Can missing work history damage your CV and chances of an interview?

A question often asked when writing the work experience section of your CV is whether it’s acceptable to leave employment gaps and how you should list or explain them. It’s perfectly normal to have a gap in employment at some point in your life, whether it was a gap year after studying, maternity/paternity leave, study leave, or simply transitioning from one job to another with some time off in between. However, this topic can be complex when writing your CV and deciding how to list your work history.

So how do you explain gaps in your work history?

On the whole, it’s reasonable to have an employment gap at some point of your life and most recruiters will bear this in mind. If you work for 10 years and decide to go back to studying for a masters, PhD or training course, or whether you decide you would like to dedicate more time to your family for a while before returning back to full-time work. The question is, how can you apply for a job without drawing large amounts of attention to the gaps or being at a disadvantage?

Can missing work experience damage your CV and work interview

How to explain gaps in your work history

It is not advisable to explain gaps on your CV, as this takes up space and doesn’t make your profile as appealing if you point out all the times you didn’t work. Ideally, recruiters should be focussed on when you did work, what you did and how your skills and abilities could be used for the job position.

However, if you choose to include a personal statement at the beginning of your CV, you may decide to explain your current situation briefly, such as a year out for study leave.

You can also explain an employment gap such as a gap year away travelling, paternity/maternity leave or study leave in a cover letter attached with your job application, or alternatively decide to be prepared to answer any questions asked in interviews.

It’s important to acknowledge that sometimes you have gaps in your employment history and realistically-minded recruiters will not have a problem with the fact you took a gap year after university or a year out to complete a masters. Don’t worry about small gaps or make a big deal about them, as this is common amongst job applicants and hiring managers are used to it.

Ways to explain employment gaps on your CV

For short gaps between jobs:

  • Consider labelling your employment dates in years as opposed to months.
  • If there is a month between a job in your work history, yet the rest of your previous work experience is consistent, you can leave this gap as it should not affect your chances of being hired.

For larger gaps between jobs:

  • If you have been out of work for the last year for reasons such as studying, you could write a personal statement at the beginning of your CV to explain your current situation, bringing recruiters up-to-date with your current situation and showing you were using your time productively.
  • You can opt to include a small explanation in your cover letter which doesn’t draw too much attention, yet clarifies any confusion hiring managers might have about a large gap in your employment.

How to explain termination or quitting a job

Although you don’t need to state this on your CV, you may well find that the hiring manager is curious as to why you are looking for new job, or why you quit your old job. If you have been dismissed from a previous job, you should be prepared to talk about it in your interview.

If you were dismissed from a previous job, it may not be necessary to list the job on your CV depending on the circumstances. This would be applicable to circumstance such as:

  • If the job was over 10 years ago
  • If it was only for a small amount of time (i.e., a couple of weeks or months)
  • If it isn’t relevant to the job for which you are applying

If you choose to include the job from which you were dismissed, you should think carefully about how to explain this to recruiters. You don’t want it to affect your chances of getting the job, so you should explain it clearly and positively without letting it be a major point of topic.

Here are some tips for explaining why you were dismissed from a job:

  • Don’t lie about it. Recruiters appreciate honesty and can usually tell when someone is lying. Don’t forget that they are professionals in interviewing and hiring.
  • Talk about it as a learning experience. Perhaps you didn’t enjoy the job or it wasn’t for you. There may have been a misunderstanding or a change in the company which affected other employees’ employment, as well. It’s not always your fault if you’re dismissed!
  • State what it taught you and what you realised from the change. This is a lighter and a more positive note to end on, which helps recruiters to see how you take change, development and progress.

You can use an online CV maker to create a CV which will wow recruiters and make them forget about any employment gaps you may have! Don’t forget that if the rest of your CV is well-presented, clear and effective, recruiters won’t be thinking about any employment gaps you may have and instead, will be thinking about calling you for an interview.