How To Explain Employment Gaps

How To Explain Employment Gaps

Learning how to explain employment gaps can help to strengthen your position when applying for new roles. While it is true that recruiters may not be a fan of gaps in your CV, there are ways to put a positive spin on it! Think of the gap as an opportunity; this blog will show you how to do just that.


Prepare to be asked to explain your career break

It's hard enough getting a job, let alone returning to work after being unemployed for a while. It is highly likely that in interviews you will be asked to explain gaps in your career. Don't let potential employers fill in the gaps of your CV on their own. Your account is much more likely to land you the job, as you can optimise it to give as good an impression as possible.

As you don’t have the luxury of crafting a beautifully written response, you should come prepared with a verbal answer, as well as be open to expanding on specific points to answer any questions the employer might have.

To prepare yourself for questions on CV gaps, we advise you to:

  1. Write down every gap in your employment history with an honest explanation of what happened (this is only for you).

  2. Highlight phrases and words with a negative tone.

  3. Come up with positive alternatives.

  4. Research the types of skills required for your profession.

  5. Analyse your unemployment history and note any transferable skills gained.

  6. Create a concise, positive answer using your alternative positive words and transferable skills. Make sure your answer follows the STAR technique: situation, task, action and result.


Good reasons for gaps in employment

So what are some good reasons for gaps in your CV that you could explain to potential employers?

  • Being a stay-at-home dad or mum 

  • Caring for an unwell relative

  • Returning to education

  • Travelling the world for a gap year or sabbatical 

  • Family bereavement

  • Health difficulties

  • Relocation to a new town, city or country

  • Redundancy


Explaining gaps in employment on your CV

If you don't want to wait for the interview stage to explain any employment gaps, you can fill in recruiters by using your CV. Here are a few things you could implement to make your CV stand out:

  1. Use years rather than months

  2. Combine volunteering and employment

  3. Briefly state absence, for example, “sabbatical leave to care for a sick family member”

  4. Include freelance work, even if it was only occasional. Date it from the first project to the last project.


Cover letter explaining gaps in employment

You won't be able to fully explain your employment breaks on your CV, but you could use your cover letter to do this more effectively. This isn't an excuse to go into every minute detail - the reasons should remain succinct and showcase a positive outcome. Address your career gap as another chance to tell recruiters about your skills. Highlight any professional training courses you have taken in the interim.


Example of explaining gaps in employment due to raising a family:

We've put together an example you could use if your employment gap was due to raising a family:

This year I had the honour of raising a family while my wife focused on her career. As an ambitious individual, I dedicated my evenings to self-development and freelance projects. With six years of financial experience under my belt, I was keen to enhance my leadership skills to successfully progress into management.

For that reason, I utilised my time to complete a PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Training Course. Now that our children are in full-time education, I am ready to return to work. I am confident that my extensive financial expertise paired with the PRINCE2 qualification will be a valuable asset to your company.

This example demonstrates the jobseeker’s time-management skills, ambition, financial expertise and qualifications. It does this by framing the situation in the best light, then highlighting the skills and achievements that were gained during the career gap.


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