How to get a job when there are gaps in your CV

22nd March 2023

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and how they may even help you...

A common worry amongst job hunters is whether the gaps in their CV are going to be obstacles that get in the way of them successfully landing a new job. This article provides some helpful insight into this topic along with some practical suggestions of how you can reduce the risk of these gaps being perceived as a negative. In fact, handled well, these gaps can even help set you apart and lift you above other candidates.

How do gaps occur and why are they increasingly common? 

There are a large number of reasons that people end up with gaps in their CV – sometimes it is intentional, other times it is a set of life circumstances that have led to a situation where a person cannot do paid employment for a while. 

Intentional gaps include things like an OE (overseas experience), sabbatical or some other planned time between jobs, taking time to care for children or study. Other gaps tend to be circumstances that are less planned, such as spending time looking for work, caring for a sick relative, time off due to your own illness etc. 

These days everyone’s career is less linear than they were in the past. We are also working much longer; well past what used to be considered the normal retirement age. The combination of these factors means that people are more inclined to take career breaks. 

The way you position these breaks when talking about them to a prospective employer can make all the difference. In the past, gaps carried a stigma that often meant you wouldn’t get a foot in the door for an interview, however now that they are becoming better accepted and more ‘the norm’, by utilising some of the tips below to prepare your CV, you can use these gaps to tell a story about your personality. This may highlight attributes that are important for the role you are applying for. For example taking time off to care for a sick relative sends a message that you are a caring person and put family first. This will also help make sure there is a better fit between you and the company you are applying to work for.

Tips for preparing your CV when there are gaps

  • Be transparent about what you were doing during the gap. You do not need to go into detail about the reasons behind the gap, keep it focused on what skills you gained during this time and the benefit those skills may have to the role you are applying for
  • Be sure to mention how you stayed up to date on industry trends if that is important in your particular field or even how you made sure that the knowledge you have remains current
  • Describe your activities during the gap in an active way so that it communicates your motivation to be active, even if it’s on different tasks (taking a break to do nothing at all is usually not well-regarded)
  • If it has taken a long time to find work, emphasise that you have criteria for a new role that this prospective job meets. Mention that finding roles that meet this criteria has been challenging but you have been very active and deliberate in your pursuit
  • If you went travelling during the gap, highlight the things you gained from your experiences (personal development) and emphasise that you are now ready to return to work
  • If you were off work for illness reasons, do not feel obliged to go into specific details of the illness. Make it clear that you or the relative have now recovered and you are ready to get back into work
  • If you were able to have time during this gap (e.g. while caring for sick relatives) to do additional activities such as volunteering, be sure to also highlight these
  • Focus on why you would be a good fit for the advertised role and company
  • Think about how your gap(s) relates to the role you are applying for and the ideal attributes the employer is seeking. Did you acquire some of those attributes during a gap? If so, mention this not only in the CV but also in the covering letter to bring your experiences to life through real-world examples

If you need help with presenting yourself in the best light possible and finding the right role, please get in touch with our friendly recruitment advisors. Temping is a fantastic way to get back into the workforce, so please be open to both temporary and permanent employment opportunities.