What’s the best way to explain an employment gap on your CV?

Having an employment gap in your CV can occur for any number of reasons. You may have been out of work for personal health issues, or it may have taken a while finding a new job.

Some people decide to take a break from work to further their studies or gain a new qualification, and some people even decide to take a year or two out to travel the world!

No matter what the reason you should always take a confident approach and tackle the issue head on with a new employer. Here are some great tips to help you decide how to fill in that employment gap in your CV:

Use your covering letter

Not everyone decides to write and attach a cover letter with their CV, but if you do then you can consider explaining your employment gap here. The covering letter is always a great way to expand on points that are bullet pointed within your CV.

Although your CV is what the employer is most interested in, it won’t always allow you to explain something to your liking, so this is where the covering letter can come into its own. It’s a great place to start when it comes to explaining your employment gap, and allows you the freedom to put a positive spin on your circumstances.

Try not to go into too much detail, and keep all of your sentences short and to the point. Also, always try to use positive words and phrases when explaining something you feel could have a negative impact on your chances of gaining an interview.

“If it’s a short gap sandwiched between longer periods of employment, you can deflect attention by giving the dates of employment in years, rather than in months. For example, ‘2002 — 2006’ rather than ‘January 2002 — October 2006’.” Clare Whitmell in the Guardian

Qualifications are important

If you decided to take some time away from working to further your studies or gain a new qualification, then you certainly don’t have anything to worry about. Actually, this isn’t really what you’d call an employment gap, but more of a development opportunity.

When someone has been out of work for a lengthy period of time, the employer can often get suspicious or at the very least curious as to why it took so long to get back into work. However, when it comes to studying and gaining new qualifications, this is often seen as a huge positive in the eyes of the hiring manager.

How to tackle a personal health issue

When it comes to having an employment gap relating to personal reasons or family issues, this can often be a difficult and sensitive subject to discuss. However, we would always recommend you tackle this head on and don’t be afraid to discuss certain details.

You don’t of course have to discuss anything personal if you don’t want to, and giving the reason of ‘personal health issues’ is absolutely fine. But the more transparent you are the easier it will be to help the employer to understand.

Don’t go into too much detail on your CV but be prepared to do so when it comes to the interview stage. The best advice we can offer here is to have a planned script in your mind before you go in that you can deliver. Alternatively – if a script sounds a little scripted! – just think of a few points you’d like to cover during the interview.

Again, you do not under any circumstances have to reveal anything to an employer if you don’t want to, and what you want to stay personal can. Some people are happy to talk about absolutely anything, and some people would rather keep things to themselves which is of course completely understandable. But remember, the more you keep them in the dark the more difficult it will be for them to push past the employment gap.

A great way to put a positive spin on a medical issue is to say something like, ‘I had to leave work because of a medical issue, but now I am ready and eager to get back to work.’

“Whenever possible, discuss what you achieved during that time to keep your finger on your industry’s pulse to maintain, or even strengthen, your skills. If you participated in any events conducted by professional organizations in your field, then discuss that. Or if you did any relevant volunteer, freelance or contract work during your time off, then make employers aware of that. But whatever you do, don’t go blank when an interviewer asks you for an explanation.” ~ Amanda Augustine,  CNBC

Always be honest

The worst thing you can do to explain an employment gap is to lie or tweak the truth even just a little. Always be completely honest with an employer as you don’t want to end up in a situation where you get the job and something arises later that has to be explained or could effect your position within the company.

Like before, medical and personal issues don’t have to be explained in detail, but don’t be tempted to make up a story to gloss over the real reason you couldn’t work or decided not to. Honestly always goes a long way, and rather than leaving the employer feeling suspicious you should always take a positive approach and meet the issue head on.

Here’s a few thoughts on gaps in your CV from British-Pakistani entrepreneur and television personality James Caan, former Dragons’ Den investor, Chairman of the UK Government’s Start Up Loans Scheme, and founder/CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw:

Leave a comment