How to explain career gaps in your CV

By Robert Half on 8th March 2022

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

When the Government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in 2020 due to the global pandemic, more than 11.6 million individuals were faced with various challenges that consequently left gaps in their CVs.

With a booming job market, many of those people are now looking for a new role – and many have questions about how to explain what they did with that time off when applying for a new job. Though most employers are understanding, there are many ways you can use these gaps as an opportunity to add value to your CV.

The top things employers are looking for in a CV might be:

  • Learning: is there course that you have taken part in to gain and improve skills (Particularly those that will support career progression or meet market demand).
  • Voluntary Work: show how you have given back to your local community or donated your time to a charity or cause in need.

  • Professional Mentoring: the proactivity and commitment to continuous professional development will always impress employers.

  • Blog Posting: sharing your knowledge and experience with others, once again, shows that you have given something back to others.

Related: Are personal statements the new cover letter?

There are certain situations that are unavoidable and unfortunately might have meant that you couldn’t take part in personal development projects or volunteer whilst on furlough – for example, if you were caring for (or teaching) children who were home from school.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Difficult situations can often show growth and resilience and present new opportunities to learn new skills.

Explaining career gaps:

  • Sickness: Try to focus on your recovery. If you were out of work long-term, you could explain why you made the decision to take a break to get better, which has ensured you could perform well in your next role.
  • Redundancy: The concern may be about why it was you over other colleagues, so be factual about the situation and avoid any negativity. For example - ‘my company’s policy put me at risk, and I saw an opportunity’ or ‘I was put at risk and my role was made redundant, but I used the time to learn a new skill, which makes me a better candidate for future roles.’
  • Parental leave and home-schooling: Maternity or paternity leave is a wonderful, important and much-needed, part of becoming a parent, but there is still an opportunity to use this time off to your advantage on your CV. Many parents were also faced with the difficult task of full-time home-schooling during the lockdown. You can explain how this experience enabled you to learn new teaching skills and are now better equipped to work with junior employees in the workplace.
  • Travel: Travelling shows you value a work-life balance and are interested in learning about different cultures or expanding your language skills. If you went travelling solo, you can also talk about skills like independence, self-reliance and possibly even problem-solving.

Related: 11 dos and don'ts of writing a CV

So, what can we take away from this? Here are the top 5 things to remember when filling in your career gaps:

  1. Try to find ways to turn negatives into positives

  1. Ensure you have been proactive about keeping your skills sharp

  1. Always be willing to try something new or learn a new skill

  1. Be honest – lying about your time off will almost always be found out

  1. Prepare your response to this question, potential employers will most likely ask why you had a career gap and what you did, so make sure you’ve practiced a response

Our recruiters work with candidates on a daily basis to ensure their CVs are as strong as possible. You can reach out to us HERE for more information. Or alternatively for more CV and cover letter advice please visit us HERE.

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