How to Explain a Gap in Your CV
There are many possible reasons for hitting pause on your career. Maybe you started a family, went travelling or pursued new studies. Or maybe you had to take some time off for your health or to support a family member. Life happens and we need to be able to accommodate whatever comes our way.
Taking time off doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hurting your career prospects down the line. While an employer may question why you took time off between jobs, you could have gained amazing new skills and experiences that can help you land that next job. It’s all about how you spin it. You need to show the benefits you gained from that break and how you’ll apply everything you learned to your next charity role.
Let’s take a closer look at how to explain a gap in your CV in your next job interview.
Lying about the reasons behind taking a break won’t do you any favours. It’s vital that you’re honest—remember, your hiring manager is human. They can’t fault you for taking time out for yourself or your loved ones when you needed to. Especially in the charity sector, focusing on compassion and wellbeing speaks volumes about your character.
If you simply struggled to find your next job after leaving your last position, don’t fudge the facts. Being dishonest about how long you worked at a company and 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 in your experience.
If you already have a lot of experience on your CV, you may not need to include everything anyway. In this case, you might not even need to explain a gap in your CV.
Consider the benefits of your break
Many people take career breaks to pursue their passions and explore the things and places they didn’t have time for when they were working full-time. 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 to explain a gap in your CV, 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. Sabbaticals promote wellbeing by lowering your chances of burnout and negativity. So you’ll be more productive and refreshed when you return to work.
- Career breaks allow for 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. It not only allows you to bring new perspectives but time spent away from the office can also improve confidence and allow you to build better relationships with your community.
Use 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 developed and how these could potentially benefit 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’). With larger gaps, it’s worth explaining what you did in that time without going into too much detail about your personal circumstances. Descriptions should be short in your CV. If you’re given the opportunity, further explanation can be given in a cover letter or at interview.
Naomi, Recruitment Consultant
Often, it’s much better to explain your career gap succinctly in your cover letter, but you want to frame it in a positive, constructive way. 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, you don’t have to go into detail about what you’ve been through. Instead, say: ‘Due to a recurring medical condition, I felt unable to continue in my position. However, I have now recovered and am ready to pursue a new role.’
If you’ve been made redundant, it’s better to say that you’re 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 could help boost your application.
Feeling refreshed after your break? Take a look at some of the charity roles available on our site today.
This post was originally published in 2019. We’ve updated it to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.