Nervous about how a gap in your employment history looks on your CV? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and we have good news.
Things have changed in the world in the past few years, and most employers today have a better understanding of the personal responsibilities and choices people sometimes have to make. Gaps on a CV have become more common, and with the right narrative, they’re less stigmatised.
But that’s the key; you need to effectively address and frame the gap. Unfortunately, you may not get a shot at that dream job if you don't explain the gap effectively.
More common or not, finding the right way to explain an employment gap on your CV can be daunting. Ensure your explanation makes the right impression with advice and feedback from our career counselling service.
We’ve helped thousands of people succeed in their job search and are here to help you. Contact us about anything from CV writing and design to interview prep, contract negotiations, and any other questions you have about reaching your career goals.
The reality of employment gaps
With so much happening in the world today, employment gaps have become an increasingly common job market reality. Whether it’s from career transitions, personal reasons, or economic downturns, far more people are submitting CVs with employment gaps now.
But these gaps can be reframed as opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and pursuing alternative avenues, like freelancing or volunteer work. You can control the narrative to turn an employment gap into a talking point demonstrating your adaptability, resilience, and proactive approach to self-improvement.
The secret is to focus on the valuable experiences you gained during these gaps to showcase your strengths, unique perspectives, and capacity to overcome challenges. Manage that, and you’ll turn the liability of your employment gap into an asset.
The importance of addressing employment gaps in your CV
It’s crucial to explain employment gaps on your CV to avoid any potential misinterpretations. Leaving these gaps unexplained can lead a recruiter toward negative assumptions about your work ethic, skills, and commitment.
You can demonstrate transparency and professionalism by explaining these gaps correctly. Some reasons employers should understand for a gap include pursuing further education, taking care of family responsibilities, or working on personal projects.
Taking a proactive approach to explain employment gaps avoids misunderstandings. It lets you showcase the valuable experiences and skills you gained during that period, turning them into an opportunity to sell yourself to the recruiter.
It’s also an opportunity to present yourself as a proactive and responsible candidate. This builds trust and increases your chances of being considered for a job.
Understanding employment gaps
Common reasons for employment gaps
No matter the reason for your employment gap, the key is identifying how you used that time wisely to pursue personal or professional development. Here are some of the most common reasons people take a break and the benefits they gain from it:
It’s never too late to get more education or learn new skills, whether getting a degree, going to workshops or training courses, or getting special certifications for a specific industry. This shows that you're dedicated to growing personally and professionally.
Parents sometimes need to take time off work to care for their children. This a valid reason to have a gap in employment that shows you're responsible and have a strong sense of your priorities, like taking care of your family.
It doesn’t reflect poorly on you if your company had financial problems, ownership change, or another shakeup where people lost their jobs. Explaining this gap shows you can adapt and proactively find new opportunities during tough times.
Unfortunately, people sometimes need time off work because they're sick or have medical problems. Your health is always the priority, so discussing this gap in your CV helps employers understand why you had to take a break.
People who explore a career change or switch industries often need time to make connections and get experience through internships or part-time jobs. Explaining this gap shows you're proactive about finding the right career fit.
Moving out of town or abroad can lead to a temporary employment gap as you adjust, settle in, and explore your options. Explaining this gap shows you can adapt to new environments and are open to new opportunities.
Sabbatical or travel
Some people take breaks to pursue personal interests or travel, leading to valuable life experiences and improved soft skills. Explaining this gap shows that you're a well-rounded person with an open mind who can bring fresh ideas to the workplace.
Potential perceptions of employment gaps
Misconceptions about employment gaps can come up during the job application process. Left unaddressed, they could impact your prospects.
One misconception is that an employment gap implies a lack of commitment or competence. Another misconception is that the candidate was unemployed due to performance issues or lack of motivation.
Employers also might assume that candidates with gaps have fallen behind in their skills or are less dedicated to their careers. And, of course, these misconceptions can lead to biased judgments and result in missed opportunities – even for highly qualified candidates.
It’s crucial that you proactively address these employment gaps in your CV, providing context and presenting the valuable experiences you gained during that time. This lets you counteract any negative assumptions and ensures you’re judged fairly about your time off.
Addressing employment gaps in your CV
Being honest about employment gaps
Being honest when addressing employment gaps on your CV is important because it helps employers trust you and see you as credible. It shows that you have integrity and are willing to openly discuss your work history.
When explaining these gaps, it's important to be truthful and concise. Focus on the positive experiences you gained during the gap, like learning new skills, doing freelance work, volunteering, or personal projects.
Talk about how these experiences helped you grow professionally and the transferable skills you gained. Avoid being defensive or apologetic; instead, present the gap as a valuable time that prepared you for new challenges.
Remember to tailor your explanation to fit the job you're applying for, showing how your gap experiences make you a strong candidate. By being honest and confident and focusing on relevant skills, you can identify how your employment gap makes you a desirable candidate.
Highlighting skills gained during employment gaps
Actively highlighting your gains during an employment gap demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and enhances your chances of landing a job. You can use a few strategies to highlight the skills and experiences you gained during your gap.
