Recently I have started writing my CV, but the problem is that there were two time gaps that I have to explain.

  • I was in the army for 11 months due to the compulsory military service in my country.
  • After the army, I spent around 1 year preparing for TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) and the application for foreign graduate schools.

My idea is to put them under the category "Others" at the end of my CV, but I'm not sure if it is a good way to go. Therefore, I'd really appreciate it if someone could give me some suggestions.

I’m applying for jobs in Germany. They used to have compulsory military service as well, but not anymore. I’ve also asked the Germans I know, but most of them didn’t have such experience, so there is very little they could help.

  • 200
    Military service isn't a 'gap'. Just list it. Nov 21, 2017 at 9:11
  • 129
    In fact, if it´s compulsory, employers will want to know if you already served or if they have to expect you will be drafted while you work there!
    – Daniel
    Nov 21, 2017 at 9:23
  • 9
    The gap for TOEFL: was that then followed by actually attending such a graduate school?
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 21, 2017 at 11:35
  • 2
    Yes. The gap for TOEFL was beofre I started my study in the graduate school since a language certificate was needed for the application.
    – JJH
    Nov 21, 2017 at 12:27
  • 3
    In most countries you will get financially compensated, as such, this is a job.
    – PlasmaHH
    Nov 21, 2017 at 12:41

5 Answers 5


CVs in Germany are a "(tabellarischer) Lebenslauf".

The Lebenslauf in Germany are quite different from anglophone countries, they always include a current photo (don't need to say that you must give a good impression), your complete address data, your birth data (location and birthday), your marital status and your hobbies and interests. I only give this as background information, there are tons of information about that, so I only answer the actual question.

The chronology of your lifetime must be chronologically ordered (both from first to last and last to first are known, the last to first is more modern because it gives the important information at once), complete and without gaps, so you need to add military service to your CV.

Here an example:
enter image description here

It depends on your age how it is build, if you are a beginner, you can also include the primary school (to fill space), but if you are older, you only mention the highest achieved school grade and your end of your education (master, PhD, master craftsman). But it does not matter if you had military service, if you were jobless (especially then), if you were nursing your sick mother or if you traveled the world, everything must be mentioned. The timeframe is given in months/year format, so as an example:

06/1997 - 08/2001: Working as an engineer at Lufthansa.

While there may be gaps, they should be explainable and not exceed 3 months. It is also not expected that you mention every small job (waiter, taking out newspapers, postal service), you can subsume that under "temporary work".

Military service itself has no stigma (especially if compulsory), it is seen like school/education, so there is no need to hide the fact.

I strongly disagree to Konrad Rudolphs comment because I think he is a victim of confirmation bias. The most important thing for an application is that it is a fit, so the better your profile, the less important the form. If I need a position as bodyguard for a geological expedition and I get an application from a honorably discharged ex-marine with extensive combat experience and special training in conflict avoidance/diplomacy and camp preparement who also speaks several languages (including the local ones in the area of the expedition) and lived there for years, I don't care about the form anymore.

Differences in form are often accepted in international companies or in branches with extensive international cooperation (STEM fields). Another reason is if you have a highly sought profile. Let's see at Konrad's profile: scientist and developer, PhD, experience with high-throughput sequencing. I take a shot and say that's pretty rare.

If you are not in a firm which have the international experience, but you have a highly sought profile, do not think people do not notice that you ignore the cultural standards. Yes, it is not mentioned and you are still coveted, but people noticed and it costs you points. If you are not in demand, this attitude will defeat you. I also disagree with deviating from the standard or saying "This is not really necessary" as comments suggested. Until you really know what you are doing and what parts can be scrapped (e.g. a professional who works out an application for you or if you are a native with experience), stay as close to the gold standard as possible. Every deviation will be noticed and if there is much competition, it always works against you.

  • 2
    So in Germany the compulsory military service is more considered as "Ausbildung" instead of "Beruflicher Werdgang"?
    – JJH
    Nov 21, 2017 at 21:21
  • 14
    Id say: Military service might have a stigma, but not if compulsory. About the test preparation: I would focus that on "learning English" instead of "practicing for a test" because "practicing for a test" for one year seems odd, while learning a language certainly doesn't. Nov 22, 2017 at 7:22
  • 5
    Hobbies and interests isn't really necessary. I know a lot of people include it, but it's none of the employers business, and unless you have any impressive hobbies, it won't do any good for you anyway. Nov 22, 2017 at 7:32
  • 3
    It's not so common any more to put marital status or hobbies on your German CV. I'd leave those out, especially if you have enough other things to talk about. Nov 22, 2017 at 7:38
  • 3
    Including a photo on the Lebenslauf is still usual, but not compulsory. Per law (passed in 2006), employers aren't allowed to discriminate based on a missing photo. Fo course at this stage of the process, that's hard to prove. If you are confident in your CV, you could leave it out. To be frank, I think this custom needs to die out.
    – toni
    Nov 22, 2017 at 9:04

Treat your military service as a job and list it on your CV.

