Mind the Gap! How to explain career gaps on your CV

Do you have a career Gap? If so, you may be wondering what to do with this on your CV. Having worked with parent returners and people at all stages of their career who have an employment gap – here are some pointers for you to consider.

Size matters!

First how big is your gap? You may benefit from a little perspective. One back to work contract in London that I currently write CVs for – the average employment gap on my clients’ CVs is 14 years. This may seem hefty compared to yours? Point being – you can have a fantastic, relevant CV even with a large gap. Most people have much smaller gaps but they worry about their gap way more than employer actually would. If you have been on paid maternity/paternity leave or sick leave– this is not a gap! you are still employed during this period.

What’s in your gap?

Write down absolutely everything you have done in your gap. Trust me – it’s important. Customers often tell me they have done nothing, but when I probe and dig deeper with them, they are often surprised at how much they have done. Consider family (caring for kids, parents & anyone else who has needed you), community (helping others, voluntary work, roles of responsibility, fundraising, supporting charities and even walking your neighbours dog), hobbies, travel, sport, self-learning and development, improving your home – you get the picture? There may be negative things in this gap such as illness or bereavement, if so, don’t mention them on your CV. You can at interview if you need to – but first you need to get through the door.

Include the good stuff on your CV

If you have done positive things during your gap then consider including them on your CV to cover your gap. A gap of a year + needs explanation, even if it’s brief – otherwise the employer could assume you have something to hide.

Look at the complete picture before framing yourself

Have you worked consistently up to a certain point? If so, shout about it: ‘Having worked consistently for 20 years, I made the decision to take a brief career break before seeking my next long-term post.’
Lots of short-term roles? Many of my customers have had a handful of short-term roles in recent years which can make their CV look too longwinded. Consider presenting them all together like this:

2015-present: Interim/Short-term contracts
• Then bullet point who with etc and decide if you want to include dates or length of contract.

If you know someone with an employment gap for any reason – I know exactly how to help them! A professional CV boosts their confidence and makes a huge difference in securing interviews:

‘THANK YOU! I applied for 4 jobs, and on each one I had response and a phone interview, that’s got to be good news. Of course that comes from the impression on the CV, so a thank you again. If nothing else it helps with the old confidence!”
Ian from Sussex Nov 2018
(new job offer within 3 weeks of having his new CV)

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