Mind the gap

We take a look at how and when to best explain any employment gaps on your CV

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While it may be tempting to ignore any gaps on your CV, the likelihood is that potential employers will notice them and disregard your job application if your career history is full of unexplained breaks.

Being honest during a hiring process is essential in every job search and this starts with your CV. If you lie or try to cover gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere, the chances are you will be found out at the reference check stage – and even if you have nothing to hide employers will become suspicious and put off.

There are, of course, a number of genuine reasons why employment gaps may be present on your CV. One of these is redundancy. Employers will not mind some time in between jobs if you were made redundant.

But what you should accentuate on your CV is what you were doing during these breaks to stay marketable, such as volunteer work and additional training.

Another reason may be connected to health.

Recruiter Michael Page says: ‘Explaining a gap in your CV due to illness is sometimes tricky. If your career break was a long time ago – more than 10 years – it is probably not worth mentioning anyway.

‘However, if the gap is recent and long you will have to acknowledge it and explain to some degree. The message you should be conveying in your explanation should be that, although you did have to take time out of work because you were ill, you are now ready to go back to work.’

Travel

If a gap is due to a break you took to go travelling, it should be fairly simple for you to put a positive spin on this. Many employers appreciate the fact that you have been travelling before you apply for a role at their organisation. It often means you have ‘got it out of your system’ and for others it shows a sense of independence and cultural awareness.

Many people take time out of their career to raise their children or take care of a relative, so don’t think you should try and cover this up. However, it might be worth mentioning that your children are now in full-time education/childcare or that you no longer have care commitments and are ready to return to your career.

It is highly likely that you will be asked about career breaks during any interviews, so it is best practice to have explained them already in your covering letter to avoid awkward questions at interview. You may still get asked, but only if the hiring manager needs more information.

If such a situation arises look at it as an opportunity to better explain yourself and even rehearse the basis of any answer you are likely to make.

"If a gap in your CV is recent and long you will have to acknowledge it and explain to some degree"

Michael Page