The Tuesday Q&A: How Bad Are Employment Gaps?

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

I have an employment gap in my resume, and it’s got me a little worried. How long of an employment gap is too long? Should I talk about it in an optional essay on the app?

Answer:

The honest answer here, my friend, is that any employment gap is too long. That said, not every gap needs to be explained in your MBA application. If the gap’s longer than 3 months or so—let’s call it 4+ months—it’s worth addressing in the app. Now, this does not mean that you necessarily NEED to put it in an optional essay. There are ways to serve up these explanations in other aspects of your app, maybe even in the career goals section. Whether it’s in a section of the resume or in another app essay, there are other avenues you can take to get your point across.

There are plenty of reasons for gaps in your employment: You went to school full-time. You were out of the country doing volunteer work. You were taking care of a sick family member. All of these are reasonable explanations that can actually HELP your app by showing your strengths in places other than at work, if you approach them the right way.

But, you gotta remember to see it from the adcom’s perspective here. The real fear is that you are unemployable. Schools want people who will get JOBS when they graduate, because a higher graduate placement rate makes the school look better, more impressive, more effective. If you get an MBA from them and then can’t get a job, what’s that say about the school?

So, if you DO address your career gap in the app, you’ve got to address this fear and put it to rest. Focus on the fact that, “Yes, I had no job, but it doesn’t mean I can’t get one later…” Show them that you’re a strong enough candidate, and you just might get them to forget about that gap.

Hope that helps.

— Jon Frank

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