton:

“This is a question we’re often asked. We take pride in accommodating every applicant and we’re actively trying to improve the diversity of our workforce. There is no one-size-fits-all rule for when to declare your condition, but if you think you are likely to be at a disadvantage during the selection process, then it’s best to let us know as soon as possible, so we can make the necessary adjustments. When you do declare, I agree that it’s a good idea to be as clear and confident as possible. You may need to help an employer understand your condition before they can work out how best to help you.”

How can I tell if a company is going to be great to work for?QUESTION 4:
“I want to work for ‘good’ employer that values its staff and is a great place to work. Most big firms claim to care, so how can I spot the ones that really do?”

Tanya, Graduate Fog:

“This is an interesting one. Growing evidence suggests that today’s graduates place an organisation’s values above the salary it offers, when choosing where to work. In recent years we’ve seen more organisations recognise the importance of ‘giving back’ to society, whether that’s in the form of volunteering, charity donations or pro bono work (supplying their services unpaid to worthy causes). More recently, being a Living Wage employer has become a badge of honour, as low-paid work has become a major social issue. What else are ‘good’ employers doing, and how can graduates spot them?”

Nadine, Grant Thornton:

“I think it’s important to care about the organisation you want to work for and ensure its values align with your own. I’d advise doing your research into an organisation. What are they trying to achieve? What’s their mission statement – and end goal? And what impact are they making on communities and society around them? For example, when our new CEO Sacha Romanovitch took over last summer, one of her first announcements was that she was capping her own salary and launching a culture of shared enterprise, which means all our people can share in the reward. Our strategy going forward has purpose at the heart of what we do and the work we do with our clients. A purpose of helping shape a fairer, more sustainable UK economy. Whether it’s the CSR [corporate social responsibility] work an organisation does, or its strategy, or its values that help you to connect, you’ll know when it’s the right place for you.

How do I show I have a great attitude?QUESTION 5:
“Employers say they want graduates with a great attitude – but how do I show that in an application or interview? I’m confused!”

Tanya, Graduate Fog:

“I think this is a really important question – as employers and graduates often find themselves talking at cross-purposes. For example, employers may ask a question like “Why should we offer you this job?” Confused – or suspecting it’s a trick question – graduates will answer along the lines of “Because I really want it and I promise I’ll work really hard if you’ll just give me the chance.” While that’s good to hear, it’s not the response employers are hoping to hear. So what do you want graduates to say?”

Nadine, Grant Thornton:

“It’s all about your passion and motivation for the role and the organisation you’re applying to. If you have a genuine interest in the job you’re applying to that will come through. Think about what you’re interested in and good at – how does that relate to the role you’re applying to? As well as that, what is it about the organisation you’re applying to that particularly appeals to you? This could be one, or several things. What will you get you out of bed in the morning to go and do a good job? That’s usually a good starting (and end) point!”

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