Why are long unemployment gaps bad

Gaps in your CV: 8 tips to explain & fill them

Gaps in the résumé attract the attention of recruiters. Whether voluntary time-out, termination and unemployment, delayed entry into the profession or a mental illness: If you have been unemployed for a long time, you have to sell it in your application. Glossing over, hiding, lying - these are bad strategies. Experienced personnel decision-makers see through this. They know most of the scams. There are better methods so that gaps in the résumé do not become a problem when looking for a job or leave room for speculation. Examples of how you can professionally present the career break in your career ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What are gaps in the resume?

HR managers are trained to track down inconsistencies in the application documents. Gaps in the résumé, i.e. periods of non-employment, raise questions:

  • Has the employee been fired?
  • Why - underperformance, fraud, theft?
  • Is the applicant a rather inconsistent candidate?
  • Will he / she throw the gun in the grain with us again soon?

Long gaps in the résumé raise doubts in the suitability and quality of a future employee. They invite you to speculate. And that is not good. It undermines the credibility, authenticity and meaningfulness of your resume. It is all the more important to either - sensibly - close these gaps. Or to explain it convincingly.

When do we speak of a gap?

But after two months it needs to be explained and is critically questioned by HR staff. Gaps are longer professional breaks that you cannot fill or justify with continuous employment, vocational training / studies, further training or an internship.

Rule of thumb: Anything that goes beyond the period of two months and is not explained is considered a gap in the résumé. Four weeks - that can be an extended vacation that lies between two jobs or between graduation and starting a career. For example, to clear your mind. A longer phase in which you reorient yourself professionally is also legitimate. This can take six to eight weeks.

Gaps in your résumé are not a problem

Which résumé is perfect? However, if they are covered up, the suspicion arises: The applicant was unemployed at the time - and for good reason. HR managers must react in this way in the interests of the company. Lots of job changes, inconsistencies and various dropouts lead to the fear that the applicant will throw everything here again at the next opportunity. Or look for a better-paying job. Such candidates become expensive misconduct.

Don't be afraid of the Corona gap! HR managers also know that looking for a job can take longer in times of crisis. Therefore, there is currently talk of a "corona gap". The time between two jobs can be up to a year. This is accepted by many personnel decision-makers and can be explained with reference to the pandemic.

This is how HR managers recognize gaps in the résumé

1. Indication: year information instead of month information

Normally, the professional stations in the résumé are given in the form of “MM / YYYY - MM / YYYY”, where “MM” stands for the month and “YYYY” for the respective year. This makes it possible to see exactly whether the individual jobs have merged “seamlessly” into one another. In the case of pure years, this is concealed. Example:

YYYY: Employment at Muster GmbH
YYYY: Internship at the example GmbH

Correct would be:

MM / YYYY - MM / YYYY: Employment at Muster GmbH

2nd indication: Experience profile instead of career

With this maneuver, only qualifications are listed in the chronological curriculum vitae without classifying them in terms of time. Example:

4 years of field service experience in the field of _____
3 years of retail sales experience
2 years of training as an office clerk

HR professionals have long known all of these tricks. Accordingly, they sense an attempt at deception and at least ask if the applicant is invited to an interview at all. We therefore strongly advise against this type of CV cosmetics.

Closing gaps in your résumé: tips and tricks

Ultimately, you only have two alternatives to deal with breaks and gaps in your CV: You fill the gaps with credible facts. Or you can be honest and come up with a convincing explanation. We'll show you how this works below. It is funny, but not recommendable, to answer the question about a gap in the résumé with flippant phrases like “Was cool!” Or “Envious?”. This only reads well as an internet meme.

Courage to open gaps: explain gaps that are not

In fact, there are loopholes that are not at all and therefore arouse understanding in every reader. You can close this with a brief and plausible explanation:

Change of study

You made a mistake in your choice of course, the subject is not right for you. Now orientate yourself again, but you have to wait for the next free space. Everything is not broken and can be explained by university formalities. Only if you change subjects every few semesters does that cast a bad light on you. If possible, use the waiting time for internships or work in a student organization. Dropping out of your studies is therefore not a gap if you reorient yourself afterwards and actively seek alternatives.


Not correct: Study, then drop out
Correct: Study of Arabic studies, at the same time involvement in refugee aid


The corona pandemic makes it extremely difficult to find a job. Some companies have imposed hiring freezes, others let employees work short-time or cannot assess how the labor market will develop. Numerous industries are affected: the event or tourism industry, gastronomy or hotel industry. Getting unemployed or not immediately finding a new job during this time is not a personal failure or shame. As mentioned above: The "Corona gap" is known and will be tolerated. So please state this as the cause clearly and clearly. As for all longer time outs, however, the following applies: Use the search time wisely. For example, by taking an online course that will help you advance professionally.


Not correct: Looking for work
Correct: Downsizing due to the corona pandemic

Career entry

Even if starting a job takes longer than planned, very few HR managers take it offense. Young professionals in particular enjoy an extended grace period of up to six months, which they should fill with a few days of practical experience or internships. You are picky about your first job - but please never idle!


Not correct: Looking for work
Correct: Further training to become a specialist in education


Anyone who is ill for a long time or has to care for a seriously ill family member does not need to camouflage or gloss over it. You don't even have to name the disease itself (for example cancer) - it's a private matter! It is sufficient if you limit the period of time and write down what happened, for example “time off for health reasons”. You can underline your motivation by the fact that you are now fully operational again.


Not correct: Time out due to illness
Correct: Time out for health reasons, meanwhile full recovery and readiness for action


Caring for sick relatives should also appear on your résumé if you have had to cut back on your job as a result. It would be good if you can prove during this period that you have at least kept yourself up to date professionally.


