A Guide to Explaining Gaps in Your CV, With Tips
Written by Mike Potter, Author • Last updated on 5 June 2024

A Guide to Explaining Gaps in Your CV, With Tips

If your CV has employment gaps, you might believe your chances of getting the job are as good as gone. It’s true that employers might have questions about gaps in your CV, and they can lead to doubts over your suitability for the role. However, there are plenty of ways to bridge the gaps and alleviate any doubts. In this guide, we discuss the significance of CV gaps, and provide tips on how to overcome this common CV problem.

Understanding Gaps in CV

Gaps in CVs are any periods in your timeline that are unaccounted for in the document. These could be gaps between completing certain stages of your education, gaps between finishing education and starting your career, or gaps between jobs. If you’re currently not working, the most concerning gap might be the one between your last job finishing and the date you’re applying for your next job.

There are plenty of reasons why you might have gaps in your CV. You might have taken a gap year after finishing your qualifications and before joining the world of work. You may have been made redundant from a previous role and taken some time to find a new job. Perhaps you took time out from work to have children, or to look after a family member.

Employment gaps can also crop up when you decide to change careers. You could even end up with gaps in your CV if you have experience that’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, and that you decide to leave out of your document.

Impact of Gaps in CV

Gaps in your CV can feed doubts in a hiring manager’s mind about your suitability for a role. If you have unexplained gaps in your recent work history or large chunks of your career that are unaccounted for, these could raise questions about what you’re not mentioning. You may have perfectly valid reasons for a gap in your career, or even for deciding to omit a certain job or experience from the chronological timeline of your CV. However, if you don’t offer an explanation for these, employers might doubt your credentials.

Leaving gaps in your CV that you don’t explain or account for can reduce your chances of securing an interview. You might be able to explain your CV gaps perfectly in an interview, but if your CV is stopping you from getting to this stage, that’s not much use. If CV gaps are consistently reducing your chances of securing an interview, there can even be a long-term impact on your career progression.

Making sure your CV is free of unaccounted gaps is particularly important for junior roles. Once you have more experience, an unexplained gap in your employment from, for example, 10 years ago will probably be of little interest to hiring managers. However, if you only have one or two years’ experience alongside significant gaps in your employment history, these can create red flags for hiring managers. As such, in the early stages of your career it’s crucial to find ways to explain CV gaps, to improve the reader’s understanding of your career journey to date.

Expert tip:

CV gaps can be a worry, but if you address them clearly and honestly, they really don’t need to be a problem. Be upfront about any recent and significant gaps in your career, and offer reasons that justify your career break or show you’ve used that time off productively, to make yourself more employable.

Factors Contributing to Gaps in CV

Various factors can contribute to gaps in your CV. Your CV gaps will depend on your experience and your career journey, as well as the way you want to tell your story in your CV. Some of the most common reasons for career gaps are:

  • You’re just entering the job market: if you’re only just starting your career and you have limited relevant experience, it’s relatively normal to have some gaps in your CV. Employers probably won’t expect you to have a complete employment history for junior and entry-level roles.
  • Taking a career break: you might decide to take a career break, gap year or sabbatical for various reasons. You could be re-training or simply taking a break to travel or pursue other interests that could serve you well in your career. A sabbatical is a more common type of CV gap for senior and experienced professionals.
  • Starting a family: one of the most common reasons for a gap in your CV is starting a family. While some people take parental leave to have children, others decide to stop working altogether for a period, before returning to the workforce at a later date.
  • Medical conditions and care responsibilities: medical factors are an entirely valid reason for gaps in your CV. You may require time off work to recover from a period of illness, an operation or another medical condition. It’s also common to take time off work to care for older, sick or disabled relatives.
Your CV gaps will depend on your experience and your career journey, as well as the way you want to tell your story in your CV.

Addressing Gaps in CV

Although gaps in your CV might cause concern over your job prospects, there’s nothing to worry about if you explain them properly. There are numerous ways to explain and justify CV gaps that will make your job application more transparent and put an employer’s mind at ease. Here are a few tips for addressing gaps on your CV:

  • Explain in your cover letter: your cover letter provides an ideal place to explain CV gaps. Be honest and upfront about any glaring gaps between jobs. Concisely provide your reasons for the gap, but don’t dwell on it or try too hard to justify the gap, as this can draw more attention to it.
  • Explain in your CV: if you have a gap between jobs in the chronological work history section of your CV, you might consider adding a line to highlight and explain the gap. This could be as simple as a single sentence explaining your reason, with dates that bridge the gap between jobs. For example: ‘career break to re-train in counselling, March 2018–October 2018’, or ‘career break to care for elderly relative, November 2015–July 2017’.
  • Highlight transferable skills: if your work experience is patchy and you lack a consistent record of experience in the field you’re applying to work in, you could use a skills-based CV layout instead of a traditional format. This places greater emphasis on your transferable skills than your work history.
  • Demonstrate personal development: if you took a career break to re-train or further your qualifications, make sure the dates match up in your CV to close any gaps. You may wish to reference time spent training or studying between jobs in your work experience section, rather than in your education section, to make the justification for an employment gap as obvious as possible to the reader.
  • Highlight your commitment and motivation: you can minimise the impact of gaps in your CV by demonstrating your commitment and motivation. Employers are more likely to overlook gaps if you display a positive attitude and determination to succeed, particularly in the face of adverse situations. You could highlight these qualities in your CV summary or personal statement, or in your cover letter.

Strategies for Minimising the Impact of Gaps in CV

If you find yourself out of work and you’re worried about the gaps that are starting to emerge in your career progression, there are several things you can do to make the gap a productive time. You can easily transform an inexplicable career gap into an advantage for your career if you fill that gap with something that gives you a new skill or experience.

  1. Undertake training and personal development: consider any training you could take that might make you more employable. This could be transferable skills or hard skills directly related to your profession. You could enrol in a course or even spend time researching and learning a new skill by yourself.
  2. Engage in other work-related activities: another way to make the most out of a career gap is to volunteer, freelance or offer free work as a means of keeping yourself active and engaged. This shows initiative and a desire to keep working outside the confines of a regular job. You could also take on part-time work while you search for a new permanent role.
  3. Build your network: finally, consider a career gap as an opportunity to expand your network and make new professional connections. Arrange meetings with people who work in your sector and consider seeking a mentor who can help guide your career journey. If you’re considering a career change and you’re unsure of your next steps, you could employ the services of a career advisor.

Key Takeaways for Explaining Gaps in Your CV

CV gaps can be a concern for job applicants, but they needn’t be a disaster. It’s always best to be honest and up-front about career gaps, either by explaining them in your CV or justifying them in your cover letter. Don’t dwell too much on your gaps, but clear up any confusion that could jeopardise your chances of progressing to interview.

A well-designed CV and cover letter can go a long way in convincing employers that you’re a serious, professional candidate. CVwizard has a range of CV templates and other tools to help you craft a CV that makes a strong impression with hiring managers. Sign up today to get started with your professional CV, and access CVwizard’s app to manage your applications from start to finish.

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Mike Potter
Mike Potter
Mike Potter is an experienced copywriter specialising in careers and professional development. He uses extensive knowledge of workplace culture to create insightful and actionable articles on CV writing and career pathways.

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