How to Explain a Gap In Your CV
There are many reasons why someone may decide to hit pause on their career—starting a family, going travelling, pursuing new studies or even just taking a much-deserved mental break. Life happens and we need to be able to accommodate whatever comes our way. But does taking that time off mean you’re hurting your career prospects down the line? The short answer? Absolutely not.
True, an employer may question why you took a year off between jobs, but the fact that you weren’t working doesn’t mean you were ‘slacking off’. In fact, you probably gained amazing new skills and experiences that can help you land that next job. It’s all just about how you spin it, showing the benefits you gained from that gap and how you’ll apply everything you learned to your next charity role.
Let’s take a closer look at the best way to present your sabbatical in your next job interview.
First and foremost, be honest
Lying about the reasons behind taking a break isn’t doing you any favours. Maybe you had to take some time off for your health or to support a family member. It’s vital that you’re honest. Remember, you’re hiring manager is human and they can’t fault you for taking time to care of yourself or your loved ones when it was needed. Especially in the charity sector, this sort of compassion and self-regard speaks volumes about your character.
Maybe you just struggled to find your next job after leaving your last position. Don’t fudge the facts. Lying about your time at a company or extending your dates can be very dangerous—all an employer or HR Manager has to do is phone your former boss to find out you weren’t telling the truth. Many hiring managers will see straight through you if you attempt to bluff your way through a gap.
Bear in mind that if you already have a lot of experience on your CV, you may not be including everything anyway. If this is the case, a gap in your experience may not need to be addressed.
Consider the benefits of your break
Many people take career breaks to pursue their passions, exploring the things and places they didn’t have time for when they were working full-time. And by doing that, they’re expanding their perspectives, learning new skills and tending to their emotional health. These are the sorts of things recruiters and hiring managers love to hear about. Especially if they’re trying to figure out whether or not you’re the right cultural fit for their organisation.
So next time a recruiter asks you about your career gap, don’t just share why the gap happened, share how it made you an even better match for their role.
Need some quick benefits you can use in your next interview? Here are a few gems you can draw from:
- Taking a career break boosts brainpower – According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, sabbaticals promote wellbeing by lowering your chances of burnout and negativity, meaning you’ll be more productive and refreshed when you return to work.
- Career breaks allow you a fresh perspective – By breaking away from your daily routine, you can examine new ways to improve your quality of life. Whether you spent time travelling, volunteering or pursuing a passion project, you’re learning to think critically and understand different ways of thinking.
- Time off work can fuel your desire to do good – According to a study called Creative Disruptions: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Non-Profit Sector, career breaks can yield huge benefits for people working in the charity sector. It not only allows you to bring new perspectives but the time spent away from the office can improve confidence and allow you to build better relationships with your community.
Using your cover letter to provide more context
We asked Recruitment Consultant Naomi for her top tips on explaining a gap:
Think carefully about how you phrase the reason for any gaps in your CV—focus on skills you learned/developed and how this could potentially be of benefit to future employers. If the gap is small this can easily be explained with one sentence (for example, ‘searching for a new position’ or ‘took the opportunity to go travelling’) but with larger gaps it is worth explaining what you actually did in that time without going in to too much personal detail regarding the circumstances. Descriptions should be short in your CV and, if given the opportunity, a further explanation can be given in a cover letter or at an interview.
Naomi, Recruitment Consultant
Often, it’s much better to explain your gap succinctly in your cover letter. But you don’t need to go into too much detail. For example, if you’ve been travelling, don’t say ‘I went travelling because I was bored of working and really wanted to just do something fun’. Instead, say: ‘I took some time out to immerse myself in different cultures and to gain a fresh new perspective’.
If you’ve had time off because of sickness, resist going into long details about what you’ve been through; instead, say: ‘Due to a recurring medical condition, I felt unable to continue in my position. However, I am now fully recovered and ready to pursue a new role.’
If you’ve been made redundant, it’s better to say that you are proud of everything you achieved in the position, rather than to be rude about your previous employer and their reasons for letting you go.
It’s all about setting the right tone and providing just enough context. Once you’ve figured out how to do that, addressing any questions about your career break will be easy.
Struggling to find a new job because of gaps in your CV? Think outside the box and be productive. A great idea is to try volunteering. We have loads of great volunteer positions, that will really help to boost your application.
And if you need a bit of assistant with your next charity CV or cover letter, download our free templates to help get you started.