How do I get past automated systems after a career break?

I have been out of the workplace for a few months after taking a career break to care for my mother who has since died. I am now trying to get back, but I don’t know how to show my career gap in a positive way and I feel it is stopping me getting shortlisted for jobs through automated systems. Is there any way around this or should I try other ways of approaching employers?

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My advice would be that a few months really isn’t a long career break. If you’ve taken time off, I’d always recommend being honest and say what you’ve been doing and why, for example, I deliberately took time off to care for my mother. You can then talk about the transferable skills, for instance, empathy, reliable, flexible, communication, positivity, patience etc. that you developed during this break which will help to frame it in a positive way.

Rather than the length of time you took off, I believe it’s more around whether you have got the skills the marketplace needs. It’s about making sure you can evidence self-investment and what you’ve been doing to make sure you’re up to date.

A good way to get shortlisted for jobs through automated systems is to make sure you mirror their language and use words on your CV/application letter that relate back to the job spec. This can also help with getting through automated systems as a robot will have a checklist of words that needs to get ticked, so by mirroring the language and by including the skills they need where appropriate, you’re more likely to get selected for interview.

I wouldn’t solely rely on applying for jobs through automated systems, especially if you feel they are stopping you from getting shortlisted; instead, I’d recommend a blended approach. First and foremost, using your network – your network are your ‘trusted advisors’ who you can share your career plan with. They will be your eyes and ears on the ground so it’s helpful for that group of people to know what you’re looking to do.  75% jobs come as a result of a networking connection so it’s by far the most successful way of landing a role.

Another route to finding a job is to form a network of recruitment firms/head-hunters who can look for roles you want on behalf of you – you can build a relationship with them, let them know why you took your break career gap, and what you’re now looking to do going forward. So, there are other ways to job searching rather than solely applying online.

I’d also recommend practising some related interview questions around why you chose to take a career gap, what you learned during that time and why you now want to return to work.

*Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a career coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit

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