You might be tempted to leave gaps in your career on your resume in the hope that employers won’t notice them. But for many hiring managers, a CV that’s full of unexplained breaks is a warning sign, and they might disregard your application straight away.

Firstly, don’t forget that it’s not unusual to have the occasional employment history gap. The secret is all about how you explain it. Being honest during a hiring process is essential, and this starts with your resume. If you lie or try to cover gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere, then chances are you’ll be found out at the reference check stage. Even if you have nothing to hide, this will make employers suspicious and may put them off. On the other hand, being honest and having a well-prepared explanation of your break from your career may work in your favour.

How to explain a gap in your resume due to illness

It can be challenging to explain a gap in your employment history due to illness as it may be a sensitive subject. If your career break was a long time ago, say more than 10 years, it’s probably not worth mentioning. However, if the gap is recent and lengthy, you will have to acknowledge it and explain.

The message you need to get across is that while you had to take time out of work because you were ill, you are now ready and motivated to return to the workforce. Stay focused on the positive side of your recovery and allow the hiring manager to see your determination and drive when faced with tough times.

How to explain employment gaps due to termination or redundancy

Employers shouldn’t hold it against you for having some time in between jobs if you were made redundant (however, you will have some explaining to do if you were fired).

You need to accentuate what you were doing during the break to stay marketable. For example, did you complete any training courses or do any volunteer work? Even if you didn’t do something that was linked to your skills or career, perhaps you filled your time with other productive work, such as improving your house or picking up a new hobby. While career-related work is ideal, any productive time should show the hiring manager that you make the most of any time off, which demonstrates to them that you are not inherently lazy.

How to explain employment history gaps due to travelling

If the gap you have to explain is due to a break you took to go travelling, it should be easy for you to spin this positively. Many employers will appreciate the fact that you’ve been travelling before you apply for a role in their organisation.

For many, it means you’ve ‘got it out of your system’ and will be less likely to request time off as soon as you’re hired, and for others, it shows a sense of independence and cultural awareness.

How to explain resume gaps due to caring for your family

Many people take time out of their career to take care of a relative or raise their children, so there is no need to cover this up.

However, you should mention that your children are now in full-time education/childcare or that you no longer have care commitments and are ready to return to your career.

Addressing your employment gaps during an interview

A carefully worded and honest explanation of employment gaps in a resume should be enough to help you through to the interview stage, provided the rest of your cover letter and CV impress the reader. Keep in mind, however, that you may be asked to verbally address the gap during the interview stage as well.

Your interviewer will likely look for further detail to help them get a better idea of the time you spent away from work. Regardless of your exact situation, they will essentially want to know that the time was productive in some shape or form. Whether that was learning about new cultures and de-stressing during travel, looking after someone else in the family, improving your skills after redundancy, or working on your health, you will be able to discuss these situations to explain those gaps adequately.

For an employer, it’s more about what that gap says about your character and how you deal with difficult situations such as illness or redundancy, or downtime such as travel. Almost every role on the planet involves occasional difficulties and slow periods, so showing how you dealt with such situations during those employment gaps can, in fact, work in your favour and help you secure that new job. 

Read more expert advice on CVs and Cover Letters here.

Summary

If you have employment gaps on your resume, don't ignore the break. Prepare an explanation for the hiring manager if you have been:

  • Travelling
  • Changing careers
  • Studying
  • Caring for family

You won't need to share all the details, but explaining them can calm any doubts, emphasise your eagerness to return to the workforce, and even highlight some of your strengths. 

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