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How to Explain Breaks in Your CV (2024)

We all want to make our CV look as impressive and robust as possible; from the specific experience we list to how we format it visually; our CVs are our foot in the door – our chance to get noticed.  

But what about if there are breaks in your CV? What if there’s an unexplained chunk of time between one job and another? How do you explain that? Well, luckily for you, we’ve written this article to answer precisely that!

1. Be Honest

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to explaining gaps in your CV, and whatever the reason for the break, framing it through the lens of truth is immeasurably better than being dishonest or lying.  

Whether you had to take time off working due to a prolonged illness, look after children, or even reassess your career, most employers will be understanding, especially if you frame it positively.  

For instance, if you had to take time off work because of a chronic medical condition, then you can talk about how you’ve learnt how to manage it better so that work is now an option once more. You might talk about how the time off has allowed you to recharge and about how you’re now eager to get working again.

2. Talk About How You Used the Time Proactively

Use the time you have away from employment to further your personal or professional skills or increase your expertise. Showing that you volunteered for a charity highlights your dedication and proactivity, for example.  

Similarly, enrolling in an online course demonstrates that you’re furthering your professional knowledge, even when you’re out of work.  

If you’ve not been doing anything relevant in the interim period, then you can talk about how you’ve used the time to rest and reflect – there’s always a way to put a positive spin on gaps in employment, even if at first, it might not seem like it.

3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The chances are that if you reach the interview stage for a position, then the interviewer will ask about any career gaps listed on your CV. You need to prepare for this because a confident response will come across far better than something unprepared.  

As you’ve probably guessed, there are good ways to explain your career gaps and not-so-good ways to explain them… Even if you have a perfectly good reason for your career break, you can undoubtedly phrase it in a way that benefits you rather than hinders you.  

If you went travelling for a year, for example, you could talk about how those travels shaped you as a person, gave you new perspectives on life, and what it taught you about different cultures. These are all aspects that can feed into your professional skillset moving forward.  

If, by contrast, you say, “I went travelling. It was the best twelve months of my life, ” that doesn’t do anything – except for perhaps making the hiring manager want to go travelling themselves!

4. Highlight Other Positives on Your CV

Whilst a career gap shouldn’t be seen as a negative, there are, unfortunately, employers who will automatically view it as such, even if it’s an underlying subconscious bias. But you can still win them back on-side by highlighting the other positives in your CV 

For instance, discussing your references and skills (both soft and hard) can gently remind the hiring manager of your strengths as a candidate. It really can’t be overestimated just how far a good reference goes when it comes to CVs.  

Note: if an employer explicitly holds the fact that you have a gap in your CV against you, then it’s questionable whether they’re even an employer you want to be working for.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the Most Common Reasons for Gaps in a CV?

The most common reasons for CV gaps include:  

  • Illness (either short- or long-term)  
  • Redundancy  
  • Childcare  
  • Travel

What Counts as a CV Gap?

Generally speaking, if you have a break in your CV of over three months, employers may ask you about it. You might still be asked about gaps shorter than this. However, it’s less likely. If they do, the same logic outlined throughout the article applies.

Should You Talk About the CV Gap in Your Cover Letter?

It can be a good idea to reference the gap in your CV at some point within your cover letter, as this gives you the chance to explain the gap on your terms. It also means that the employer will know the reasoning before any potential interview(s).

Does a Gap in a CV Look Bad?

It’s a common misconception that a CV gap is automatically bad. Provided you have a reasonable explanation, there’s no reason why it should make any difference in whether you secure employment.

Final Thoughts

So, to recap. Be honest about gaps in your CV, talk about how any time away from work benefitted you (either directly, e.g. you studied a course, or indirectly, e.g. the time travelling has revitalised you), and make sure to highlight the other positives on your CV.  

Include a brief reference to the gap within the cover letter you send, and most importantly, remember that a gap in your CV isn’t the end of the world! 

Carry on reading