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How to explain CV gaps in a job interview
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Written by Natalie Barresi

Branded Content Creator

How do you explain a career break?

So, you have a gap in your CV. It might be a few months or even several years, but as soon as you get asked about it in a job interview, your mind goes blank and all you can think is “I should have prepared for this.”  

Don’t worry—take a deep breath! It’s okay to pause before answering. Give yourself time to gather your thoughts (but not too much time).  

Then think through what you want to say and tell them honestly: I decided to take some time off because… If you’re comfortable with the truth – whatever that may be – it will shine through in your answers.

And there are ways for even very large gaps in employment history to look good if you explain them well enough.

So what is the best way to explain employment gaps in an interview so that they won’t get in the way of landing the job!

Be honest

It’s important to remember that recruiters aren’t expecting you to have a perfect CV. So honesty is key here. The best way to address a gap on your CV is by telling the truth about the reasons for it and how it has affected your ability to work.

Lying or making up excuses about gaps on your CV won’t help. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about any gaps on your CV; instead, take ownership of them.

Tailor your answer to the job you want

The first step to answering any question is to know why you’re being asked. Questions about your CV gaps can be tricky, but there are some general rules of thumb:

Share information that is relevant! If you’re applying for an office job, it’s not necessary to go into detail about outdoors or more physical work.

If you want to work in a more creative industry like advertising or graphic design, you don’t have to explain why you may have been working factory jobs. These add to your experience and make you interesting but it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time explaining them.

Quickly explain what you were doing at the time – do not overshare

If you are asked about your CV gaps, be ready to explain what you were doing during those periods. Tell the truth but avoid oversharing with the recruiter.

This is not the time to talk about your hobbies or interests, but it may be appropriate to mention that you have been working on a particular skill set which could be useful in the role they are hiring for.

Be prepared for follow-up questions

One thing you should always be prepared for is follow-up questions. It’s important that you have an answer ready because it could help determine whether or not the interviewer thinks that hiring you will be worth their time and effort.

These follow-up questions could be:

  • What were you doing at that time?
  • How did that experience help you?

Recruiters will understand

Taking time off from working is normal, especially after the pandemic. Employment gap stigmas are becoming less and less common. A study done by LinkedIn showed that 79% of hiring managers would hire a candidate with a career gap.  

If you’re honest and know what you want, headhunters will know that you’ve used your time wisely. You can explain that you were taking time to focus on personal growth:

  • Volunteering. Improving skills or taking language classes.
  • Traveling abroad and immersing yourself in a different culture.

You can explain that you were taking time to focus on family:

  • Caring for your children as a single parent.
  • Taking care of a family member.

You can explain that you were taking time to focus on education:

  • Taking university or college courses or doing online programs.

Be prepared, honest and confident

The key takeaway here is that you need to be prepared for questions about gaps in your CV and know what sort of impression you want to make.  

If you’re honest about your time off, then the rest is just making sure that you can explain what you’ve done during the gaps and why it’s relevant to the job you want.

The more prepared you are, the better your chances will be – so make sure to think about these things beforehand!

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