Gaps in the résumé used to be a knockout criterion for an application. These days there are more and more CVs with gaps. Personnel decision-makers know this and it is not about covering up the gaps or lying, but explaining them plausibly and filling them with meaningful activities if possible. In the application, it can be worked out how the gap was used sensibly and what advantages this has for the employer. How this works is explained in this article, also using practical examples such as unemployment, illness, parental leave or a change of degree.
Important facts about gaps in the CV
- A period of 2 months does not count as a gap in the résumé and does not have to be justified under any circumstances. Even 3 months are usually accepted by personnel decision-makers without comment, without having to justify the gap.
- Even a job search of 4-5 months is nothing unusual these days, depending on the profession and industry, and can be justified so easily.
- The bigger picture is important: Is there just a gap or is there a patchwork biography?
- Simple gaps such as a change of course or one-off unemployment of a few months are unproblematic gaps, can be justified easily and presented accordingly. That should hardly be relevant for the application.
- The longer there has been a gap in the résumé, the less important it is for the current application.
- With Patchwork CVs , more effort is required to prepare the application documents to match the position. But the job market offers these applicants special opportunities.
- Gaps should be named and explained. Covering up or lying on your résumé is useless. An example in the next section shows the disadvantages of hiding a gap in your CV.
Example 1 – Unemployment gap
An applicant has worked in a job for years and has been unemployed for a year. For 6 months he has been attending further training and is looking for a new job.
How does the applicant describe this situation in their résumé?
In principle there are two options:
- To present the curriculum vitae in chronological order so that the gap is not at the top.
Disadvantages / dangers:
Personnel decision-makers are now used to the latest and hopefully most important professional experience to be read at the top / first position in the curriculum vitae, ie in anti-chronological order.
The important and longstanding experience in a chronological listing may slide far down or to the second page of the curriculum vitae, which is often only skimmed by personnel decision-makers .
- Adjust the résumé in the subheading. From the point of view of the personnel decision-maker, this variant is the better way: instead of “Professional career” or something similar, the heading is expanded to “Professional experience and current training.” A good list of headings / sub-headings for the structure of the CV can be found here.
Sensible formulations in the case of unemployment
The use of “unemployed” or “unemployment” has a negative effect.
These formulations have a more active effect:
- Application phase
- Professional reorientation
- Professional reorientation with the aim of …
Fill in gaps in your CV in a meaningful way
- Self-study (reading specialist books and journals, visiting students at the university, courses, internships)
- Further training
- Language courses
- Part-time and temporary jobs
- Travel, stay abroad → intercultural skills, language skills (should then also be available during the interview)
- Voluntary commitment
- Preparation for training or studies
It is important and sensible to establish a reference to the intended activity or to work it out in the application documents. For example, in-depth language skills on a trip. But be careful: the HR manager may suddenly jump into another language during the interview.
What does not help: to fill in gaps afterward
Covering up or lying doesn’t help. Personnel decision-makers often notice the loopholes when looking at the concealed application documents, e.g. if only the year is given or no chronological résumé is submitted and instead an experience or performance profile.
At the latest in the job interview, it becomes more and more difficult to lie. Think about your reputation and your credibility. In addition, incorrect information can also be a reason for termination after the end of the probationary period.
Instead, it is important to conclusively explain and justify the gaps in the résumé. This can also include admitting your own mistakes. Then it is important to describe what you have learned from the situation.
7 further examples – typical gaps in the résumé
Using further examples it is described how you can optimally deal with the gap in your CV and formulate your application.
Gap due to illness
Illness is a sensitive topic and the naming of the illness depends heavily on the type of illness , although there is no obligation to name the illness yourself.
An accident , for example, can simply be described as “complete rehabilitation after an accident”.
In the case of mental illnesses or chronic illnesses the formulation “time off for health reasons, meanwhile complete recovery and readiness for action” can be chosen.
In order not to leave any room for guesswork, take up the gap in the cover letter of the application, for example: “After I was sick for a year, I have completely recovered and I am looking forward to doing my job again with full strength . “
Care for sick relatives
When caring for relatives, the exact period should also be stated in the résumé, for example:
09/13 – 11/14 Caring for the seriously ill mother
It is good if during this time you have kept yourself up to date with the latest professional developments or have completed further training, for example through self-study, compiled from attending further training courses and reading specialist literature.
Time out or sabbatical
Anyone who has been professionally committed for years can take a break for their career without a guilty conscience and hopefully without a kink.
Parental leave instead of child break or parental leave
There can be no question of a break or vacation, so the terms “child break” or “childcare leave” should be avoided and referred to as “parental leave”. Spending time with your own child or children is a demanding task that takes a lot of strength and energy and requires a lot of presence if the “job” is to be done responsibly.
Change of course or application phase after graduation
A change of study program is not a problem and personnel decision-makers also understand if the search for the first job takes longer than 2 months.
As with the unemployment gap, it is important to use the time wisely and to show this in the application.
Job hopping and patchwork biography
With a biography like this, it is particularly important to establish a connection between your own professional experience and practical skills and the desired job profile, for example on the basis of skills such as flexibility and openness to new things.
How can this be presented in the application?
Example for the CV
Instead of listing many short employment periods, it can make sense to summarize the activities, e.g. as jobs in the industry. This gives the résumé a clearer overview, which HR decision-makers appreciate.
In small and medium-sized companies, applicants with multiple breaks or gaps in their résumé often have a better chance of finding a job than large corporations, as they receive fewer applications.
Conclusion – take a differentiated look at gaps
Not all periods of non-employment are automatically “problematic” gaps in the résumé. Many alleged gaps are unproblematic:
- One-off gaps and shorter gaps
- Gaps that were long ago
- A gap due to a change of apprenticeship place
- A gap due to a change of course
More problematic gaps:
- Long gaps
- Gaps due to illness, especially mental illness
- Patchwork CVs
A sure instinct is required here to prepare the application documents positively and honestly for the right application.
“If the overall picture is correct, many companies and HR managers also accept breaks and breaks in their CVs.”