Applying to Business School with a Gap in Employment on Your Resume

Successful ApplicantOne of the biggest red flags Admissions Committees encounter during the business school application process is an employment gap on an applicant’s resume. This is unfortunate because for those afflicted, this is often an area that is usually out of the applicant’s control.

Most people are not looking to have an employment gap on their resume, and such periods of joblessness are usually the result of a series of unfortunate events. This problem was much bigger during the global economic crisis a few years back, but the effects of this event still remain on many resumes.

If you have a work gap on your resume, know that it is not the end of the world and that you are not alone on this front – how you mitigate this blip on your resume will be more important to MBA programs than the gap itself – however, don’t completely ignore this issue altogether. Do not treat a gap in employment as something that will not be a concern for the Admissions Committee.

At the very least, if it is a material employment gap, this issue should be addressed in the optional essay. As with most topics you discuss in your optional essay, your explanation and clarification of the employment gap should be concise and to the point. Admissions Committees are not looking for a long-winded string of excuses here – be direct, take ownership of the incident, and identify lessons you learned from it, if appropriate.

Another way to confront an employment gap is through one of the more traditional MBA application essays. If the reason behind the gap or the results of the gap have had a profound impact on your life or career (and it makes sense given the essay prompt), it may be appropriate to take a deeper dive into your situation. A full-blown response like this requires a more nuanced degree of thoughtfulness, so it will be key to do some self-reflection and really identify the underpinnings of your employment gap.

The business school interview represents another area where your employment gap can be addressed by a member of the Admissions Committee. This is probably the most direct way your employment gap will be explored. Keep your explanation simple and avoid making excuses or blaming others. A major mistake many in this position make is disparaging an old employer or an ex-boss. This may actually come across as unprofessional and it generally leaves a bad impression on the interviewer.

Do not let a past employment gap set the tone for your future success at business school. Be prepared to address your history, and take ownership of it in a way that positions yourself for success in the MBA application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

How to Explain Work Gaps in Your MBA Applications

ChecklistIf you have a prolonged gap in activity – either at school or at work – on your resume, you probably already know that explaining it can be difficult. Being open and ready to address this “hole” in your profile with the Admissions Committee will greatly benefit your application. Let’s examine the two major ways you can tackle work and education gaps in your business school essays and interviews:

Be Open and Ready
Be prepared to answer questions from the Admissions Committee regarding your gap. Being ready to discuss your gap will allow you to be composed when asked about it during your interview. An honest demeanor will help keep the interview on the right track, while allowing you to explain the context of the gap. Addressing this openly in your essays also gives you the chance to take control of the message and show your character, personality, and purpose.  

Over the years, I have had successful clients who had gaps in their educational or professional history be admitted to top programs. Reasons for these gaps have ranged from choosing to take a break to explore other countries, to taking care of the family business, to recovering from illness. Being forthcoming about the reasons for these interruptions helped demonstrate their authenticity and made it easier for the Admissions Committee to appreciate their personal growth.

Add Another Dimension
Explaining the reason for your breaks will also allow the Admissions Committee to gain more insights about your personal life story and your priorities. For instance, an applicant who had to overcome personal issues to eventually complete his undergraduate degree reflected thoughtfully that his struggles at that key point allowed him to build resilience and empathy – the same qualities that have formed the foundation of his leadership principles. Communicated sincerely, a message like this will come across powerfully, especially when supported with the context of applicable leadership activities you may have taken on during, or after, your gap.

Another applicant had to take over the family business due to his father’s illness while he was still studying. Doing so helped shape his sense of responsibility at a young age, and his maturity served him well in taking on early leadership roles. Experiences such as these are attractive, as business schools look for applicants with strong leadership potential.

Additionally, your travels can be used to show your international motivation, openness to new experiences, and ability to relate to diverse cultures. Sharing your involvement with worthy organizations while you are on break will also give a peek into the causes you hold dear. Highlight this whenever possible, as it will show your personal enrichment and act as a unique addition to your profile.

To conclude, don’t be too secretive about your education or work gaps. Instead, use your gap as an opening to connect with the Admissions Committee on an even deeper level.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.