Not correct: Time out for private reasons
Correct: Caring for the seriously ill father

(Brief) unemployment

Temporary unemployment in the past does not have to be concealed either. After all, you found a job again afterwards. Such phases occur. But then please also describe what you have done during this time to find a new job. This not only proves commitment, but also determination.


Not correct: Unemployed
Correct: Professional reorientation, advanced training in programming languages ​​(Java, Python)

Explain real gaps in your résumé

There are also loopholes that cannot be easily explained. To be honest, they contain their own weaknesses and mistakes. Nobody is perfect, of course. But how can such gaps in the résumé be sold?

Gap in resume due to termination

You have been fired, lost your job and have been looking for a new job for several months. Vain. In that case, it is important to first distinguish why you were terminated:

Through no fault of its own

Has your department been shut down, for example as a result of a company merger, restructuring, or corporate crisis? Did the company cut jobs on a large scale, for example because it got into financial difficulties? Has your ex-employer even gone bankrupt? Unlucky: In this case you can mention your dismissal with your head held high and possibly even enclose a press release with the application. In the curriculum vitae, the phrase: "Head of department at Flop AG, termination due to insolvency" is sufficient. It wasn't your fault, after all, that you lost your job.


Whether out of antipathy, stupidity or poor performance does not matter: You were fired because of your own failure. Point. A résumé is limited to the facts. Even the most convoluted affirmation or justification only proves: You have a guilty conscience (probably even rightly). Then stick to the facts. In the latter case, you can limit the damage - with the following tips:

  • formulation
    Mention the resignation, nothing more. Beware of explanations or attempts at justification. They have no place in the résumé and always have a negative effect. Especially when you try to blame a lousy boss, bullying colleagues or general antipathy. Even if it's true - don't say a word about it. You can only lose and look like a whimper who doesn't want to take responsibility. Your employment relationship ended then and then. Point.
  • layout
    There are two variants of how CVs are structured today: “chronologically” - or “American” with the current position first. Since both are allowed, you should choose the order in such a way that your previous (good) performance appears there first and the matter of the termination, if possible, only on the second page.

Persistent unemployment gap

In this case, you need to get creative. But even more actively counteract the suspicion that you are lazy on the couch at home and hope that a suitable job will open up. That is why it is important that you pursue a two-pronged approach: You continue to apply for jobs, but you also receive further training - through qualifying (!) Trips, language courses, advanced training, internships and observations. In this way, the gaps have no chance of becoming such according to the above definition. For the résumé this means specifically:

  • Choice of words
    If your unemployment is still current, then please do not describe yourself as “unemployed”, but rather as “looking for work” - that sounds more active. It is even better if you turn your personal dilemma into a positive one, for example: "Professional reorientation, goal: positioning in the area of ​​sales management". That appears more self-confident, more committed and shows your goal orientation.
  • activities
    Mention all qualifying measures on your part: a kind of self-study in which you have taught yourself blogging as well as HTML and social media marketing; social commitment to hone your knowledge of human nature for sales; Internships (even unpaid) that have helped you sharpen your professional reorientation and become more aware of your core competencies and passions. In particular, further training on your own initiative is worthwhile. They increase the prospect of a raise. That is the result of a representative TNS Infratest study. 87 percent of HR managers said that further training on their own initiative promoted professional advancement, for 78 percent it was the reason for an increase in the employees' salaries. When it comes to hiring new employees, 77 percent even look to this initiative.

Gaps are rarely an exclusion criterion

It is clear to every HR manager that the job search can sometimes not work out. In that case, he or she wants to see how committed and courageous you are in countering the situation. Any gaps in the résumé are rarely an exclusion criterion.

It is crucial that you play with your cards up and provide good explanations. Most specialists and managers today have one or two breaks in their vita. OK then! Such detours signal: the person had courage, does not shy away from changes, was able to gain experience and is also not afraid of failure.

Gaps are ok, lies are not

To put it plainly: Of all the variants that are supposed to spruce up breaks in the résumé, lying is the worst choice. The shot almost always backfires: Anyone who invents activities or further training for this purpose and is then asked about them in the job interview not only ends up in need of explanation, but ultimately loses their reputation. Incorrect information in the curriculum vitae is a reason for termination - without notice, even afterwards. In the job interview, they mean the immediate end.

Also the “make-up” of parts of life is a bad disguise. Some consultants seriously recommend pimping the extended trip to Australia as an “intercultural educational trip” or covering the period of unemployment with all sorts of bells and whistles of the type “phase of intensive potential analysis”. Seriously: how stupid do you think the reader of your application is? And if you actually assume an IQ of toasted bread for him to believe: Why do you want to work for such a company? Just.

[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]

Further sources and guides
Application tips
➠ Application templates
➠ 11 application forms
➠ ABC of application tips
➠ Application folder
➠ Application photo
➠ cover sheet
➠ Brief profile

Tips on the résumé
➠ CV in tabular form
➠ Resume templates
➠ Internships on the résumé
➠ hobbies on the resume
➠ Unemployment on the résumé
➠ gaps in the résumé

Tips for covering letters
➠ Cover letter
➠ Introductory sentence in the cover letter
➠ Final sentence in the cover letter
➠ Interests in the cover letter
➠ Strengths in the cover letter
➠ Attachment directory

Tips on the job reference
➠ Assess job reference
➠ Secret codes in the certificate
➠ Interim report
➠ Job description
➠ References & samples

Special applications
➠ Unsolicited application
➠ Internal application
➠ Discreet application
➠ Email application
➠ Online application
➠ Application as a temporary worker
➠ Application for mini jobs
➠ Application after termination