Why is there a gap in your resume/CV?

  | James Innes
     

Why is there a gap in your CV?

Alternative and related questions:

What did you do during this gap in your employment?
Can you tell me more about this break in your career history?

The meaning behind the question:

There are two elements here:

  • The interviewer will be interested in the reasons for there being a gap in your CV – why you experienced a period of unemployment.
  • They will also be interested in what you did during that period of unemployment.

Your answer:

Most people have a gap or two in their career history. It’s very common and not normally anything to worry about. There is, however, only one explanation that an employer is really going to view favourably:

  • Further training/education

Other common – and conceivably constructive – reasons include:

  • Raising a child
  • Caring for another dependant
  • Travel

But there are also reasons which will definitely be viewed negatively:

  • Inability to find a suitable position
  • Ill health

If the reason for the gap in your career history isn’t obviously negative then there shouldn’t be a gap in your CV - you should have included a brief entry explaining the situation. This will prevent an interviewer from asking you, “Why is there a gap in your CV” and will instead prompt them to ask the more positive question, “Can you tell me more about this break in your career history?”

Further training/education: This is very simple and should already be covered within your CV - but maybe the interviewer has missed it. You need simply politely draw their attention to the further training/education you undertook and use this as an opportunity to talk about why you chose this option and how it adds value to your application.

Raising a child/Caring for another dependant: If you took time out of your career in order to care for a family member or close friend then it is very much your own private affair – but one that an interviewer should hopefully view favourably. You should have included a brief entry in your CV explaining the circumstances and the interviewer should refrain from probing too deeply into the matter. The same applies for time out to raise your own family.

Travel: Taking a sabbatical to go travelling is often seen by an employer as a positive thing. Many will believe that the cultural awareness and sense of independence you will have gained as a result of the experience will prove to be of value to them. Also, if you’ve already taken time out to travel then it means you’re less likely to suddenly disappear to travel the world just as they’ve got you settled in. This is a common worry among employers, particularly when it comes to younger employees. If you’re questioned on this then it is important to emphasise that it was something you “needed to do” and now you’ve “got it out of your system”. You may also be able to make reference to any temporary and part-time work you undertook in other countries if that could be an additional selling point for you.

Unfortunately, general unemployment and ill health are unlikely – at least initially – to be viewed favourably by an interviewer.

Inability to find a suitable position: This is definitely the most common cause for there being a gap in a CV. The problem you face is that if you tell an interviewer you were struggling to find work then that’s inevitably going to worry them. You need to deal with this by explaining carefully that the right job isn’t always available at the right time. For further advice on how to handle this then please take a look at Question 13, “You’ve been out of work for a while. Has it been difficult finding a job?” in the next chapter, Chapter 4: The top 25 tough questions: taking the heat.

Ill health: If you have been absent from work as a result of a significant illness or a major accident then the interviewer should appreciate that these things do happen. For further advice on how to handle questions about your health please take a look at Question 14, “What's your sickness record like?” in the next chapter.

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