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How to talk about CV gaps with an employer

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
Businesspeople handshaking after deal or interview
If asked about any gaps in your work history, just be as honest as you can with your potential employer. Photo: Getty

Maybe you were made redundant or had to leave your job because of an illness. You quit because you weren’t the right fit for the company, or because you had childcare responsibilities. It might be that you’ve been struggling to get your foot on the ladder since you graduated from university — and more time has gone past than you would have liked.

There are many valid reasons why you might have gaps on your CV, but it can sometimes be tricky to explain them to a potential employer. Even if you’ve got great experience and all the relevant skills, these gaps may raise questions about why you’ve not been working — or struggling to find a good role.

“Having gaps in your CV is perfectly normal, especially under current circumstances,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library.

“However, many professionals find it stressful as it can be difficult to explain these gaps to a potential employer. While candidates might be tempted to try and hide it, it's much better to be upfront and honest from the beginning. If you're caught out in a lie, it may destroy your chances of securing a new role.”

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So what should you do if you have gaps in your CV — and you’re concerned about what a future employer might think?

“When drafting your CV, be sure to focus on the skills you gained or lessons you learnt in your time away from work,” Biggins advises. “It's also important to highlight any transferable skills you have that may be appropriate for the role. Provide a short explanation as to why you took time out — it's perfectly fine to say it was for 'personal reasons', or to 'consider a career change'.”

It can be helpful to summarise your career history and skills in a few sentences at the top of your CV. Succinctly explain where you are in your career and where you hope to be, so it smooths out any inconsistencies.

When putting together your CV, try not to worry too much about any gaps. Instead, think about all the reasons you are suitable for the role in questions and communicate these as best you can.

And if you are asked about any gaps in your work history, make sure you tell the truth — whatever it might be. An illness is out of your control, and it is perfectly acceptable to leave a job you weren’t happy in. You don’t have to give details you aren’t comfortable with, though.

“You should also just be as honest as you can with your potential employer,” says Biggins. “Lying may seem like a good solution, but it will get you nowhere in the long run.”

It is possible for an employer to turn you down if your gap in employment means you don't have the necessary skills for the role. However, unless you've been out of work for a very long time, most of your skills will still be applicable.

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“If you've been out of work due to long term sickness, your employer is generally not allowed to ask you questions about your health or absence from work until a job offer has been made,” Biggins says. “However, they may make the offer subject to you passing a medical examination.”

And remember, having gaps in your resume aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If you left your job because you didn’t like the company, focus on what you did during that time off. You may have gained skills and experience doing a short course, a part-time job or when travelling.

“Gaps aren't always a red flag if they can be justified clearly. Many employers will understand if you've had to take time off due to redundancy, health or other priorities,” Biggins says. “Most businesses are looking for passionate, reliable and trustworthy candidates. Therefore, if a candidate can't explain an absence or is untruthful, this may put companies off.”