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How to explain employment gaps on your CV
03 November 2014
You might be tempted to ignore gaps in your career on your CV in the hope that employers won’t notice them. But for many hiring managers, a CV that’s full of unexplained breaks is a warning sign and they might disregard your application straight away.
Being honest during a hiring process is essential, and this starts with your CV. If you lie or try to cover gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere, chances are you’ll be found out at the reference check stage. Even if you have nothing to hide, this will make employers suspicious and may put them off.
It can be difficult to explain a gap in your CV due to illness. If your career break was a long time ago, say more than 10 years, it’s 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 need to get across is that you had to take time out of work because you were ill, however you are now ready and motivated to return to the workforce.
Termination or redundancy
Employers probably won’t hold it against you for having some time in between jobs if you were made redundant (however you might have some explaining to do if you were fired). You need to accentuate what you were doing during the break to stay marketable; for example, did you complete any training courses or do any volunteer work?
If the gap you have to explain 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 will actually appreciate the fact that you’ve been travelling before you apply for a role at their organisation. For some it means you’ve ‘got it out of your system’ and for others it shows a sense of independence and cultural awareness.
Caring for family
Many people take time out of their career to take care of a relative or raise their children, 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.
Most interviewers are highly likely to ask you about career breaks, so it’s best practice to have already explained them in your covering letter, thus avoiding any awkward questions at an interview. You may still get asked, but only if the hiring manager needs more details.
If you have career gaps on your CV, don't brush over the break. Prepare an explanation for the hiring manager if you have been:
- Changing careers
- Caring for family
You won't need to share all the details, but explaining can calm any doubts and emphasise your eagerness to return to the workforce.