How will the admissions committee view an employment gap on your resume? What can you do to minimize its impact?
One question that MBA candidates often ask is how admissions committees will view employment gaps on their resume. Given that the power of an MBA program lies largely in the opportunity to learn from your peers, admissions committees value candidates with strong and unique work experiences. Thus, committees will first focus on the quality and scope of your experience. Yet, a gap in employment of greater than two to three months will generally be considered negative—unless you get ahead of it, explain it, and connect at a human level.
Face your weaknesses head on, and do not leave the admissions committee guessing as to why you have a gap. They will try to fill in the blanks, which may not always reflect kindly on your candidacy.
On many applications, and certainly in the interview, you are asked point blank to explain those vexing gaps. Use these opportunities to your advantage. First, describe what you did with your time, and then take it one step further and share what you learned from the experience.
Tactically, you can explain the gap in a variety of ways in your application. You can use the optional essay to very directly address why there was a gap and what you learned. However, you can also weave your rationale into the main essay and focus on how the experience shaped your perspective or informed your next move. Also, if you used the gap to devote yourself to an extracurricular activity, you may be able to solicit a strong letter of recommendation from an executive outside of your workplace that shows your commitment to and leadership in the community.
We recently collaborated with a client who was let go from a job while applying to business school. Instead of sitting on his couch, the candidate sought to deepen his commitment to a nonprofit organization. In addition to strengthening his leadership and program management skills, his nonprofit experience resulted in a full-time offer of employment. We then worked to seamlessly weave these details into his narrative.
Consider another candidate who was forced to take time off to care for a family member who was undergoing surgery. Although the experience may not have had an obvious connection to getting an MBA, it provided the candidate with unique insights into patient care, healthcare privacy laws, hospital management, and insurance policy and integration. In addition to getting to spend time with family during a difficult period, the candidate decided to build upon the lessons learned by pursuing an MBA with a healthcare focus.
By giving admissions committees the full, authentic picture, you take control of your narrative. So, deeply reflect upon the experience and explain it. If you make your story specific and meaningful, it will be memorable.
Applying to an MBA program with an employment gap? Get in touch and we will help you increase your chances of admission.