Beat the pack when returning to work

Simon Gregory of GPS return takes a look at the job market for returners, and offers expert advice on how to succeed

Back to work


Returning to work just got harder. Or is it easier? No, it’s harder, I’m sure of it. I’ve seen articles claiming both, but here’s my take on it.  

Go back 12 months and the two main factors that made it so difficult for people returning to work was the gap on the CV and the lack of roles offering the flexibility people needed to be both the parent and the professional they wanted to be.  

Now, whether they like it or not, 90% of companies are working flexibly and they are starting to see the benefits that flexibility has on both staff engagement and productivity. Plus, the idea of explaining to their employees that they will be taking the flexibility away from them has a lot of leadership teams very nervous – people have a way of voting with their feet that can put companies at serious risk of failing.  

The gap on the CV remains an issue that a lot of people find hard to deal with. At GPS Return, we have a lot of tips and advice that helps people deal with this both on their CVs and in an interview and the point is this – you took the conscious decision to take a career break because it was the right thing to do for you and your family. Now the right thing to do for you, for whatever the circumstances, is to return to work and pick your career up from where you left off. Both decisions were deliberate and carefully thought through. Say it with confidence and it will put most employer’s mind at ease. And if it doesn’t then they are probably not the right business for you.  


So, there is an increase in roles offering flexibility and the gap on the CV is becoming easier to deal with, then why is returning to work getting harder?  

One simple factor. Competition.  

Unfortunately, there have been a lot of redundancies recently which means that in many industries, for the first time since 2008/09, there are more job seekers than jobs. This, all by itself, has made the task of returning to work significantly harder.

Instead of a job advert getting 40-50 applicants, they are getting 400-500 which in turn means your CV no longer needs to be in the top 25% to get a phone call or an interview, it needs to be in the top 5% at the very least and ideally in the top 2.5% just to stand a chance. In short, your CV needs to shine. It needs to sing your praises all the way up to 11. It needs to blow the competition out of the water… you get the idea.  You then need to walk into that interview with confidence, be able to answer their questions better than anyone else and charm them into thinking that you are the closest fit to their company culture and environment, all whilst being open about the fact that you haven’t worked for a few years.  

Simple steps

It’s hard. Even before COVID-19 it was hard, but it’s not impossible and there are simple things you can do to increase your chances: 

  • Adapt your CV to every job you apply for – simply look at what the job ad is asking for and, if you have that experience, make sure it as the top of your CV 
  • Take a couple of hours to prep for every interview and, very importantly, prep some really good questions that you can ask during the interview – it is the easiest way to stand out. 
  • If you don’t get through the interview treat it like a rehearsal. Try to get some meaningful feedback and think about what you can do to improve for the next one. Then, when the dream job comes along, you’ll be ready. 
  • Get your mindset ready for a marathon. It is much easier to mentally prepare for a long haul and get a job quickly than the other way around.  

Remember that hard does not mean impossible, that your time off has helped you become a more rounded individual and probably with clearer goals and greater motivators than before, and that there is no one as good as you with your blend of skills and experience.

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