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Dealing with gaps in your application

Gaps in your application
A traveller crossing a road
© The University of Sheffield

Many of us will have gaps in our application for a number of reasons. Perhaps you have been made redundant or taken time out to raise a family. It could also be due to a period of ill health, or exams not going to plan.

Where you have a short gap in your employment history between longer periods of work, you could consider including dates in years rather than months.

If you have a recent significant gap, you should try to provide an explanation for it. You don’t need to go into detail if it occurred some years ago.

Whatever the reasons for the gap in your application, try to write positively about the experience. What did you learn and how did you develop your skills and strengths during this period? If you have had to overcome obstacles, describe how you have developed in the process.

Don’t make things up as you risk being found out.

Here are a couple of examples to help you get started.

Reasons for gaps in my application How I’d explain this in my application
Didn’t achieve a grade B in my A level Geography needed to gain a place at my chosen university to study Architecture. Misunderstood one of the questions and didn’t answer it in sufficient depth. Decided to take a year out and resit the exam in the summer.
  Worked as a Customer Service Assistant at BestEverFoods between August – February 2016. Developed time management, team work and communication skills, working as part of a small team within the frozen food section. Worked efficiently to make sure that the fridges were well stocked. Dealt with customers, advising them on the selection and purchase of items. Demonstrated motivation and commitment by willingness to work unsociable hours.
  From March 2016, reduced my hours at BestEverFoods in order to return to college to study.
  With encouragement from my teachers, worked through a number of practice exam papers in a set time, answering questions under pressure, in order to improve my exam technique. Developed a revision schedule, which meant that my grades on the test papers averaged 70%. Gained an A level grade B required for my university course.
Reasons for gaps in my application How I’d explain this in my application
Got made redundant from my position as assistant manager in the DIY store BuildYourHome when it closed. Spent three mornings a week attending the local work club to develop skills in writing applications, interview technique and to search for jobs. Proofread each other’s applications and provided positive feedback. Motivated and encouraged each other within the club to apply for jobs and celebrated our success.
  Completed a part-time basic computing course which included an introduction to web design, computer programming and applications. Developed skills in designing interactive web pages using javascript.
  Volunteered at my son’s theatre group and worked as part of a team to design, build and paint stage sets and props for a production of Oliver Twist. It proved a great success and ran for four nights to a full audience. The production made a profit of over £300 allowing the group to continue to rent a room in the local community centre.

If you can, move the emphasis away from the gap by being positive in other aspects of your application, for example show that you are genuinely interested in your chosen occupation by keeping up to date with developments, news and events and demonstrating this in your application.

Use the template below to record any gaps in your application and add it to your portfolio. It is also available to download as a PDF file.

© The University of Sheffield
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How to Succeed at: Writing Applications

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