Having a gap in your employment history isn’t rare. There are many reasons someone might have a break during their career, although it’s important that you’re able to explain why it occurred to an employer.
Traditionally, gaps in employment history on a CV were seen as concerning but today, more people than ever are adopting non-linear career paths and they’re certainly not working at one employer their entire life. Naturally, this means we’re seeing more people taking career breaks.
Below we explore the common reasons someone might have gaps in their employment and how to explain those gaps in employment on your CV.
What is an employment gap on a CV?
An employment gap on a CV – and sometimes referred to as a CV gap – is a point in your work history where you were not employed. This is commonly a large break between two roles that isn’t immediately explainable or obvious – such as leaving work to study or going on maternity/paternity leave.
Unfortunately, many people are worried about having employment gaps as they feel that it somehow makes them seem less dedicated, ambitious or attractive to potential employers.
Any period of unemployment over three months is typically considered an employment gap. It’s not uncommon for people to have breaks of a few months between jobs – this represents a natural job search or time to refocus. Anything longer than three months, however, may result in an employer asking questions.
It’s unlikely you’ll be asked about your long-term history as most employers prefer to talk about recent events.
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What are the common reasons for an employment gap?
People often step away from their careers for many reasons – both voluntary and involuntarily. More often than not, it won’t make you less employable. Some of the most common reasons for an employment gap include:
– Physical, mental and chronic illness, serious injury or disability.
– Starting a family, spending more time with family or caring for a dependent.
– Taking time off for travelling.
– Longer job searches due to a full career change and associated training.
– Returning to education.
– Taking a break due to fatigue or burnout.
These are all valid reasons for an employment gap and while many people are taught otherwise, any good employer will not hold this against you during the application process.
How to explain gaps in employment on your CV
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re asked about a CV gap or you suspect it’ll be brought up, there are several key pieces of advice that you should follow:
– Be genuine, honest and authentic about your reasoning – insincerity can lead to problems.
– Don’t go into unnecessary detail. You don’t have to explain anything around health issues, for example, if you don’t want to and simply reinforcing the break was due to a ‘health issue’ is enough.
– If you can, take the positives from the gap and highlight these to the employer. If you learnt new skills or kept up with industry news during a break, for example, you can use this as context.
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Remember, you don’t need to explain gaps in your CV on the actual document itself.
While many people may tell you otherwise, using up precious space on your CV to highlight an employment gap is unnecessary. Just be prepared to answer the question during your interview.
Below are some examples of how you might explain CV gaps in employment using some of the most common reasons:
Taking time off for family
Example: ‘At the start of the year I had my first daughter and it was a priority for me to spend as much time with her as possible to ensure that she had a stable routine and home life. The entire process has taught me a lot about adapting to a completely different lifestyle and the challenges that come with that but now that childcare is more readily available, I’m eager to get back into work to continue my career goals.’
– Reinforce that you took time off to prioritise family.
– Highlight some of the positives you learned from the experience
– Be honest about why you’re re-entering work – looking for a new challenge, need a stable income, want to save for a new home etc.
Taking a break due to health issues
Example: ‘Unfortunately, during my last role I started to suffer from a period of chronic illness which meant I felt unable to carry on. My condition has improved significantly since then and I feel I’m in a much better place to make an impact. This position is also much better suited to me and I’m excited to demonstrate why I’m ideal for the role.’
– You do not have to give any specific details about a health issue
– Explain why you feel this role is better suited to you and your current situation compared to before
Returning to education
Example: ‘In my last role I realised that I wanted to specialise and upskill but unfortunately, my role didn’t have the flexibility I required. I decided to take a break to learn new skills that will enhance my professional development. Now that I have this new qualification, I’m looking for opportunities where I can not only add significant value but also use my new skills.’
– Explain what the skills or qualifications you wanted to earn
– Provide context of why you feel that has made you a better professional
Leaving work to travel
Example: ‘I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could take a year out of work to travel around the world, visiting some of the places I’ve always wanted to see. This has always been something I wanted to do and while it was fun, it also allowed me to take a break mentally and allowed me to put my goals into perspective. Now, I feel like I’m in a good place to enter the next stage of my life and my career with a new role.’
– Be enthusiastic about both your experiences and why you’re ready to return to work
– Highlight that this was a fantastic opportunity and offered plenty in the way of personal development