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Nursing job applications – how to deal with a career gap

It's common for nurses to take a career break, perhaps to start a family or care for an elderly relative. So, how do you deal with a gap in your working life when applying for a nursing job? Here are some ideas for CV writing and interviews.

There's no need to be embarrassed about having taken time out from your career. Many people do so for a variety of reasons and it shouldn't count against you as a job applicant, as long as you present the career break in the right way.

Your career history

After your personal details, it's common to have a career history in 'reverse chronological' format, listing your most recent nursing job and then working backwards. With a substantial career break, it may be wiser to start with a 'skills-based' section, matching the content to the required competencies in the job description. For each competency, you should provide one or two brief examples from your career experience as a nurse. This will show the recruiter your suitability for the job before you go on to list the positions you have held.

Using only years (rather than specific months and years) to show periods of employment will de-emphasise your career break. However, don't under any circumstances try to cover up a career gap by extending the dates of employment. You might get caught out.

Emphasise the positive

If your break from work was due to illness or stress, it's probably not a good idea to highlight this. However, you shouldn't try to hide it or leave it off your CV entirely. It's better to be positive and show how you used your time away from work productively. Did you learn any new skills? Did you do some volunteering? If you have been ill, you should confirm that you are fully recovered and ready to take on new challenges.

Interviews - be prepared

However well you've presented your career gap on your CV, it's almost certain that you'll be asked more about it at interview. Don't be caught off-guard. Prepare and rehearse how you will respond to a variety of questions, for example 'How did you use your time off productively?' and 'How have you kept your skills and knowledge up to date?'.

Returning to nursing

If you're thinking of returning to nursing after an extended career break, what do you need to do to make sure you're ready to take on a new nursing role? Information from Health Education England (HEE) about re-registering and updating your skills is available here.

Once you’re ready to return to nursing, take a look at any of our nursing job opportunities or phone us to speak to one of our consultants who will guide you through the process.
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