How to explain gaps in employment when applying for new jobs 

  • September 13, 2023
Employment Gap

How to explain employment gaps when applying for new jobs

Wondering how to explain your employment gap to potential employers? In this guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know and provide some tips on how you can approach an employment gap in your CV and during interviews.

What are employment gaps?

Employment gap is the term used to explain a period of time during your professional career in which you did not have formal employment. Anything from several months to a few years is considered an employment gap. 

Reasons for having an employment gap

Here are a few examples of possible reasons behind taking an employment break:

  • Raising children
  • Caring for a sick family member
  • Health or medical issues
  • Further education or professional training
  • Travelling or moving to a new location
  • Redundancy

Having an employment gap isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s important to know how to address it when it comes to applying for new jobs. 

How to explain employment gaps on your CV

CVs are the first thing potential employers will see. If there is a period of time unaccounted for in your job experience, they’ll very likely notice. Employment gaps are very common, so you don’t need to worry that it’ll stop you getting your next role. However, employers will want to know the reason for your employment break. So, here are some tips on how to address gaps on your CV.

Use a resume style or format that makes the gap less obvious

Consider using a functional CV format rather than a chronological one. This format emphasises skills and accomplishments over a strict timeline and allows you to showcase relevant experiences and achievements at the forefront, minimising the focus on the gaps.

Address gaps in the cover letter

If the employment gap is extensive, it's a good idea to address it in your cover letter. Briefly explain the reason and highlight any productive activities you did during the gap, such as freelance work, volunteering, or skill enhancement courses.

List the reason for longer employment gaps as its own job

It’s important to showcase your commitment to the industry, even during a break from employment. Therefore, it may be a good idea to list all of the relevant things you did during that time to stay on top of industry trends and changes. For example, pursuing additional education, training programs, workshops, attending industry events, or frequently checking industry resources.

How to explain employment gaps in an interview

Gaps in employment can cause concerns with employers, but only if you’re unable to explain the reasoning for the gap. So, when interviewing for jobs it’s important to prepare a valuable answer, as they’ll likely ask you questions around any gaps.

To help you prepare for any difficult questions, here are a few tips.

Don’t shy away from it

Having an employment gap on your CV doesn’t necessarily mean that employers won’t move you through to the next stage of the interview process. However, if you do make it through to the next stage, your interviewer will expect you to provide an explanation for your gap in employment. So, there’s no room to shy away from it!

Preparation will be key. Prior to the interview, ensure you spend some time thinking about how you’ll address the topic. It’s important to convey positivity and confidence around your gap. Whatever the reason for your time out of employment, own it and be proud.

Be honest and open

Being honest and transparent with your potential employer will earn you their respect and will highlight your trustworthiness as a new hire. However, you’ll want to avoid going into too much detail on what caused your employment gap, especially if it was due to a negative reason, such as being fired for example. Instead, try to focus on talking through how you spent the time.

You’ll want to also relate it back to the job you’re applying for. We suggest mentioning how you’ve been keeping up with the industry and what you’ve been doing to prepare for your return. If you attended any relevant events or training classes it would be a good idea to talk through these. Interviewers will also want to hear about any relevant freelance or volunteer/community work. Anything that highlights how you’ve been working to improve your professional skills during your employment gap will showcase your commitment and make you stand out.

Finish with a link back to the role

There are many different reasons why people take time out of formal employment. It’s very common for these gaps to be for more personal reasons, which some people may prefer to keep private. In this case, we’d suggest briefly addressing the gap, before moving on to talk about why you want the job and why you’re the perfect fit for the role. 

Whatever the reason for your employment gap, always relate your answer back to the job role you're interviewing for. Ultimately, potential employers want to find the right person for the job and the company. Making these connections helps to showcase why they should hire you.


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