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4 tips for answering awkward interview questions about your gap year

5 Sep 2019

Thinking of taking a gap year but worried about how it will look on your CV? Use it as a chance to build your skills and experience.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a gap year.

It can be a good opportunity to travel and see different parts of the world, to earn some money before starting college, or it might even be a necessity for personal reasons.

Whatever the case, there’s still some unwarranted stigma around taking a year out. Although it can be a beneficial experience in which new skills are learned – many of them highly transferable – it’s still treated with wariness as students or young professionals dread the hole it may leave on their CV.

A good way to circumvent that concern is to reiterate that a gap year is not just 12 months when you wanted to laze around, but rather a time when you developed a wealth of knowledge that isn’t always accessible in the confines of a classroom or an office.

The Balance Careers has outlined some key advice on how to best explain your gap year on your CV.

Create a non-chronological CV

The chronological CV is the perhaps the most well-known format, but there are many other options. You can instead create a more functional CV that emphasises your skills and experience, rather than where you gained them. For example, you could list your experiences in order of relevancy to the job you’re applying for, or perhaps in alphabetical order.

This kind of résumé might be helpful if you feel your gap year had more of a recreational feel, or because you took it for personal reasons that you don’t feel comfortable disclosing.

List it under experience

If your gap year was spent volunteering, for example at a summer school or teaching abroad, then this is valuable experience and deserves a proper place on your CV.

You can include this alongside the rest of your experience details in the relevant section. Your gap year may also show that you’re a leader, independent, or possess other qualities desired at many companies.

Utilise a breakout section

If you’re really struggling to find any link between your gap year and your career journey, you could develop a ‘breakout section’ on your CV.

Here, you can list the times you were doing meaningful, valuable work that might not necessarily directly relate to your day job. You might call this section ‘international experience’ or ‘volunteer experience’.

Highlight accomplishments

You can include any achievements from your gap year on your CV too. It can be a nice story to bring into a personal summary section, where you write more about your attributes generally, your values and your interests.

If you’re considering taking a gap year, don’t worry too much about how it will impact your future CV.

It’s simply another chapter in life and a learning experience that will be beneficial for future adventures – and that includes your career path.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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