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Stopping the gap

25 June, 2021

What would boost your chances of getting a job interview by 15%? An extra year’s experience? A time-intensive side hustle? A part-time postgraduate degree? 

The surprising answer could be a simple formatting change. When employers scan a CV, a visible gap in employment makes them more likely to dismiss an application. Historically, this has disproportionately affected women, who are more likely to be returning to work after taking time out for caring responsibilities. But in recent times, it’s also an issue for anyone made redundant or furloughed during the pandemic, who is now seeking a return to employment.  

A recent trial by the Behavioural Insights Team sought to establish what individuals can do to minimise the impact of CV gaps. Despite UK HR professionals stating that they would rather candidates explain a gap (for example, by stating that it was due to childcare), CVs and cover letters with explained gaps were no more likely to get a positive call-back than those with unexplained gaps.  

However, CVs and cover letters that presented roles in terms of the number of years of experience rather than the dates of that experience (thereby making gaps less obvious) increased the number of positive call-backs by 14.6%. 

Ultimately, it should be an employer’s responsibility – not a candidate’s – to reduce bias in hiring procedures. But if a simple format switch can help employers to see candidates’ valuable experience and give disadvantaged candidates the chance to show what they can bring to a role, it’s definitely a nudge in the right direction.  

By Sarah Howden

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