Are gap years good for your CV?

Can gap years actually benefit your CV? Is there a ‘right way’ to take one and is there an age limit on this sort of break? 

Today’s topic is inspired by this HR News post. Its headline states that gap years can ‘help applicants stand out.’

  • 63% of HR professionals think this is the case, according to YouGov.
  • As 44% of businesses rate ‘experience’ as more important than a degree, the gap year may also provide some valuable practical insights and skills.
  • This is all good news for the 88% of students who chose to take a gap year specifically to increase their employability.

There’s one important phrase that crops up several times in the post, however, and that’s the mention of ‘constructive’ gap years. This brings us to the following question…

Is there a right way to approach a gap year?

Of course, if you’re just looking to take a break from your studies or career (we’ll come to the latter shortly) you could spend your time doing whatever you please.

However, if you’re thinking along the lines of enhancing your employability, this is where the constructive bit comes into the equation.

The sort of break that looks best on your CV is one that features paid and or voluntary work. Each of which can increase your skill-set, confidence (alongside other attributes) and general experience in a variety of ways.

Is there an age limit on this sort of break?

Not when you consider that gap years can be referred to as ‘sabbaticals’.

Experienced professionals can also use this time to learn new skills and gain experience in sectors that they’re eager to pursue.

Is there a right way to feature your gap year on your CV?

Yes! Far from simply leaving a gap in your career history  – no pun intended! – you want to let prospective employers know how you used your time to their potential benefit.

Treat this as you would any other role. Provide the dates of your break, an overview of what you were doing, and real-world examples of your skills and achievements.

As ever, the specific details you provide should also be tailored to your applications.

But what if you can’t afford to take one?

We can’t all afford to take gap years, whether due to financial constraints or other life commitments. Don’t think this will hamper your applications and never force yourself to take one thinking it will definitely improve your employability. There are no guarantees of the latter! What’s more, there are so many other ways to make your CV stand out.

One of the best tips has already been shared above. Tailor each application with genuine examples of your skills and achievements from your employment, education and voluntary roles to date. Make it obvious to the employer why you’re the best match for their role; don’t leave anything to guesswork!

Ready to send your CV? You can apply for individual jobs directly or upload your CV as a general applicant. If you’d rather email your CV, here’s what to include in your cover note



How to showcase your achievements

Whether you’re looking for a job promotion or a brand new role, you need to know how to showcase your achievements to employers…

We’ll focus on targeting recruitment agencies and prospective employers today. However, if you’re reading this from the promotion perspective, simply use the tips to tailor your notes for an upcoming management meeting or appraisal.

Showcasing your achievements throughout your job search: 

The best CVs are those that spotlight your skills and successes – and manage to link these back to the position you’re applying for. Of course, when faced with a blank document, this can be much easier said than done.

Some of the best advice we’ve read on this topic comes from The Balance Careers. They explain how to:

  1. Define your past successes: looking back over previous roles and making sure you know ‘what success looked like in each position.’
  2. List your achievements: considering those moments in which you’ve excelled in your role and noting specific examples.
  3. Quantify your performance: using numbers to illustrate your achievements.
  4. Highlight any awards: as it sounds; we’ll come back to this shortly!
  5. Weave your findings into your CV and cover letter: suggesting powerful keywords, and how and where to reference your successes.

They even share some examples of their tips in action on a CV, cover letter and during an interview.

Please note: the above article comes from an American website, so watch that you don’t let any American-English slip into your CV. This can frustrate prospective employers!

Some extra tips for the list…

  • Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, get in the habit of following items 1-4.  It’s so much easier to recall your achievements when they’re fresh. Keep a dedicated list, so you’ll be able to select the most relevant examples for each job application.
  • Don’t worry if you’ve not been nominated for any awards! There are other ways to show recognition. Perhaps you’ve received praise from a boss or colleague, a promotion, or some form of prize/incentive for your work. Note these examples too.
  • Remember, the UK CV is ideally only around 2 pages long. It may be a single page for those with less work experience, or a 3-page document for more experienced professionals. However, there’s no reason you can’t get a bit creative and incorporate further details into a separate document to submit to your interviewer. Keep this snappy, using bullet points and graphics.
  • Remember, employers want to know how you can help them. Always draw your examples back to your company research. There’s more about this here.

Further reading: