explaining gaps in your cv

woman on phone getting advice on how to tailor her CV

Do you have any unexplained ‘black holes’ on your CV? Hiring managers know exactly what they're looking for when analysing your CV and will make their mind up about whether your application is a yes or a no in approximately 30 seconds.

In an ideal world, all CVs will read in perfect chronological order with no prominent gaps that demand explanation. But this does not take into account the curveballs that life throws at us, which can alter our career paths considerably. Travelling, having long-term caring responsibilities, taking study leave or redundancy are just some of the commitments which impact on working lives, causing employment gaps on your CV. So employment gaps are normal, so why do we need to explain them?

An otherwise impressive CV can spark a red flag in employers if there are periods of time unaccounted for and unaddressed. Rather than selecting your CV, hiring managers are obliged to further investigate where these gaps have come from or may even discount your CV. Need advice on how to approach employment gaps on your CV? We explain how you can justify them.

Start with your education

For recent graduates, your higher education and degree result is a priority for many employers. You aren’t expected to have had a number of consecutive years’ work experience when you have been studying, travelling or undertaking charity work. So until your work experience starts to build up, it’s a good idea to start with your academic history.

Emphasise transferrable skills

Use your experience outside of work to emphasise the transferrable skills you’ve gained that will be valuable in your next role, including this in your work experience section. Whether it be travelling, volunteering or undertaking further study, never hide these experiences on your CV, especially when they have made a vital contribution to your career development.

Never lie about employment dates

It’s a risky road to lie about your dates of employment. It’s standard procedure for employers to verify employment dates either once you accept the offer or even before offer stage so if you lie, it will more than likely come out. If you are found to be lying your application will be terminated immediately and if any offer has already been extended it will be retracted.

Be prepared to discuss at interview

Preparation is key. Have your answers ready so that when you are asked why you have left jobs you are able to answer easily and naturally. For example, why did you decide to take a travel break? What did you learn from the experience that you have taken with you in your professional career? If you have been made redundant, explain how you have responded to this and the types of jobs that you have been looking for, as well as what you’ve been doing in the meantime.

Be honest

There is no shame in admitting you made a mistake by going to a new job, only to find out it was not what you were looking for, or that the company had undergone a redundancy programme. It is more important to be able to show how you reacted to this and what you have been doing in the interim, e.g. upskilling, volunteer work, networking etc. Employers will always respect your honesty.

Are you experiencing an employment gap right now?

Start doing something about it! Think about things that you could be doing right now that could boost your CV. It’s difficult to take time away from applying for roles, but this doesn’t have to mean having to take on a part-time job that doesn’t align with your career path. Activities such as starting your own blog, learning a new skill or language or creating your own portfolio could give you that little bit extra, giving your CV the edge over the competition.

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