Writing your resume is always a difficult task. From deciding which skills to include, to creating a professional format and structure, there are a lot of difficult choices to make. Explaining gaps in your work history, however, is probably one of the most challenging issues you will face: You don’t want employers to think you’ve been out of work for too long, but on the other hand you don’t want to appear as if you’re hiding anything. So what do you do if you’ve taken one or more career breaks in recent years?

Here’s how to explain gaps when writing your resume.

Don’t be afraid to be honest

In 2016, it’s very common for people to take time out of their careers to travel, work on personal projects, and care for loved ones, among many other reasons. It’s no longer frowned upon in the way it may have been 10 or 20 years ago, so it’s okay to be upfront about time out on your resume.

Conversely, if you try to cover up your employment gaps by claiming to have worked with previous employers for longer than you actually did – you may find that trick backfires on you when it comes to post-offer reference checks. Many organisations will retract an offer if they discover that the candidate in question has fabricated some of their work history.

So be open and honest about your career breaks, whether you took a once in a life time round-the-world trip, or spent some time training for a big sporting event.

Show skills where possible

When writing about your employment gaps, be sure to use them to demonstrate your valuable skills. It’s very easy to make travelling seem like one big holiday but it can actually involve a lot of planning, organisation, and determination – all traits which are very valuable in the work place. So when describing the activities your gap year(s), emphasize your transferable skills to show employers how constructive you’ve been between roles.

Some activities can be really highly sought after by certain employers such as:

  • Volunteering – Volunteering for a charity or good cause shows a willingness to help others and often involves crucial experience such as event management and fund raising.
  • Personal projects – Personal projects could range from building a website to running a book club, so they are great ways to display a multitude of skills.
  • Sports and hobbies – Competing in sports or games shows great determination and spirit, which will be valued in any workplace.

You might also want to consider using a “functional resume format,” which will put your skills and abilities front and centre.

Don’t be embarrassed by illness

Another common reason for career absence can be illness, however, you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed to include such information on your resume. Any employer who would discriminate against you for being ill does not deserve you as an employee.

Again, be honest about your medical history and any ongoing issues, and let any prospective employers know that it will not be a problem.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

If you’ve had a few weeks off between roles while job hunting, then there probably isn’t any need to mention it. Lots of candidates (especially in the contract and temporary market) have time out between roles and it doesn’t mean they aren’t attractive prospects.  So if you have very small periods of time off between work, there is no need to write about them in great detail on your resume.


About Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter, founder of CV writing service StandOut CV and author of How to Write a CV – The Ultimate Guide.