How to explain gaps in your CV

Published: 18 Jun 2014

Tempted to ignore gaps in employment on your CV? Don’t. You may hope that employers won’t notice but for many hiring managers a CV full of unexplained breaks is a warning sign and your application may be disregarded straight away.

Being honest is essential to the hiring process and this begins with your CV. Lying or trying to cover up gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere will be found out at the reference check stage so don’t risk it. Employers will be suspicious and put off, even if there is nothing to hide.

Being ill

If you took time off work due to illness (and if this break was recent and long) you will have to explain it to some extent in your CV. You should be highlighting the message that even though you did take time off work because of illness, you are ready to return to your career as soon as possible.

Termination or redundancy

Did you take time off between jobs following a termination or redundancy? If so, you will not likely be penalised for this as long as you let employers know what you did during this time to stay marketable. For example did you do any volunteer work or complete any additional training to improve your employability? You may have some further explaining to do if you were fired! 

Leaving the country

Did you take time off work to go travelling? If so, this is not necessarily a bad thing so there is no need to try and cover it up on your CV. Many employers will actually appreciate that you’ve been travelling before applying to work for them. For some it means you’ve ‘got it out your system’ and for others it may show a sense of independence and cultural awareness.

Looking after your family

Took time off work to look after a relative or care for your children? This is a common occurrence therefore it is not necessary to try and cover it up on your CV. It is probably worth mentioning, however, that your children are now in full time childcare/education thus making it clear to the employer that you no longer have care commitments and are ready to return to your career.

You may be asked about your career breaks in your interview so it is always best to explain any employment gaps in your covering letter to avoid any awkward questioning that may arise later on. Enquiries may still be made about these gaps but only if the hiring manager needs more details.

Get more CV advice with Michael Page Digital and take a look at our articles on how not to write your CV and what employers and recruiters look for in a CV.

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