Employment gap

How to explain an employment gap on your CV

There may be a number of reasons why you were out of work – health issues, helping a family member recover from illness, or even taking a gap year. Being out of work for an extended period of time will not look good on a CV, and needs to be explained.

An employer will naturally become suspicious of an employment gap.

“Thee two factors that really make gaps worrisome for hiring managers are the time period in which you were unemployed and the length of time you were away from the workforce,” explains Tammy Homegardner at Forbes.

In an ideal world they would always like to see an application that demonstrates a consistent and clear career path. Obviously this won’t always be the case, but the employer will be content if the employment gap is explained.

Here’s a short guide on how to explain an employment gap on your CV.

Write a cover letter

A cover letter provides you with a chance to explain an employment gap. If you leave the gap on your CV it will instantly get noticed. Instead, you could use the more informal approach of a cover letter to directly address the issue.

The cover letter is primarily used for pointing out the skills and qualifications a candidate can bring to the role. It will also serve as an introduction to the CV and add value to the overall application.

Due to the nature of the very formal design of the CV, it will not always allow you to explain an employment gap in the way that you’d like. Use a cover letter to hit this issue head on and put the employer’s mind at ease about your commitment and passion for the role and the business.

Tackle a health issue head on

If you were out of work for a period of time due to ill health, don’t be afraid to tackle this issue head on within your CV or cover letter. You don’t have to be specific about your personal health issues, but it will help the employer if you can address it.

Turn a health issue into a positive and explain how you are now ready for work and more committed than ever. Consider a certain level of transparency and help the employer to understand that it is now no longer a problem and will not affect your ability to perform in the role.

“I wouldn’t make a song and dance about it, just state in as brief a way as possible that you spent the period recovering from a serious illness and offer to give contact details for your consultant/gp should they want any more details.” Footstool @ The Guardian

Taking time off work to help a family member with a health issue would be seen as admirable. This certainly shouldn’t be something to shy away from when explaining your reasons for unemployment. Helping out a family member at the expense of your own career shows compassion and a willingness to help others. The employer will see these as personal attributes they’d like within their company.

CV gaps are a red flag to employers – read 6 things you can do about them or watch this great video by Linda Raynier which has more suggestions:

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