Gaps In Your Résumé

If you've had gaps during your education or working life, here's how put a positive spin on them.
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To a seasoned recruiter, the ‘chronological’ order of your résumé is the first thing that will catch their attention. Thus, if there are unaccounted periods in your résumé, such as if you took longer than the standard time to complete your A levels or degree, they will surely take notice of it. As long as there is a valid explanation for the time lapse, these ‘gaps’ are not a problem per say. However, it is important to think carefully about how you present such ‘gaps’.

The key is to seek and present the positives in all your experiences; and if, for example, personal issues have affected what you were able to do, learn to feel comfortable about conveying the appropriate amount of information in a calm, clear way.

Unusual chronology in your academic record

It is conventional to give dates of academic results gained, although you don’t need to tell them when you started. Still, employers will probably notice if there is an extra year or three that has crept into your academic track record.

Ultimately, employers are more interested in the results that you’ve gained (and your work experience) than a slightly unusual timescale, but be prepared to explain any discrepancies in a straightforward and honest way. Use the opportunity to convey something positive about yourself, for example: if you switched to a different major during your degree, explain to your recruiter that you had the courage to pursue your convictions. Likewise, if you had to retake an examination, explain honestly the difficult circumstances of the time that led you to the situation. Whatever your reasoning may be, just be honest about it.

Vacations: what did you do last summer?

Traditionally, you don’t have to detail your summer adventures in your résumé, however, be aware that if you have little to no work experience, you will be up against some stiff competition from those who do. Thus, in place of the lacking experiences, you can instead highlight the different skills that you have picked up during your travels (at the very least, it shows the recruiter that you have a larger-than-life personality and you are open to diversity).

You do not need to detail all of it on your résumé but be ready to talk about it with your interviewer. For example, if you went travelling or chose to spend more time studying, make sure that you can explain the rationale behind your choices, how you felt they worked out, and what you learned.

Top tips for presenting info on your graduate résumé

  • Put the most important information first when listing academic qualifications and jobs: the course of study and result gained, or the job role and company. Dates can be included in brackets afterwards. 
  • Don’t feel the need to explain gaps (eg, you don’t have to highlight that you did your A levels three years after your high school certification) – but if you are invited to an interview, be prepared to offer an honest explanation. 
  • Don’t make things up to fill in gaps: lying is a slippery slope, and you will be found out! Moreover, you are unlikely to sound convincing during your explanation. 
  • Get into the habit of keeping a record of what you get up to when you are not in full-time study or employment. If you are studying or working, don’t forget to take note of what you did during vacations and weekends. It can be easy to forget how much you have achieved and learned from all kinds of activities.

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