How to explain an employment gap on your CV

There are many different reasons for someone to be out of work for an extended period of time, and when it comes to explaining this gap on a CV it can often be difficult to know how to approach it.

Is honesty the best policy, or should you tell a little white lie about what you were up to?

Or maybe you should just leave a gap and hope the employer doesn’t notice?

To help you decide what to do, here is a list of the possible reasons you were out of work and how you could explain the gap to an employer on your CV:

Personal illness 

One of the most common reasons to be out of work for a long period of time is due to personal illness. Attempting to explain this on your CV could prove difficult, and if you don’t want to go into any details on your CV then you could indicate that you would discuss this further in the interview.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to discuss the details of your personal illness at all, then you don’t have to do that either. You could put something like this on your CV –

‘Due to a medical condition I was unable to work for the past year. However, I have now recovered to full health and am looking forward to getting back to work’


Travelling gap year

Taking a gap year can give you confidence and skills that are beneficial to employers.

If you decided to take a gap year or even just wanted to take time off work to travel, you should look to explain this on your CV in a positive light. Lots of students take gap years to explore new cultures, to learn a new language, and in some cases to gain more confidence in their abilities to interact with other people in various different environments.

After taking a gap year you could say something like this on your CV:

‘I took a year out to immerse myself in lots of different cultures and to gain more confidence when interacting with other people. I was quite a shy person before but after travelling the world I have met many different people and my social skills have improved dramatically. 

Not only am I now a confident person when interacting with other people, I am now able to speak in public and give lectures and presentations with ease. My team working skills have also reached new levels and I have learned some very valuable life lessons. I am now much more focused than ever and ready to get back into a working environment’


“I tell people: ‘Your job now is to get a new job.”

~ Michael Carroll, Professor of Industrial Psychology, Bristol University.

“The smart move is to say: ‘What am I really good at? What do I enjoy doing?'”

~ Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University Management School.

If you were made redundant from your last position and have been out of work for a few months whilst job seeking, you could say something like this:

‘Unfortunately my previous employer was forced to downsize our branch due to the recent economic situation. I was offered a position at another branch but it was too far for me to travel. However, I am extremely proud of what I achieved during my time with John Smiths Bakery Co. and have so many new skills to take with me to a new position’

Being made redundant is a part of life and there is a very good chance that the person who is reading your CV has either experienced it themselves or was part of the process at some point during their career.

The hiring manager will know how tough of a situation redundancy can be and they will sympathise with your status. However, what they will now be looking for is how you react to your predicament and how positive you remain. Whatever you decide to put down on your CV should be positive, passionate and enthusiastic about getting a new job and how thankful you are for the previous opportunity.

The worst thing you can do when coming off of the back of redundancy is to be negative about the company you worked for in any way. Always remain thankful and upbeat, as this will look great on your CV and show how resilient you are.

Caring for a sick family member 

Caring for family member

Putting your life on hold to care for a sick family member is an achievement to be proud of.

Having to take time away from work to care for a sick family member is commendable, and in no way should you shy away from explaining this situation on your CV as it should be something to be proud of.

Putting yourself in a difficult financial situation to care for someone you love is not an easy thing to do, and you should be patting yourself on the back right now if this has happened to you. When it comes to explaining this on your CV you don’t have to go into any details about the illness if you don’t want to, and instead say something like this –

‘I decided not to work for the past 2 years to care for a family member who was seriously ill. This was by far the best decision I have ever made as I wanted to help and support them through a difficult period and give them the best opportunity to recover. I am now ready to get back to work and am looking forward to facing new challenges’


What should you do if you were dismissed from a job? Business Communications Trainer Clare Whitmell explains:

“You may not need to include a job you were dismissed from on your CV. You can omit the job it if only lasted a few months, was more than ten years ago, or is completely irrelevant to what you’re doing now. However, keep it on if it was your last job. Although you don’t need to state the reason you left on your CV, be prepared to talk about it at interview if asked.”

Claire continues:

“You don’t need to lie about why you left. Frame it as a learning experience. You didn’t do as well as you’d hoped because you needed more training and mentoring as the field was new to you for example. It’s taught you to ask for regular feedback from your manager.”

Don’t leave a gap – or risk suspicious minds 

You should never leave a gap in your employment history as this will make the hiring manager suspicious and doubt the credibility of your CV. Without an explanation the employer is left to decide for themselves why you were out of work, which is not a good position to be in.

The employer may also think that you’ve made a mistake in your timeline, and with any kind of mistake on a CV you could be looking at instant rejection. Your CV has to be completely free of any errors whether that’s a spelling mistake, a formatting issue, or an error in the timeline of your employment history.

You should always be honest with every part of your CV, and if you have an employment gap that needs explaining on your CV then don’t be afraid to give a reason. Be positive with your situation, no matter how difficult it may appear when writing your CV, and explain to the employer what you’ve learned from your time away from work and how that will benefit the company.

And what about when the question arises in an interview? Deniz Sasal from LIG Academy has some words of advice:

About Martin Carline

Martin has been a senior manager of a large customer service team within the education services industry, dealing with all aspects of staff recruitment and management. He now authors and manages content for CV Template Master and a number of other leading websites. In his spare time, Martin is an accomplished pianist and teaches all styles with a particular focus on boogie woogie and blues.

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