There are many reasons why someone might take a career break or sabbatical that leaves a “gap” in their CV. It could be to pursue a qualification, take time out to travel abroad, or due to personal circumstances such as having to care for a family member. While having a career break on your CV won’t necessarily harm your chances of employment, prospective employers will want to understand why there has been a gap in your employment. Here, we take a look at how best to frame a career break on a CV and in interview situations.
If you have taken a career break, you may be tempted to simply leave a gap on your CV or, even worse, extend dates of employment to cover the gap. In this, as in all things CV-related, honesty really is the best policy. You needn’t go into great detail, but do acknowledge the gap with a brief explanation.
Emphasise the positives
If you have taken a career break to study or upskill, or for a specific project – such as writing a book – then take the opportunity to highlight the skills, qualifications or experience that you have gained. If the gap was out of your control – such as a period of involuntary unemployment – you can still be positive in your language; time spent “pursuing a position within my desired industry” will look better than “unemployed”
If you’re out of work and it’s taking some time to find a new job, avoid having an undesirable gap in your CV by remaining proactive and engaging in other activities. Taking a course to upskill, volunteering, or even writing a blog relevant to your industry can all help show that you are using your time out of work effectively and positively
If you successfully make it to the interview stage with a career break or sabbatical showing on your CV, be aware that the interviewer will almost definitely ask you about the work gap. Be prepared for this and have a brief, honest and pertinent response to explain why there was a gap, and what you were doing during that period.
Consider your career trajectory
If you have had a career break – and particularly if you have subsequently moved into an entirely different type of work – it can be helpful to think about how to explain your career trajectory in a way that demonstrates proactive choices. Think about your “story” of how you left your prior employment, what you did during the career break and how this led into your next position
What not to do on your CV
When it comes to your CV, there are a few other things to avoid if you want to give yourself the best chance of an interview or employment offer.
- Non-specific dates. Rather than putting “Dec 2015 – Jan 2016”, for example, some candidates will try to fill out career gaps by simply putting “2015 – 2016”. Avoid the temptation to do this; it’s a trick recruiters are all too familiar with, and it could hinder rather than help your chances.
- Leaving roles off your CV. If you have had a job that for some reason you would rather leave off your CV – don’t. Potential employers would much rather see a full and honest history of your career than unexplained gaps.
- Education grades. If you list a qualification without mentioning the grade, the employer may think that you have something to hide. For example, it’s common for some people with a 2:2 degree not to mention the grade on their CV. It’s unlikely that an employer will ask you to explain a grade – or base a hiring decision on it – so it’s better to be upfront about the grades you have achieved.
- Redundancy and contract roles. If you’ve been made redundant or left a job because it was a contract role, make sure to mention this on your CV. There’s no reason to leave it off, especially as it will leave a gap that you’ll only have to explain to a prospective employer. There’s also no shame in being made redundant or taking on contract roles.