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How To Explain A Gap in Your CV

By Emma Tee on

List of things that shouldn’t be ignored:

  • Smear test
  • Prostate exam
  • The vegetables sitting at the bottom of your fridge
  • A cold gin and tonic
  • A gap on your CV

The last point is the most relevant for now. 

Trust us when we say a gap in your CV isn’t the worst thing in the world. The award for that easily goes to stepping on a plug.

Having a gap in your CV may feel taboo and make you feel that your competition has the edge, but it’s not uncommon to see a gap here and there and it is certainly not worth losing sleep over. A steady and stable career is sought after by employers, but surprisingly, people have lives outside of work and employers appreciate that, as long as you tell your story in the right way and don’t brush over it.

There are many reasons why people have gaps, it could be that something happened in their personal life that was outside of their control, or it could be they decided that instead of the traditional 9 to 5, they wanted to hide out at Machu Picchu, go save elephants in Thailand, and pick fruit at farms in Australia (we can’t blame anyone for making that decision!). 

Whatever the reason, there is a right way to handle it, which we will dive head first into now!

  • Embrace Transparency: The first and most important rule of addressing a gap in your CV is to be honest about it. Don’t sweep it under that trendy jute rug, instead acknowledge it and do so with confidence. Employers want authentic and honest people in their company, they don’t want Pinocchio sitting at the Monday morning kick-off meeting. 
  • Highlight Relevant Experience: While the gap in your CV means that you’ve stepped out of the traditional 9 to 5, it doesn’t mean you sat idle and completed Netflix. You will have had experiences that strengthened your skillset and enabled you to grow, albeit in a different way. Reflect on any projects or activities you experienced during the downtime and emphasise any relevant aspects when applying to a job,
  • Focus on Skills and Achievements: Instead of staring blankly at the whitespace on your CV, consider the skills and achievements you’ve gained throughout that period and your entire career journey. Use the space to highlight any accomplishments, certifications, or professional development initiatives you underwent during this time. Employers like to see that you gained something from your time away and committed to putting the time into yourself and your development.
  • Address the Elephant in the Room: You don’t need to squeeze dry the detail, especially if the reason behind the gap is sensitive or personal. However, you should provide a brief explanation if the topic crops up. Keep your explanation concise and focus on the challenges you’ve overcome, the experiences you gained, and your refreshed skillset. If you’re fresh from a gap, end by telling your prospective employer why you’re ready to start setting that alarm for 6am every morning and why it’s time to get back at it. 
  • Add a Positive Spin: See your gap as a strength rather than a weakness. Likely, your time away from the office (or back bedroom) allowed you to gain valuable insights and passions that you may not have had time for before. It could even be that you’ve decided to take your career in a whole new direction and reassess what you want from life. Make a point of how this period allowed you to reflect and equipped you with a fresh perspective. 
  • Practice your Pitch: An interview is just storytelling, but, please make sure that you’re sharing a snapshot of your biography, rather than a piece of fiction, plucked from thin air. With that in mind, it’s important you have your story straight, so rehearse it. When you’re putting the kettle on, take 5 minutes to run through the reasons, practice your delivery, and prepare for any stumbling blocks. You want your response to be clear, authentic, and well thought out, so once you have this nailed in your mind, run through it with a friend or family member – they’ll be truthful – like it or not!

Everyone’s career journey is unique and a gap in your CV doesn’t define your worth or your potential. By approaching it with honesty, positivity, and a focus on your growth, you can shine a positive light on your experience, rather than let it fester in the dark (like those vegetables sat in the bottom drawer of the fridge we mentioned earlier). 

Embrace it, own it, and twist it into a positive, it’ll make for a better story in the long run.