How to Explain a Gap in Your CV During an Interview: 7 Common Reasons for CV Gaps and the Best Way to Explain Them


We all know that life is not always straightforward and many people don’t just go from one role to the next straight away. Life events happen or plans change which push us to put our career on hold. It is okay to have a career gap - you could go travelling, start a family, go back to education,or take a break from work for personal reasons.

The important part of a career gap is being able to explain why there is a gap in your CV to your interviewer. They want to see that you are reliable and have the experience and skills needed for the job. 

So, what is the best way to go about this? Keep reading to find out more!


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 What Is Considered a Career Gap in a Resume?

A gap in your CV could be several months or years where you have not been employed in your field. This could be due to illness, redundancy, travel, family commitments, etc.

Most hiring managers consider a career gap to be 9 months or more where you have been unemployed. 

How Long Is Too Long of an Employment Gap?

The longer the career gap, the more likely your hiring manager will see it as an area to question. However, if you have a good enough reason to support why you took a break in your career, such as education or family commitments, then there is no reason to avoid or fear these questions. However, any length of time will need an explanation so it is better to prepare your answer before the interview. 

Is It Legal to Ask About Gaps in Employment?

It is legal for hiring managers in Ireland to ask about gaps in employment. If it is highlighted on your CV, they will more than likely ask you for more information about it. 

The Equality Acts of 1998 and 2004 prohibit employers and potential employers from discriminating against anyone on the basis of:

  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Race/Age
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Member of the travelling community

If you are asked an uncomfortable question regarding one of these, you can politely say you are not comfortable answering that question. Most hiring managers should not bring up these topics, however, if you find yourself in this situation you should rethink if you want to work in a company that might subject you to such practices. 


7 Common Reasons for CV Gaps and the the Best Way to Explain Them


1. Gaps in CV Due to Unemployment or Redundancy

It is always best to be truthful when explaining an employment gap due to being laid off or made redundant. Explain the reason and then move on. If it was due to a lay off rather than a performance-related issue then explain this and include it in your cover letter. It is best to provide context and steer the conversation towards the next topic.. 

You could explain by saying you were ready for a different challenge and that the role had changed considerably. And that you are happy to bring your skills and talent to a role that suits your expertise.  

Example answer:

“After our company was restructured, several aspects of my role changed. I was very adaptable to the new ways of working, however, the new role is not where I saw my career going, and I agreed with my employer to move on and pursue a new role externally.” 

2. Gaps in CV Due to Illness

If you are explaining a gap in your CV when you were ill, remember you don’t have to go into a lot of detail. Simply explain you had to take time off due to an  illness and move on saying that you are now back on track and excited to resume your career. 

You can put a positive spin on this by explaining you have recovered from the illness and while you were sick, it gave you time to think about your career goals and made you ready to start something new. The illness also gave you determination and made you stronger. 

Example answer:

“I had to take time off work to recover from an illness, but I am now back on track and ready to kick-start my career.”


Gap in CV Due to Mental Illness

If you do wish to explain your mental health issues that led to a career gap, then remember that the hiring manager doesn't need to know the full details. Bring the attention back to the career and emphasise that you are now ready to pursue your career goals. You could also focus on discussing any  activities   you may have enjoyed during this gap,  to improve your skills and knowledge. 

Example answer:

“ I had to take time off work to recover from an illness and focus on getting back to full health, however, I am now ready to focus on my career again.”



3. Gaps in CV Due to Caring for a Family Member

When explaining a career gap for caring for a family member or a loved one, be truthful and briefly explain who you took care of and then move on. If possible, focus on what you did to freshen your skills and stay relevant in your career.

Explain that you did classes, extra learning or unpaid work to keep your skills relevant and updated. Also, you could discuss how this experience helped you develop other skills, such as resilience, time management and flexibility. 

Example answer:

“I had to take a career break as I had to care for my dad in a time of need. During this time I attended evening classes so I wouldn't lose any skills and this enabled me to learn new skills so that I am ready for a new role.”


Gap in CV Due to Looking after Children

When explaining gaps in a CV due to family reasons make sure that you are honest and explain that it is a temporary family situation and now it is resolved. 

