Explaining Gaps in Your Employment History

If you’re feeling anxious about explaining a gap in employment history due to the recent economic downturn, or if you had a stretch of unemployment at another time in your career, take heart. Admissions committees are comprised of human beings who can and will empathize with someone who has faced a lay-off and lived to tell the tale.

Earlier this week, the Forté Forum blog posted a reassuring piece with tips for those with an “interrupted” resume or discrepancies in their GMAT scores. Forté fellow Laura Bentzien, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business (2012), writes that the key is to feel confident in explaining that gap. By telling admissions what you did with that unaccounted-for time and what you learned, you effectively remove any ambiguity that could otherwise have led to negative inferences.

“Put slightly differently, it can actually be pretty meaningful to show how you adapted to adverse conditions and created a new path for yourself during a difficult time,” Bentzien writes, adding, “For all the Ad Com knows, you took that ‘time off’ to volunteer in Guatemala. Either way, explain with confidence and don’t feel disadvantaged by a glitch in your application.”

The same can be said of explaining discrepancies in your GMAT scores. Many people need to take the test more than once to earn a score they are satisfied with, but worry how it may look to have a weak first score and relatively strong second score.

In this case, Bentzien writes that you must be able to explain–not excuse–the dramatic improvement. If necessary, reference other areas of your professional and academic achievements to demonstrate your consistently high-caliber performance.

Admissions committees repeatedly stress that no single element of your application will make or break your chances of acceptance. “The overall cohesion of your story is what will convince the admissions committee that you belong at their school,” Bentzien explains, “Not one specific component.”

So relax and have confidence in both your career successes and detours… It’s all in how you paint the picture.

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4 Responses to Explaining Gaps in Your Employment History

  1. JL Rivers says:

    I am having a hard time feeling confident about this piece. I have had two interviews in the past two weeks that have gone pretty well, except for the fact that my resume shows a 2-year gap related to my going back to school to obtain an MBA degree.
    In both instances the interviewer asked me about the gap, and when I proudly explained that I am a recent MBA graduate and that I had taken the past two years to pursue my MBA and further my qualifications to compete in the job market, they continued to ask “what have I being doing to keep my skills fresh”, or something to that extent, as if obtaining an MBA degree was a side project that suited nothing more than my fancy.
    My field is technology and I have over ten 10 years of experience as a Project Manager with exposure to enterprise-wide projects. I am in my mid-30s and the university I went to is regionally, if not nationally, recognized (Fordham University in New York City).

  2. Hi JL, Sorry to hear you are having a tough time. This post is actually intended to discuss gaps when you apply to MBA programs, not to discuss the b-school gap when you apply for a job. It’s surprising that b-school would even be considered a gap for employers, but I suppose it would depend on whether this particular role values an MBA. Good luck to you!

  3. Scott says:

    Thank you for this entry. I have a gap and am looking to get back to being fully employed with my MBA credentials. Your article offers some hope. Thanks.

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