No matter the reason for your career break, you can address it honestly and effectively

If you've taken a career break, you might be concerned about how it will impact your job search success. In fact, research shows that half of workers are reluctant to disclose their career gaps. 

But that career gap on your CV shouldn't have to hold you back. In the following guide, we'll take a look at how you can make this common job seeker's dilemma work to your advantage.

How do I explain an employment gap on my CV?  

Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to your CV, especially when addressing why you were out of work. The last thing you want is to deceive the hiring manager.

Remember that employment gaps occur for a variety of reasons, from dismissal and redundancy to travelling and maternity leave. Keep in mind the following as you prepare to explain the career gaps on your CV:

  • Career breaks are common. Research by Applied found that 33% of workers have taken a career break of six months or more. Recruiters and interviewers are no strangers to candidates that have taken time off to travel, to care for a family member or were dismissed from their last role.

  • You don't have to go into every detail. For example, if you were fired from your last job, don't bad-mouth your employer for making you leave. Instead, be discrete and explain how you weren't a fit for the role or had outgrown the job, and are currently seeking a position that better matches your competencies.

  • Details of your career gap should be brief on your CV. Ideally, you should address the reasons for the gap in your cover letter or during the interview. Save your CV for your selling points.

Writing your CV when you have a career gap

Believe it or not, there's a right and wrong way to document employment gaps on your application. Here are some practical approaches for sharing career gaps on your CV while maximising your chances at getting invited for an interview:

1. Update your personal statement

If you have a career gap on your CV, here's a savvy strategy: address it head-on through your personal statement. Below are a few career break examples and suggestions for phrasing your personal statement in a way that shows you're ready to re-enter the workplace:


What to say: Now ready to re-establish a career in X. Available immediately.

What not to say: Recently made redundant and looking for a new job. 


What to say: Now ready to resume a position in the X industry after taking some time to refocus my career goals.

What not to say: Having been fired from my previous job, I need a new one. 

Caring for someone

What to say: Now looking to re-establish my career in X after taking some time out as a carer.

What not to say: Was out of work for personal issues which I don't want to discuss. 


What to say: Now ready to re-enter the X industry and deliver similar impressive results in a new role with my new-found skills.

What not to say: I recently took a year out to travel, eat, and drink!

Taking a course

What to say: Currently seeking a position in X after refining and developing my skills through X course.

What not to say: I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next so I went back to college.

Addressing a career gap on your CV can be scary. But remember, it's all relative. As you can see from the above employment gap explanation examples, it's all about how you frame things. 

The secret to landing an interview is to show what you gained from this stint out of work and, ultimately, why you'd be a valuable asset to anyone's business.

2. Highlight the skills you've learned

Think about what you learned during your break that makes you more employable, and then go ahead and add them to your CV's skills section. You can also showcase them in your CV's personal statement and cover letter.

Chances are you boosted essential soft skills such as self-motivation, communication and confidence. You may have also taken professional development courses or volunteering placements, or even spent time reflecting and refocusing your career. Feel free to go beyond the work-related skills and expand on competencies developed from day-to-day life.

Remember that every experience offers a valuable learning curve. It's your job to identify what you gained from your career break to show prospective employers that – despite being out of work – you developed useful new skills.

Once you've secured an interview, avoid dwelling on your unemployment and apologising for career gaps on your CV. Instead, focus on the positives and make your career break look purposeful, rather than desperate.

3. Format your employment history dates 

One quick way to address career gaps on your CV, especially if they aren't that significant, is by formatting the dates. If your employment gap lasted only a few months, consider replacing the start and end dates on your CV with just the employment years.

Most job hunters forget that a CV doesn't need to document their entire employment history. Instead, it should cover a brief but powerful summary of the last 10 to 15 years of your work while outlining your core skills.

If you should retain employment dates, do NOT try to extend dates to mask a gap – lying may get you into more trouble than it's worth.

Don't be discouraged by your career gap

Having a gap on your CV is not the end of the world – or your career. As we've covered here, there are acceptable ways to address the career gaps on your CV without hurting your application. Be truthful about your employment history, and turn your career gaps into opportunities to showcase your skills and your readiness to take on a new role.

Need help explaining an employment gap on your CV? Submit your CV for a free review and let our experts give you tips on how to improve your application.

This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Charlotte Grainger.

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