2024 | Reading time: 8 Minutes

Gaps in your CV: what to do?

Should you address gaps in your CV openly or try to hide them? Find out what recruiters look for and why honesty is the best policy.

Gaps in CV

Not every career follows a straight line. The more often we change jobs, the more gaps appear in our CVs. After all, not everything goes as planned. Delays can lengthen the time between jobs and create a need for explanation. But what exactly do recruiters consider a gap in a CV?

What constitutes as a gap in the CV?

A gap refers to a period of time during which an applicant can't provide evidence of employment. Essentially, it describes the time between two jobs. A significant gap is generally considered to be any period of at least two months. Beyond this point, recruiters typically become sceptical about the candidate's suitability. They may assume that the candidate has had difficulty finding a new job.

According to research by recruitment firm Robert Half, 71% of HR departments have rejected candidates with gaps in their CVs. Therefore, it's crucial to handle periods of reorientation skilfully or prevent them from occurring at all.

Exception: first job

However, not every gap in the CV is seen as a disqualifying factor by recruiters, as they often arise for a variety of reasons. Several factors play a role in their assessment, especially the context of the gap.

If it's less than two months, recruiters generally don't expect a justification. Career entry is seen as a legitimate reason for a longer gap in the CV. As this phase tends to take longer, companies accept larger gaps. As newcomers have less experience, they often have a much harder time applying for jobs. Employers are aware of this. Delays of up to six months are considered acceptable in such cases.

Impact on HR professionals

Gaps in the CV, especially longer periods of unemployment, generally have a bad reputation. That's why it's important to either explain gaps or fill them with meaningful activities, such as training or volunteering. Basically, any evidence that you haven't just been lying on the couch can be beneficial. Recruiters may even see this initiative as a reason to hire you.

Hiding gaps: a risky tactic

Of course, this doesn't mean that you can randomly fill in gaps in your CV with fictional periods of your life. Such fabrications are usually exposed during the interview process and lead to immediate disqualification. If you get the job on the basis of a false statement, a subsequent discovery could lead to immediate dismissal, too.

Omitting details such as months is a common tactic to hide gaps in a CV. Life stages are then only listed by year, so most gaps disappear from the list. Others achieve the same effect with an 'experience profile' that focuses on periods of employment rather than specific start and end dates.

For example, it might look like this:

However, recruiters are familiar with both methods. Potential employers may also see these tricks as attempts to deceive them and discard your job application.

Tips for dealing with gaps in your CV

There's usually no need to make excuses or lie. Recruiters usually just want a plausible explanation for any gaps.

For instance, if you changed your course of study and waited for a place, it's an acceptable explanation. Recruiters are familiar with such periods of reorientation and are usually lenient - especially if you have successfully completed your subsequent studies. It's important to mention and justify this period:

9/2014 to 4/2015 - Academic reorientation, change of study programme

However, there are limits to recruiters' leniency. For example, multiple withdrawals are harder to justify and may indicate a lack of discipline.

Legitimate reasons also include a long illness, parental leave, or caring for a family member.

Gaps due to unemployment

Short periods of unemployment don't necessarily mean an immediate rejection. For example, if someone has been working continuously for 20 years, then four or five months of unemployment won't weigh too heavily - especially if it's the only gap in their CV.

The reason for dismissal can also play a role in longer periods of unemployment. For example, if the employer has gone bankrupt, the dismissal often comes as a surprise to the employee. Finding a job can be more difficult, especially after a long period of employment or at an advanced age. HR professionals may overlook a break in such cases.

However, longer periods can be harder to explain satisfactorily. Often, the obvious assumption is correct: the candidate had difficulty finding a new job. For the company, this raises the question of whether the applicant lacks necessary skills. Dispelling this suspicion is challenging, but there are ways to make the best out of the situation.

Concealing gaps in the CV

First impressions count - and the same goes for CVs. Therefore, you should choose a structure that places a gap as far to the end of the CV as possible. There are basically two options: the chronological or the reverse chronological CV. If you are not currently employed, the chronological format is recommended. Then you start with the event that is furthest back in time.

If the gap is a little further back, a reverse chronological CV may be appropriate. In this case, start with the current date and your most recent job.

Avoid accusations

Most of the time, the truth is enough to explain a gap in your CV. But never do it at the expense of others - even if you are right. Blaming others or making excuses never looks good, especially in your cover letter. Were you unfairly dismissed by your previous employer? It's best to keep this to yourself. Your potential employer will only see that you are bad-mouthing your former boss.

Icon einer Glühlampe


The term "unemployed" should generally be avoided. Instead, "job-seeking" is more suitable. It portrays you as active and engaged, avoiding negative connotations.

For a significant career change or lateral entry, the following wording can be used:

Professional reorientation with the goal of positioning in the field of XYZ.

This commitment is best demonstrated by internships, further training, and relevant certificates.

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