Gaps In Career And Education History

The emergence of gap years and the negative economic situation have made CV gaps a more common occurrence in today’s job market. However, if you have a gap in your CV you will still need to think about the best way to present this so that it avoids reflecting poorly on your application.

Short Gaps

If the gap was relatively short, then you may be able to avoid drawing attention to it by listing job years and omitting the months. An effective tactic is also to use a less noticeable or smaller font. For example:

Sales Representative, Acme Ltd.
(2011 – 2012)
– Activities and achievements

Brand Agent, Commercial Projects Inc.
(2010 – 2011)
– Activities and achievements 

Remember to keep the format consistent throughout your CV and bear in mind that an interviewer may delve into this further so be prepared to discuss what you did during the relevant periods.

Longer Gaps

If the break was a lengthy one of several months or more, think about what you actually did during the time when you were away from paid employment. If you did any voluntary work, personal projects or helped people in any way, there may be scope to present the activities in a positive light.

If you are using a standard career-based or chronological CV you may be able to relay the activity in similar terms to the paid positions on the rest of your CV. This works well if you did something specific in the period you were not working. For example:
Jun 2010 – Feb 2011        Project Leader       Residential Property Renovation

During this period I managed a private property refurbishment project, transforming a dilapidated unit to a marketable home, consistent with modern standards of design and building regulation.

  • Managed activities of architects, trades people and local authority inspectors;
  • Achieved project completion 6 weeks ahead of schedule and within budget.

Incomplete college courses

If you started a course but did not finish, one option is to include the course as part of your career history and describe it in the same terms as a job, (see previous section on ‘Longer Gaps’). In this way you can emphasise any achievements from your time on the course. If you left a course but have limited employment experience it may be worth utilising a skills-based CV.

Returning to Work

If you have several gaps in your career or if you have been out of employment for a while, you may find that a skills-based CV will help to focus your reader’s attention on what you have to offer rather than the gaps. This type of CV works really well for people re-entering the workforce, such as parents or other full-time family caregivers. Learn more about skills-based CVs.

You can also use this type of CV if you were doing something different, such as living in another country independent of an employer. Think about what you did while you were there and begin listing the positives e.g. Learned a new language, made contacts in different industries, familiarised yourself with a new culture. This will help you to see these different activities through the eyes of an employer and you can then describe the unique skills and experience that you have to offer.