Jobseekers, here's what recruiters really think of career gaps

Devex asks recruiters what they really think of career gaps on a candidate’s CV. Via YouTube.

The project-based nature of global development means that it is not uncommon for the sector’s professionals to be between jobs. Career gaps are a source of anxiety for many jobseekers, especially if they are over a significant amount of time.

Devex spoke to global development recruiters to find out their impression of career gaps on a candidate’s CV. Recruiters also shared their advice on how and when to explain periods of unemployment to prospective employers. The good news is that, generally, recruiters felt that short gaps weren’t necessarily something to be alarmed by and the sector is increasingly understanding of individuals taking time off, for example due to family commitments or to go back to school.

In the development sector, it’s more acceptable to have some gaps in your CV, in addition to a lot of personal reasons why this could be the case, explained Meaghan Carpenter, business development recruiter at DAI. If your CV strongly reflects the job that you are applying for, then it's not necessarily going to be an issue, she added. Carpenter advised jobseekers to give an explanation of their career gap in the executive summary of their CV.

Julie Smallwood, senior proposal recruiter with Intrahealth International, agreed that small career gaps are not problematic and can be explained in a cover letter. However, if it is a longer gap — two years or more — it’s good to see some activity or involvement in international development work during that time, she explained. This can be volunteering work, attending relevant conferences, or any consulting work.

One thing all the recruiters agreed? Jobseekers should not try to cover up career gaps. “Transparency is key,” said Abe Jaussen, recruiter at TetraTech. Be upfront about your career gaps and make sure you still sell yourself.

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.