Careers advice: How to explain a gap in your CV

25 March 2019

Sometimes in your career you will find that the job flow doesn't go to plan or you may decide to take a break from work. Regardless of the reason, knowing how to address these empty spaces on your CV can be a challenge  and failing to do so could even mean missing out on the perfect role for you. Sonja Stockton, Alumni Careers Manager at WBS, supplies her top tips on how to mind the gap.

1. Be Honest

The single most important thing to remember when dealing with a gap in your CV is that, whatever your reason for taking a break from employment, honesty is always the best policy. You don’t have to go into everything in detail (some situations may benefit from discretion), but leaving it out completely or lying about the reason will only make the gaps stand out further. Additionally, never be tempted to extend your period of employment in a previous position just to cover up the gaps. Acknowledging and explaining a gap won’t harm your chances of employment but lying will.

2. Be Resourceful

Firstly, you don’t need to include all of your experience in your CV. If you’ve been in employment for years, and held a number of different positions, there’s nothing wrong with scaling back the detail, especially if it is fairly repetitive. Similarly, when stating the dates of your employment on your CV, it is perfectly acceptable to omit the month and only show the year. Your cover letter, for example, can be used to elaborate on the gap, and to suggest why you view this position as the perfect way to get back into work.

3. Be Positive

Don’t apologise for your gaps; put a positive spin on them to show you have developed new skills.

E.g. ‘Made a decision to take a career break to develop my interest in entrepreneurship and join a start-up to acquire a deep insight into how businesses develop and grow.’

Or, ‘Pursued further personal development – study/qualifications.’

Focus on what you learned from the experience and what steps you’ve taken to implement positive changes to your career to improve your overall performance.

You can also write a skills-based CV, highlighting your achievements, rather than a chronological one. This can work if you have strong transferable skills and can allow you to show the recruiter your strengths in the company/ies you have worked for; you can format the dates in years (from – to) rather than show chronological gaps.

For help and advice on writing your CV see Lesson 10 on the Career Management Module on my.wbs.

4. Be Proactive

If you’re struggling to find work, and feel that gaps in your employment history are to blame, be proactive. Use your time off to take a course, seek some professional mentoring, become a mentor yourself, or take up a voluntary position. This will demonstrate to the employer that you are utilising your time effectively and will help to set your CV apart.

WBS runs an award winning e-mentoring programme and our Alumni provide excellent support as Mentors. Contact alumni@wbs.ac.uk for further details.

There are always other ways to demonstrate your talents if you are unable to find a voluntary position or course to suit you. Writing a blog, for example, can be a great way to showcase your skills, and also actively exhibit your willingness to further your career. And don’t forget networking; many opportunities can arise from building a strong network.

5. Finally

Remember, it’s not unusual to have a gap in your employment history and it’ll only stand out if you don’t explain it. The main thing employers want is for you to demonstrate your enthusiasm and readiness to re-enter the workforce.

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