There are lots of reasons as to why an individual may have gaps in the Career History section of their CV (resume). Gaps can occur to allow for travel, further education, volunteering, caring for a child, parent or relative, or following redundancy. Explaining this type of gap on your CV can however be tricky. In fact even CV advisors are not too sure as to how this type of gap should be addressed! There are lots of commercially available CV writing guides, books and fact sheets out there, but the advice they give regarding 'addressing gaps' is conflicting …, and in some instances missing absolutely!
So, what is the best way to address a gap in your career history?
Ultimately honesty is the only way forward when it comes to compiling your resume. You would not be very happy if your future employer had lied about the salary and development opportunities attached to the job you've just accepted, and in the same way an employer will be less than impressed if they forget a lie or 'cover up 'on your CV that's exposed later down the line. So deliberately concealing or lying about gaps in your career history is a definite 'no no'. And if a potential employer does not notice an unexplained gap when reading your CV, the chances are they will notice it at interview.
Provide an explanation
Research demonstrates that if a recruiter notices a gap in the career history section of a CV but that gap is not explained, they are likely to deduce that the applicable is less honest than the average person. However, if the gap is noticed and is explained, the recruiter is likely to deduce that the applicable is more honest than the average person. Result = do not leave a gap in your career history unexplained; and ensure the explanation reflects on you in as positive a way as possible.
Fill in the gap
During your career gap you will have been doing something! It may be that you were recovering from an illness, or caring for another individual. You may have been studying or traveling, or even actively seeking employment. Alternately you may have been serving a prison sentence or spending time in rehabilitative care – there are endless possibilities. In many ways this is irrelevant. Whilst you must provide an explanation for your career gap, your focus needs to be on the skills that you developed or gained during this break in employment. Skills, abilities and experiences gained outside of the workplace (especially those that clearly refer to the job or industry in which you're seeking employment) are just as valuable as those earned within the workplace. Describe newly formed skills and list achievements gained during this time in exactly the same way as you would if you were discussing a previous role.
Think about the layout
A single gap in your career history can usually be easily addressed to the satisfaction of recruiters by following the advice above. However if you have several gaps in your career history (and particularly if the gaps are not particularly positive), you may want to consider using a functional CV format.
A functional CV emphasizes skills and achievements. The majority of the CV is used to provide examples that support a specific skill set, with academic qualifications and actual employment history acutely summarized. By structuring your CV in this way, gaps in career history are less obvious to the reader.
An example layout would be;
1. Personal Details – listed
2. Qualifications – listed with place undertaken stated
3. Skills, Knowledge and Abilities – up to 5 key skills listed, each supported by a strong paragraph that provides examples of how this skill has been demonstrated in the past
4. Employment History – dates, company and job title listed
5. Interests – listed
6. References – available on request
And finally, be prepared to discuss any gaps in your career history at interview. A recruiter is likely to ask you about your time away outside of the workplace, and you need to be prepared to respond in a positive way. View your career gap as positively as possible, recognize the skills and experiences you've gained while being out of employment, and be ready to talk about these skills and experiences in an open and honest way.