How to deal with career gaps in your CV

Whether you decided to travel the world, were made redundant, took time off to bring up children or simply couldn’t find employment following graduation, returning to the world of work can feel pretty daunting. After all, how are you meant to fill those empty career gaps in your CV?

The good news is, that a gap or two on your CV doesn’t have to make job hunting difficult. In fact, if you play it carefully, you might even be able to use your career break to your advantage.

Check out these top tips for dealing with career gaps in your CV.

Don’t try to hide them

If there’s one thing you shouldn’t do when addressing career gaps in your CV, it’s lie or try to hide them.

Choose to ignore it? Recruiters will immediately notice the gap. And, if you haven’t explained what you were doing during that period, they’ll automatically assume you were doing nothing.

What if you try to fake dates, create an imaginary job or pretend you were freelancing when you weren’t? Well, if they request a reference or ask you to produce a portfolio, you’ll have got yourself into a very sticky situation.

Every employer is looking for integrity – as always, honesty is the best policy.

Treat them as a previous role

Whether you volunteered and travelled the world or cared for an ill family member, list this time as you would other jobs in your CV.

Include a title, for example, ‘Volunteer’ or ‘Year travelling abroad’ with a ‘job description’ and dates. This way, you can pick out transferable skills and experiences, which we’ll get to next.

On the flipside, if you took time out to study, it’s even simpler. Add the course to your education section, making sure to point out that you were studying full-time and listing your new, relevant skills.

If you cared for an ill family member, brought up your children or were recovering from an illness, it’s still best to reference this in your work experience section rather than leave an obvious gap. Recruiters are more sympathetic than you think. So in this case, simply explaining the gap is more than enough.

Highlight skills and knowledge learnt

Your career gap doesn’t have to be a negative. Instead, use it to your advantage and pick out the transferable skills you gained during your break. Write these down where you’d normally list the job description/responsibilities.

What experiences did you gain whilst unemployed? What skills did you acquire from them? If you spent a year travelling, you’re sure to have become a more confident, adaptable and resilient person. If you were made redundant, you might have attended networking events, worked on personal projects or undertook short courses to strengthen your skills.

Writing about these things shows recruiters you’ve effectively used your time away from work to develop into an even stronger candidate. Make sure to match your skills to the job description as much as possible.

Prepare to answer questions about them

Hopefully, picking out your transferable skills and showcasing your career gaps in a positive light will mean you land an all-important interview.

But during the interview, it’s highly likely you’ll be asked about your career break. So the best thing you can do is be prepared. Have a good think about what you can say to show your career gap in a positive light and how the skills learnt will be of benefit in the position.

This way, you won’t be caught off guard; instead, you’ll have a positive, confident answer ready and waiting.

Address career gaps in your CV

A career break doesn’t have to cause a job hunting nightmare. By picking out your transferable skills, framing gaps in a positive light and remaining confident in your abilities, you’re sure to land an interview before you know it.

About the author: Andrew Fennel is the founder of StandOut CV; a leading resource centre for CV and job search advice, including engineering CV writing guides.