Whether by choice or not, at some point many people have a gap in employment. Having one is completely okay, but it unfortunately might look negative to recruiters. So, how do you explain an employment gap while still seeming like a great candidate? That’s where we can help. This article is going to dive into what a gap in your cv means, the reasons for them, and how to explain them on your CV and during interviews. So read on to learn the best tips and tricks, and you’ll land a job in no time!
What is a gap in employment?
An employment is a break between jobs where you’re not employed. This can be a short time span, like a couple of months, or a longer time span, like a couple of years. There are many explanations for gaps in employment, but here are the top ones.
Reasons for employment gaps include:
- Being laid off or suddenly ending employment
- Having a gap between graduation and your first job
- Raising a family
- Caregiving for a relative or friend
- Physical or mental illness
- Taking time to travel or pursue personal projects
Whatever your reason is, taking a break from working is more common than you might think, so it’s nothing to hide or feel embarrassed about. There are many more ways to achieve success than through work. During your gap, you can even learn valuable skills that may help you in your next job. So how do you bring these positive attributes to the table? Let’s go over how to explain a career break in your CV and during an interview.
How to explain a gap in your CV
There are a few things you can do when you’ve got employment gaps on your CV; ignore, reword, or be honest about them. Obviously, we recommend being honest about it, as that’s something that recruiters value. That means writing a small line explaining why you have a gap in your CV, or writing your gap as if it was employment experience. This might not be the best course of action for all reasons, though. Sometimes it’s better to save your explanation for the interview.
You can also slightly reword your CV to make the employment gap less obvious; instead of stating months of employment, state years. This will only work for smaller timespans. Need some tips on how to write a CV? We’ve got you covered, so click through to read more, then build or edit your resume for free with our CV maker.
Let’s go over some examples: how to write about a career break on your CV due to raising a family, relocating, being a caregiver, and taking a gap year.
Raising a family
While not paid work, raising a family is a full-time job, so put it in your experience section!
‘Full-time Parent and Homemaker, 2020-present
Managed and supplied the household, oversaw daily needs and activities, and provided my child/children with an education.’
Moving cities or countries can be very stressful and time-consuming, and finding a job in a new environment is often challenging. So, it’s a good idea to drop a line to let recruiters know about this employment gap. This can go in your personal statement or cover letter.
‘In February of this year, I relocated from Belfast to London.’
Looking after a friend or family member with an illness is certainly a form of work, so put this in your experience section.
‘Full-time Caregiver, 2020-2022
Looked after an elderly relative by assisting with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and feeding. Monitored their condition and assisted them with their recovery needs.’
It’s good to state that you’ve taken a gap year on your CV, as while you may not have gained work experience, you’ll have gained personal and cultural experience. It’s also a big plus for employers with international work environments. Put this in your personal statement or cover letter.
‘After I graduated from university, I travelled throughout Southeast Asia, experiencing new cultures and growing as an individual.’
How to explain an employment gap in an interview
Explaining that gap in your CV is almost certain to come up in an interview, as recruiters are looking to check qualities like dedication and drive. So, how do you go about doing it? The key thing to keep in mind: be honest. Employers value honest employees, so don’t try to fib and say you had a job when you didn’t or for longer than you had. They can often either tell you’re lying or find out later. But, you can be honest and still word it in a way that makes you look like an attractive candidate. This means focusing more on the positives and the things you’ve learned during your employment gap that make you a better worker. If you need any more interview advice, check out all our interview tips articles.
Now, let’s go over some examples: how to explain an employment gap due to personal reasons, sickness, being fired or made redundant, and studying.
Typically, most people don’t like to talk about an employment gap for ‘personal reasons’. This could be due to grief, trauma, or some other private reason. So, this is how you’d politely mention this career break in an interview and put a positive spin on it.
‘I took some time off work for personal reasons, as I didn’t feel comfortable continuing my job at that time. During my time off, I learnt a lot about myself and rested up, and I’m now excited to get back into the workforce!’
Physical or mental illness can strike at any time and can be a tough battle, making having to deal with the gap in employment that results from this worse. It’s best to be open about dealing with illness, as employers won’t hold this against you.
‘Unfortunately, I was dealing with an illness from May until recently. However, I am feeling fighting fit and ready for work again.’
Being fired or laid off
This happens to many people at some point in their career, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But, it’s important to word this employment gap so that you seem desirable to recruiters. Keep in mind that if you were fired for any illegal or immoral reasons, recruiters will find out when they conduct a background check. So, don’t lie about why.
‘My previous employer no longer had the resources available to keep me around. While disappointing, I greatly grew in that position both professionally and personally, so it was still an excellent experience.’
Or, ‘My previous employer and I no longer thought I fit well with my role in the company, and so decided to end the contract. However, I learnt a lot in that position and developed many new skills, which I’m looking forward to applying to this role.’
A gap in your CV due to studying is probably the easiest to explain to recruiters, and is almost always seen as a positive thing! Show off any qualifications you’ve gained in the process, skills you now have, and projects you’ve completed.
‘I took a few months off work to complete an Excel training course, in which I learnt how to process and analyse data optimally. Here is one of my projects for reference.’
Explaining gaps in employment: in a nutshell
Looking for a quick summary? Here you have it. A gap in employment can happen for many reasons, either by choice or force. Explaining this can feel tricky or awkward, but it’s a necessary hurdle to move past. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that you should be honest while remaining positive about your experience. It’s also always good to tackle difficult situations like this head-on, so put your reasoning in your CV if it’s easily explainable. Otherwise, prepare to be asked about it in your interview. Now, you should be able to explain your gap in employment with ease!
Need some more advice about what to put on your CV? We have entire sections for articles about CV tips and salary tips. We strive to help you with all kinds of job-related issues and queries, so stick with us, and you can’t go wrong.
FAQs about gaps in employment
What are good reasons for gaps in employment?
Do employers care about gaps in employment?
Some of the most common reasons for gaps in employment are redundancy, sickness, studying, and travelling. But, there are no set ‘good’ reasons for gaps in employment - every kind is valid.
For employment gaps under six months, most recruiters will not mind. For any period of time above that, it will vary from company to company. Employers that aren’t willing to be understanding wouldn’t be a good fit anyway, as taking a career break when needed is natural.