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Gaps in a CV, also sometimes referred to as gaps in employment, have a bit of a bad rep. It’s a commonly-held belief that employers will see them as negative.
However, there are plenty of valid reasons why you might have an employment gap in your CV.
It may be that you’ve been travelling, took time off to look after children, needed rest due to physical or mental illness, or it may simply have been a period of unemployment whilst seeking a job.
If you’ve got gaps in your CV, don’t worry.
It’s important to tell the truth at every stage of the hiring process but with the right angle you can effectively explain CV gaps to employers.
Read on to find out how to explain gaps in employment on your CV.
The first rule of dealing with gaps in your CV is to always be honest.
Whatever your reason for taking a career gap, you need to acknowledge it and tell the truth.
You don’t necessarily have to go into huge detail, but lying or failing to explain it will either make the CV gap more obvious or come back to haunt you later.
Don’t be tempted to lie and alter your previous employment dates to conceal gaps.
If potential employers request references, your lie will be uncovered and it’s very unlikely you’ll get the job.
Similarly, not explaining gaps in your CV may leave employers to speculate on the reasons behind them, and can cast doubt on your application.
It’s better to be upfront and take the opportunity to put a positive spin on the gap.
Remember, you don’t always have to include all of your experience on your CV.
Ten years’ experience is usually enough, so you don’t necessarily need to explain gaps in employment that were more than ten years ago.
If you have a lot of experience you won’t be expected to go into detail about all of it, so this may allow you to mask the issue.
Another way to hide gaps is to list months of employment rather than specific dates. For example, if you finished work on the 2nd November, you’d write ‘November 2018’.
If it’s a longer gap in employment that can’t be concealed this way, you’ll need to address it. However, your CV may not be the best place to do this.
Keep your CV short and to the point. Include a brief note about the gap in your work history, and then elaborate on it in your cover letter.
You could also consider writing a functional CV, which focuses on skills and experience rather than a chronological work history, and so gaps won’t be so obvious.
If you have gaps in your employment history where you weren’t particularly proactive, try to present them in a positive light.
For example, rather than saying ‘I needed a break’, try something like ‘I decided to take some time off to reassess my career objectives and gain a fresh perspective on the industry’.
If you were made redundant, focus on how you learned and developed during the gap and how that will benefit your future career prospects.
Then show you’re keen to move forward positively and get back into work again, which will shift focus away from the gap in your CV.
If you’re having trouble finding work as a result of gaps in your CV, try to use your time in a valuable way.
You could do some volunteer work, take a professional development course or seek mentoring.
This will show employers you’re proactive and keen to develop new skills.
If you can demonstrate that you’re attempting to progress your career, employers are much more likely to view a gap in employment in a positive light.
If your CV is successful and you’re invited to interview, the interviewer will most probably ask about the gaps in your CV.
It’s vital you have an answer ready for this.
Prepare a short response that acknowledges and explains the gap in employment.
Again, present it in the most positive light possible and focus on how it’s helped prepare you for the job you’re interviewing for.
Being well travelled can actually be a big bonus on a CV, as travelling implies you’ll have work-related skills such as being organised and a good time keeper, as well as personal traits like confidence and adaptability.
You should relate the skills you gained from travelling back to the job description.
For example, write about how you successfully planned a full itinerary with multiple stops as an example of how organised you are.
If you were able to learn another language while travelling during your gap in employment, you should also include this as the employer may see it as a valuable asset.
Finish up by saying how you’re ready to settle down and stay in one place for a while so that the employer won’t worry you’ll be ready to jet off again after a few months.
The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 prevents employers from discriminating against you based on your mental health.
However, when explaining gaps in your CV, you’re also not required to disclose the nature of your illness.
It’s at your discretion how much you tell the employer. In the same way you would speak of a physical illness, you can phrase it as ‘a period of illness’.
If you do wish to speak about your mental health, the potential employer doesn’t need full details.
You should, however, show that you’re now ready to work.
Bring the focus back on the job and what you can bring to it, and if applicable focus on things you might have done during your mental health career gap.
Long periods of unemployment can be very difficult and it can be just as difficult explaining these career gaps in a CV without raising questions about why you were unable to find a job.
Again, you should highlight other experience which shows you were using this time for things other than job hunting.
And when explaining the career gap, make it sound like you were being selective in your job search and waiting for the right fit, rather than suggesting that your other applications were unsuccessful.
Also make sure to check out our guide to getting back into work after long term unemployment for more tips.
Gaps in your CV don’t have to be the end of the world. Be honest, proactive and positive about any gaps in employment on your CV to give yourself the best chance of success.