How to explain gaps in your CV

You could have a gap in your CV for many good reasons, and your future employer is likely to want to know about them. Here’s how to explain the most common reasons for any breaks in your employment history in a positive way.

The careers website recommends doing this in your cover letter so as to nip-in-the-bud any potential doubts. However, if you don’t want to draw attention to your period of unemployment, you can also aim to address it at interview where you can impress your potential new employer with your other excellent qualities.

If your unemployment gap is short, you may be able to disguise it. “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,” recommends Guardian Careers.

Going on a gap year or travelling

This shouldn’t be a problem in today’s job market. The number of people choosing to take gap years is on the rise, with millions of young people taking this opportunity each year (global pandemics aside!). Traveling the world can give you valuable life experiences and different perspectives that your new employer should value, so you should highlight this to them. Emphasise that you are ready to focus on your career with renewed energy in case they are worried that you may decide to book another flight in the near future. If you undertook any volunteering work relevant to your career while you were away, that’s even better.

Suffering from a medical condition

Explaining a gap in your CV due to illness can be tough to balance. You’ll want to demonstrate that you were indeed too ill to work, but without infringing on your privacy. At the same time you want to make it clear that you are healthy enough to return to work without making it seem like you’ve had an all-too-miraculous recovery. Finally, you’ll need to demonstrate that your medical condition won’t affect your ability to do your job.

The trick is to be direct, keep it simple and don’t say more than you need to, say jobsite Say something like “I made a tough decision to leave work due to a medical issue. It’s now taken care of and I’m ready to get back to work.”

Having children

Many people take time out from their careers to have a family, but you need to reassure your employer that you’re committed to your work. “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,” say recruiters Michael Page. In your application, emphasise that you maintained your skills and qualifications and kept up to date with your industry, as well as the fact that you’re returning to work because you want to be there, not out of necessity.

Caring for a relative

It’s best to be honest about this situation, even if it is of a sensitive nature, recommend recruitment site Rather than saying you have gaps in your CV due to personal issues that you would rather not discuss, get straight to the point and say something like: “I’ve spent the last year caring for a sick relative. Their health has now recovered and I’m ready to re-enter the workforce.” This will eliminate any doubts from your potential employer.

Redundancy or unemployment

Whatever your reason for being out of work or unable to find work, you need to show your potential employer that you are being constructive with your time, such as taking short professional courses to boost your skills, doing voluntary work, internships or work experience placements, or doing your own projects related to the field you want to work in.

So, the best advice you can follow if you do find yourself in a period of unemployment, is to actually do something constructive with your time that will increase your likelihood of getting a new job, and that you can proudly put on your CV. This shows employers that you are treating your unemployment as a positive thing, an opportunity to improve yourself and get that next job as soon as possible.

If you’ve been dismissed from a job, Guardian Jobs also suggest that you may not need to include the job in your CV if it only lasted a few months or it was more than a decade ago. If you do need to include it, again try to be positive. Think of a few positive things that you gained from it, and focus as much as possible on what you can offer your new employer.

“Make it clear that you’ve learned from your previous jobs (not just the last one) and that you understand the challenges and opportunities in the new role, so you are prepared for any similar ‘difficulties.”