In the past, it was often simple: after school, you started training in a company and then you stayed there for your entire life.

Today many employees - voluntarily or involuntarily - constantly change jobs, may have short-term contracts or part-time jobs and in between do an internship or a trip around the world.

There are breaks and gaps in the résumé.

When an application is pending, many people are unsettled.

"Of course, gaps always make HR managers curious," says application coach Jürgen Zech from the Make-it-Better agency.

But they are not an exclusion criterion.

After completing the degree, “search unemployment” for a few months is in many cases quite normal.

If career counselor Viola Hoffmann-Scheurer has his way, honesty is what is most important when dealing with gaps.

She worked for years in the human resources department of the French auto company PSA and has read countless résumés in her life.

“You want to have a long-term relationship with your employer if possible.

If you don't treat each other honestly right from the start, that can't work, ”she says.

Illness and personal problems: honesty on a résumé helps


This is also shown by a survey conducted by the recruitment agency Robert Half in 2017. According to this, 71 percent of the recruiters questioned have already rejected applicants because incorrect information was exposed in their résumés.

Therefore, job seekers are better advised not to cover up longer gaps, but to explain them.

“You shouldn't spend too much energy on glossing over your résumé, but rather direct your attention to its strengths,” says Hoffmann-Scheurer.

At the latest when comparing the data with the job references, longer gaps were noticed anyway.

If you see a long pause on your resume, look for an explanation in your cover letter.

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Such explanations can also be private problems or illnesses.

A break because of a serious illness is always accepted, says the personnel consultant.

The care of relatives is also a comprehensible reason for a gap in the CV.


But there are also explanations for other breaks.

The application coach Sven Emmrich from the “Karrierehelden” coaching portal recommends that you remind yourself when writing your résumé how exactly you spent the time in the alleged gap.

After all, very few people just sit around and do nothing.

“Perhaps you have educated yourself through reading.

Maybe you learned a language while traveling, ”says Emmrich.

"Or it was simply important to take time for the family." That, too, could certainly be recognized by HR managers.

Gaps in the résumé: find clever formulations

Such explanations could already be included in a short form in the tabular curriculum vitae, and more detailed in the cover letter.

Even in this case, however, one should stick to the truth: Selling a pure party vacation as an educational trip is not very convincing.

If you get into a phase of unemployment, it is best to try to use the time sensibly for yourself.

"If a gap is looming through a foreseeable dismissal, one should think about a meaningful further training or think about a side job or self-employment on a small scale," says application coach Zech.

Activities that exactly match the desired professional field are ideal.


Clever wording can also help to make gaps in the CV appear less negative.

“Job seekers” sounds better and more active than “unemployed”, “professional reorientation” works better than “unemployment”.

Anyone who has been dismissed should indicate the reason directly in their résumé, for example “dismissal due to company insolvency”.

Breaks in the résumé, such as a change of course or training, do not have to be a problem.

“No life is perfect,” says consultant Hoffmann-Scheurer.

In addition: Anyone who has taken a new path may know afterwards what they want - that too can convince HR managers.

It is precisely this point that applicants who have reoriented themselves should emphasize in their cover letter and in the job interview.

People with breaks in their CVs are no less conscientious

Application coach Sven Emmrich recommends aligning the supposed breaks in the résumé with the desired position as well as possible.

Perhaps someone once did an internship in an industry that at first glance does not seem to match the job they are looking for.

Then you should ask yourself: “Which skills did I learn there that could be useful in my current job?” These should then be highlighted in the curriculum vitae.

A résumé with gaps and breaks is therefore no reason to despair.

A study by the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences already showed in 2014 that there are only minor correlations between gaps in the résumé and personality traits.

The study did not find people who had a period of unemployment in their life to be less conscientious than others.

The authors of the study came to the conclusion that HR managers are very likely to make wrong decisions if they sort out applicants solely on the basis of incomplete CVs.

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Read more articles from our series of guides on the subject of CVs here:

Everything about the résumé

This article was first published in May 2019.