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How do I explain an employment gap on my CV?

‘I have a gap in my employment history. How do I explain this on my CV?’ — Granger D.

Answer:

If you have a career gap in your CV, you’re not alone. Employment gaps occur for a variety of reasons, from dismissal and redundancy to travelling and maternity leave.

The secret to addressing a career break on your CV is making it work to your advantage. Here are some tips to help you explain your gap and show recruiters why they should still hire you.

Format the dates on your CV

Most job hunters forget that a CV doesn’t need to document their entire employment history. Instead, it should cover a brief but powerful summary of the last 10 to 15 years of work and outline your skills.

One quick way to address the gaps in your CV is by formatting the dates. If your employment gap lasted a few months, try omitting the months from what’s on your CV and show only the years instead. However, don’t try to extend dates to mask a gap ‒ lying may get you into more trouble than it’s worth.

However, if this doesn’t work, here are some other options to help diminish the impact of your career break on your CV.

Focus on the positives

Every experience offers a valuable learning curve. It’s your job to identify what you gained from your career break to show prospective employers that, despite being out of work, you developed useful skills.

Think about what you learnt that makes you more employable. Chances are you boosted essential soft skills such as self-motivation, communication and confidence. You may have also taken courses or volunteering placements, or even spent time reflecting and refocusing your career. Feel free to go beyond the work-related skills and expand on competencies developed from day-to-day life.

Avoid dwelling on your unemployment and apologising for gaps. Instead, place a positive spin on every point and make your career break look purposeful, rather than desperate.

Be honest about the gap

Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to your CV, especially when addressing why you’re out of work.

Firstly, be reassured that career breaks are common. Recruiters are no strangers to candidates that have taken time off to travel, to care for a family member or were dismissed from their last role.

Secondly, be aware that you don’t have to go into every detail. For example, if you were fired from your last job, don’t bad-mouth your employer for making you leave. Instead, be discrete and explain how you weren’t a fit for the role or had outgrown the job, and are currently seeking a position that better matches your competencies.

Bear in mind that these details should be brief on your CV. Ideally, you should address the reasons for the gap in your CV in your cover letter or during the interview. Save your CV for your selling points.

Tweak your personal statement

Your personal statement is the perfect place to address your employment gap head-on, so phrase it in a way that shows you’re ready to re-enter the workplace.

Here are a few examples of how to address a career gap in your personal statement:

  • Redundancy: Now ready to re-establish a career in XXX. Available immediately.

  • Dismissal: Now ready to resume a position in the XXX industry after taking some time to refocus my career goals.

  • Caring for someone: Now looking to re-establish my career in XXX after taking some time out as a carer.

  • Traveling: Now ready to re-enter the XXX industry and deliver similar impressive results in a new role with my new-found skills.

  • Taking a course: Currently seeking a position in XXX after refining and developing my skills through XXX course.

Addressing a career break on your CV can be scary. But remember, it’s all relative. It’s not unusual to have a gap in your CV. The secret to landing an interview is to show what you gained from this stint out of work and, ultimately, why you’d be a valuable asset to anyone’s business.

Need help explaining an employment gap on your CV? Submit for a free CV critique and we’ll tell you where you stand.

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