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Putting a Positive Spin on CV Negatives

Karina Oluwo

28 February 2020

by Karina Oluwo

( Words)

Very few people have a spotless, perfect CV. We’ve all done jobs which didn’t progress our career, but were just a stopgap to pay the bills. Perhaps you didn’t do as well in your A-levels as you’d hoped, or sacked from a previous position. Increasingly, companies are fact-checking CVs for lies and half-truths, especially for more senior positions. The best tactic is to come clean about your work and qualification history, but is it possible to turn a negative into a positive?

Gaps on Your CV

One of the most common problems is gaps on your CV. This could be down to periods of unemployment, or time off for bringing up children or caring for relatives. Don’t try to hide these periods, or stretch periods of employment to cover up. Don’t be ashamed of gaps on your CV. If asked what you were doing during the periods when you weren’t working, it’s fine to say you had caring responsibilities, were travelling or took some time out to study.

Lack of Work Experience

This is a major problem for younger applicants or students who haven’t done any work relevant to the position they are applying for. That’s not to say you should make something up. Any sort of work experience can be used to show that you’re trustworthy, a team player and reliable. Experience in playing in a sports team or volunteering for charity is valuable too, and can be used to show your character and abilities. Rather than concentrating on the nitty-gritty of what the job entailed, focus instead on the skills which the role taught you.

I’ve Been Fired

Don’t feel that you have to write reasons for leaving any position on your CV, so there’s no need to declare up front that you were sacked. If you’re asked in an interview about why you left, it’s best to be honest. If your skills weren’t up to scratch, you could say that you have in the meantime filled your knowledge gaps. Alternatively, if the sacking was a couple of jobs back, you could instead turn attention to what you’ve been doing in the interim. Don’t be afraid of saying you were a victim or downsizing or redundancy either; it’s increasingly common.

Poor Qualifications

If you didn’t do as well at school as you’d hoped, then this can look bad on your CV too. If you’re further on in your career, passes might not matter as much. It’s probably more sensible to structure your CV with work experience first, and academic information at the end. You don’t have to give the grades either unless specifically asked; it’s fine just to write that you have passes and then give the subjects.

Lack of Management Experience

Making the move into a management role is tough if you haven’t done any leadership roles in the past. However, you can draw on experience in other fields such as sports, or voluntary work, to give examples of time when you led a team or managed conflict.

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