Contractors' Questions: Are gaps in my CV fatal?

Contractor's Question: I'm just home from a 10-month round-the-world trip, as I needed a breather from contracting and full-time work in ICT. I'm worried that what is a sizeable hole in CV might deter hiring managers. But as I'm mainly applying for contracts, does the gap actually matter? The permie part of my brain says it does, but surely it matters less for freelance contractors?

Expert's Answer: There is no definitive answer. It depends - on the manager/interviewer, the project, its timeline, how it's presented. It may also depend on the type of worker, or culture, that the client company wants.

In general, it's better to be open and honest about these things. I once interviewed a contractor who had a series of 3-month contracts for the previous 3 years, each followed by a gap of 3 months. That might put off some hirers, but it turned out he regularly went scuba diving abroad – well, that was his story anyway! We took him on, because he had the experience and it was a 2-month gig.

Some agents and client hiring managers are rather more judgmental of CV gaps, which is why I would make it clear on the CV - if appropriate - what the gap was for. By the way, bear in mind the scores of contractors who arrange their contracts at different places around the globe, so they can kill two birds with one stone. Contracting - it takes all sorts, and if your hirer is half-decent, they'll know this.

Contractor's Question: I'm heading towards a contract and fancy my chances. However, security clearance is next. The checking-up on me part should be fine, but my last contract finished in December 2008. After failing to get a job (in Aug 2009) because the-then client thought I had been too long out of work, I subsequently 'amended' my CV to move the end date of my last contract to July this year. So, do I continue the falsity, and also lie on the security form, or should I cite the correct dates? If I don't, I'll be hoping my interviewer doesn't see the security form. If he does, I'm hoping he won't cross-check the dates.

Expert's Answer: In general, honestly is the best policy – so I would suggest putting the real dates down on the security form. Then, if challenged, just say you made a mistake - which in a way, you did. It's understandable that having been knocked back in August, you didn't want that to happen again. However, now that you're foot is in the door, in this instance, focus more on what you have to offer the client company in terms of skills and experience, rather than the 'gap.' Sharp interviewers will pick up on any stumble you make, which could prove you're undoing given the sensitive nature of the role. Sure, you might lose some work, but many contractors are in a similar situation and it's not as big, or as rare, an issue as you may think, not least because of the climate in the jobs market of late.

Expert answers based on the comments of John Waine, The IT Coach for Contractors .

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