Identify the specific skills or knowledge you acquired during that time, such as through further education, personal projects, volunteering, or freelance work. Then, clearly and concisely highlight these skills on your CV or during job interviews.
Use strong action verbs to describe your achievements and show the value you gained from those experiences. Whenever possible, demonstrate those gains using measurable evidence of your accomplishments.
Consider earning certifications or taking relevant courses to strengthen your skills further. Making productive use of your time off demonstrates your motivation and professional dedication.
Use networking opportunities and online platforms to share gap-related projects or insightful blog posts. Publicly describing your accomplishments can strengthen their impact and may even catch the interest of people looking for your skills
Using the right CV format to minimise the impact of employment gaps
Using a functional (AKA a skills-based) CV format is a strategic approach to lessen the impact of an employment gap and present your best self to employers. The functional CV layout offers three main benefits:
Highlight your relevant skills, qualifications, and achievements. This shifts the focus away from the chronological order of your work history, so employers are more likely to gauge your suitability based on your skills instead of your work timeline.
Emphasise the transferable skills you gained while volunteering or doing freelance work or personal projects during the employment gap. By placing these skills front and centre, you demonstrate how you’d contribute effectively to the position, despite any gap.
Address concerns about outdated or irrelevant work experience, especially if your industry changed significantly during the gap period. The functional CV format presents your current skills and knowledge as the main focus, highlighting your adaptability and continuous professional development.
If you’re not sure how to write a functional CV, we have professionally designed templates you can use for free. Just choose the template you like best and insert your personal details.
Examples of CVs with employment gaps
Provide examples and explanations of well-written CVs that effectively address employment gaps.
Example 1: Parental Leave
This explanation shows how the gap time was spent learning and offers specific evidence of success.
2018 - Present: Parental Leave
Took a career break to care for my young child. I honed my organisational skills, multitasking abilities, and time management during this time. I also volunteered at a local charity, managing their social media accounts and increasing their followers by 30%.
2016 - 2018: Marketing Manager, XYZ Company
Example 2: Redundancy
This is an example of how to concisely describe the gains you made in your time off.
2021 - Present: Professional Development
Made redundant due to company-wide layoffs. I used this time to update my professional skills, completing a project management course and a certification in Agile methodologies.
2018 - 2021: Project Manager, ABC Corporation
Example 3: Further Education
You can see from this example how showcasing the education you gained during a gap can be presented as a huge advantage for an employer.
2019 - 2021: Master's in Data Science, University of London
Took a break from employment to pursue further education, developing advanced skills in machine learning, AI, and big data analysis.
2016 - 2019: Data Analyst, XYZ Company
Example 4: Health Issues
This example demontrates how this person is a dedicated professional even in hard times.
2019 - 2020: Health Recovery
Took time off for medical reasons. Now fully recovered and eager to return to the workforce. During my recovery, I completed online courses in digital marketing, improving my SEO and content marketing skills.
2017 - 2019: Digital Marketer, ABC Company
Example 5: Career Break for Travel
This person identified how personal development can be a professional asset and add value to an employer.
2017 - 2018: Career Break for Travel
Took a year off to travel, which allowed me to experience diverse cultures and develop valuable soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and adaptability.
2012 - 2017: Operations Manager, XYZ Corporation
Example 6: Entrepreneurial Venture
This is a great example that both shows the skills gained during an entrepreneurial break and highlights the venture’s success.
2015 - 2017: Entrepreneur, Self-Employed
Took time off from traditional employment to start my own business. Gained hands-on experience in business strategy, financial management, and team leadership. Sold the successful business in 2017.
2011 - 2015: Business Analyst, DEF Company
Example 7: Freelance Work
This person demonstrated the value they gained during their time off and notes the diverse clients they worked with as a freelancer.
2020 - 2021: Freelance Graphic Designer
I freelanced to hone my skills and expand my portfolio during this period. I successfully collaborated with 13 independent and corporate clients, meeting their design needs and ensuring their satisfaction.
2018 - 2020: Graphic Designer, XYZ Agency
Example 8: Volunteering
Highlighting your compassion and care for others is an excellent way to show a potential employer how you would make a great addition to their team.
2019 - 2020: Volunteer, Local Charity
I took a year to give back to my community by volunteering at a local charity. During this time, I coordinated fundraising events and managed donor relations, acquiring skills I carry into my next professional role.
2016 - 2019: Event Manager, ABC Events
Example 9: Job Search
Even though there’s no specific explanation for the gap here, this example addresses it by highlighting the professional development the applicant pursued during the time off.
2021 - Present: Actively Seeking Employment
I've been using this time to explore my career options and focus on professional development. I've completed a course in digital marketing and stayed updated on industry trends.
2018 - 2021: Marketing Coordinator, DEF Company
- Employment gaps are an increasingly common entry on CVs
- You can turn this potential liability into an asset by controlling the narrative
- You must address and explain the gap in your CV or interview
- Your explanation should identify the personal and professional gains you made during the gap
- An honest explanation builds credibility and can improve your chances of success