FAQ: career breaks, reasons for leaving & your CV

Should you mention career breaks on your CV? And what about reasons for leaving each of your roles?

These are just two of the fantastic CV questions that regularly crop up in our office. We say ‘fantastic’ as it’s great to see so many candidates wanting to know how they can improve their CVs…and, with this, their chance of finding a new role.

We’ll start with the career breaks…

There’s a multitude of reasons that you might have had (or chosen) to take a break from the world of work. Whether this is through caring responsibilities, redundancy, relocation, studies, illness, travel, or something else entirely.

When it comes to whether to mention this on your CV, we say yes; wherever possible. Particularly when sending your CV to a recruitment agency. You see, this is an excellent opportunity to tell your recruitment consultant a little more about your life experience and, in many cases, current job search needs.

So how should you feature this information?

We’re big proponents of a ‘skills and achievements’ focused CV (in which you not only demonstrate that you have the appropriate skills for the role in question yet how you’ve already used them/your associated successes). Therefore, we’d recommend brainstorming the new skills you’ve fostered during your career breaks. You can follow the ‘all you need to do’ steps detailed in this post.

Look at the positives generated from your experience. Even challenging times can teach us new skills, or cause us to adopt new technologies/systems/organisational habits, etc.

Clearly detail the dates of your career breaks (keep things honest!), briefly outline the reason for the break, and then summarise your skills and achievements from there.

The amount you write will vary dependent on the duration of your career breaks. For example, if you haven’t worked for the past 10 years due to caring responsibilities, you are likely to detail more than if you haven’t worked for 6 months due to an injury.

Using the caring responsibilities as an example, think of all the coordination you’ve done on behalf of your dependents; the patience you’ve developed, any activities you’ve arranged, systems you’ve put into place, etc. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve done. Don’t forget to use this post to support the process.

What if you feel unable to detail the reason for your career break at this time?

Keep things simple. Don’t just leave a gap – your recruitment consultant will notice (and please don’t fudge the dates, this will make you look far less trustworthy come referencing time)! Instead…

  • State the dates and offer what you feel able to, e.g. ‘personal/family commitments’.
  • Welcome the opportunity to discuss this period in person with your consultant (if this is possible for you).
  • Add any positives that you can at this stage – e.g. any skills & achievements, as above. Again, if this feels possible to you.
  • Mention that you have personal referees available. It’s worth contacting at least two prospective referees in advance of stating this.

Your Recruitment Consultant is human and will have worked with people from all life experiences and backgrounds! Furthermore, when working with any REC accredited agency, your confidentiality will be respected.

REMINDER: if you’ve had a long working life, please don’t feel you have to include everything you’ve done since you left school! We still recommend a 2 page CV (possibly longer for higher-level openings where technical descriptions are more appropriate). You’ll find more CV advice in the PDF on our downloads page; please call the office with any other questions. 

How about including reasons for leaving your roles?

While not essential, this also offers some really useful insights for your recruitment consultant.

That said, a CV should never be a negative place! If you left a job because you ‘hated it’, think about what you were looking for in your next role. Be positive yet honest, e.g. ‘to experience a more creative environment’, ‘to gain experience in X industry’, ‘career development’, etc.

One brief line for each reason for leaving should be adequate. Be prepared to expand on this when meeting/talking to your recruitment consultant.

What if you’ve been made redundant?

This is nothing to be ashamed of! Stating redundancy due to company downsizing/restructure/merger or similar would suffice.

And what if you’ve been dismissed?

We totally understand that you may not feel able to provide this information at this stage. Remember, as above, reasons for leaving are not absolutely essential to your CV.

However, your recruitment consultant and/or prospective employer is likely to pose such questions at interview. Therefore, you are encouraged to prepare for these conversations. Think how you can answer honestly, positively, and non-defensively. ACAS offers free employment advice should you need such a service.