Explain to your future employer that you were not just a full-time parent. Take this opportunity to discuss any online training, or classes you completed or if you did any freelance work, etc.

Example answer:

“I took a career gap after having my first born child. While looking after her, I completed an online course to keep my skills and knowledge relevant.”



4. Gaps in CV Due to Travelling

Explain that you took a career gap to travel. You could say that it is something you have always wanted to do but you didn't get the opportunity until now and while you were in between roles, you thought it was the perfect time. 

Travelling is a great thing to do and teaches us several life skills. Make sure you explain all the cultures you experienced, how your problem solving skills improved and ways in which your perspective on life has changed.

Example answer:

“I took a year-long career break to travel the world. Travelling taught me independence, improved my problem-solving skills and I got to experience many cultures and meet a lot of people.”



5. Gaps in CV Due to Going Back to Education

Explaining a career gap because you went back to education is an easy one. Employers love hiring people who are continuously upskilling and brushing up on their skills. Maybe you are looking to progress or switch careers, make sure to explain what you learnt in the education you completed. 

Gaining new skills and knowledge is beneficial for any business. Make sure you align what you learnt with the company's strategy and goals and show you can add value to the business. 

Example answer:

“I took a career gap to continue my education as I am eager to progress in my role and bring new skills and knowledge to the team.” It’s important to list some of the skills you gained and why these are important to the potential employer.

6. Employment Gap Due to Job Hunting

When explaining to an employer that you took time off to find a new job, it would typically only be for a few months. You could say you reached a point in your career where you knew what you wanted in the role and wanted to make sure you got the right one, so took the time off to allow you to focus on it. 

Always focus on what you have learned during the time off and how you can bring this to your new role to improve your performance.

Example answer:

“I took a career gap as I was looking to change roles. I had been in my previous role for several years so I wanted to make sure I had the time to find what was right for me.”



7. Employment Gap Due to Personal Reasons

It might be best to explain briefly what the personal reason is. Saying that you have personal issues that you would rather not discuss doesn't invoke a lot of trust in the hiring manager.

Explain briefly why you took a career gap and highlight that you are ready to re-enter the workforce now.. 

Example answer:

“I took time off to focus on myself. It was a time that prepared me to take on new challenges. I am excited to see what the future holds and for this opportunity.”


3 Tips to Explain Gaps in Your CV


Two women in an interview


Explaining gaps in your CV can be challenging, but failing to do so might make you miss out on the perfect role for you. However, if you prepare for these questions you can very quickly move away from the topic in the interview. Here are some tips to follow when explaining your gaps in your CV:


1. Be Honest

It is important to be honest when explaining your career gap without going into too much detail. Only say what you are comfortable saying. You don’t have to go into every detail, but leaving it out completely will only highlight it further and put a question mark in the hiring manager's head. It is more important to the hiring manager what you did during your career gap compared to the reason for it. 

If you lie about your career gap it can result in you not getting the role. It will decrease the likelihood of the hiring manager trusting you and thinking you are capable of the role. They can also call previous employers for a reference and find out you lied which can backfire completely. 


2. Be Prepared

If you have an answer prepared for this question in an interview it allows you to explain your gap and show what you learnt during it and then allowing the interview to move on in a positive light. Not being prepared might result in your lying or not giving the information the hiring manager wants to hear, and then you might miss the job. 

First explain the reason for the gap and then put a positive twist on it. 

Why do you want this role?

Do you think you are ready to get back to work?


3. Be Proactive and Positive

Showing that you learned something during the gap proves that you are proactive and eager to learn. 

You could also  explain it in your cover letter, however, preparing an answer for the question in the interview is the best way to get ahead of it.


Having a career gap is normal but it is important that you prepare your explanation when attending your job interview. Be honest in your explanation as lying can result in you not getting the right role. Always put a positive twist on the break you took and show you are ready to get back to work. 

It is important that you end the interview with a strong statement showing your interview and determination. Thank them for their time and show confidence. 

Looking for more tips for your CV or want to explore some upskilling courses while you’re taking a break from work?

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