Since it's compulsory in your country, it won't be unexpected to see that on your CV.

If you need examples of how to list these roles, ask your friends/colleagues.

  • 10
    Similarly, list the time preparing for TOEFL under "education". If you attended any classes, list those. If not, it was independent study. Nov 21, 2017 at 10:47
  • 61
    It doesn't matter. Treat military service as a job.
    – user44108
    Nov 21, 2017 at 11:14
  • 61
    Annotate it as "compulsory national service" - they'll understand - some people may even regard it as something to be proud of. Nov 21, 2017 at 11:41
  • 23
    Military service IS a job, even if it is compulsory. (Didn't they send a recruiter after you once a week to get you to sign up for prolongation? That should tell you something...)
    – Alexander
    Nov 21, 2017 at 12:51
  • 10
    Most people I know, in a variety of cultures, consider military service to be something that should be highlighted on a resume, not hidden. Remember that even a lot of anti-war folks are pro-military.
    – corsiKa
    Nov 21, 2017 at 16:09

Native german here, who has a bit of hiring experience as well.

In Germany, we expect a CV to be without gaps. Any gaps will raise questions. In training courses for writing good CVs, we teach participants to fill any gaps with something. If you went on a tour around the world, write it there. If you were in hospital after a serious accident, or depressed at home after a divorce, invent something that's not entirely a lie (e.g. "professional reorientation"). But never, ever, have a gap in your CV.

In your specific case, both of these items are entirely fine to put on your CV just the way you put them in your question. List them with the time period and write them down without further details, e.g.:

01.06.2012 - 01.03.2013 - compulsory military service

or, the other popular format:

May 2014 to August 2014 - preparation for TOEFL certification

The "other" category near the end is usually reserved for activities without a fixed timespan, or that run parallel to your education and job history over a long period of time. Such as hobbies or volunteer activities, all of which you should list only if you think they are relevant somehow. But most employers like to see at least one or two items here so they understand you as a person. Or as one of my professors said: They want to know how you recharge your battery.

If you passed TOEFL successfully, definitely list it under your qualifications together with degrees and certifications.

Final remark: Military service in Germany does not have the same high status it has in many other countries. As such it is not typical to list your rank or other details in the CV. For specific jobs, this can be different, or if you know that the person reading the CVs would appreciate it, but that is rather rare.

  1. If it's compulsory, all an employer can do is disagree with the idea of military service, but there's no reason you as an individual should be judged negatively of it. If your CV may end up in the hands who is unfamiliar with your country's compulsory military service, it's as easy as writing "military draft" or "compulsory military service" in your CV, as well as your nationality, to provide them with enough information to verify this, if they feel inclined to do so.

  2. As with anything, see if there is a way to put it in a positive light. In this case: what did you learn during your service? Did you acquire particular skills, did you discover you like a particular expertise? Getting to know oneself often happens when you least expect it, but it may be one of the most important things you will ever (continue to) learn. Maybe you learnt a technical skill, or realized you are a good leader and organizer of people.

  3. Language skills: hell yeah. Communication skills are almost without exception positive additions to any CV. Remember that communication involves not only language, but also culture, empathy, and encouragement (notice the similarities with leadership skills?). Someone with great technical skills can wreck an entire team's performance if they do not communicate well. As confirmed by others: any official confirmation of your skills, such as diplomas and certificates, should go almost verbatim onto your CV.

  4. You are you. Any prospective employer will want to hear certain things. However, you are unique, and you have a unique experience and skill set. The fact you have come here to ask us this question, means you are on the right track, and self-aware.

  • "there's no reason you as an individual should be judged negatively of it" Exactly. Anecdotal evidence: I'm active in pacifist circles and we have quite some ex-military people there and no one judges them. And if anyone judged, it would be the hardcore pacifists, wouldn't it?
    – Nobody
    Nov 21, 2017 at 19:03

I'll only address the military service part.

In general, it seems to me good practice not to disclose in the CV any information that could be interpreted as grounds for discrimination. In my country (Israel), it's illegal for an employer to discriminate because of army service (which is compulsory), so it's also illegal to ask about it in an interview. If your country has similar laws, I would either list this period as just "Compulsory military service" without any further details, or leave it as a gap.

  • I do agree that in several countries it is illegal to ask for it. However, it is impossible to prevent someone from inferring the military status from a candidate (even if they do not explicitly ask). Therefore, one can or should preempt this doubt by specifying it in the CV.
    – nbeuchat
    Nov 22, 2017 at 14:23
  • I'm confused by your apparent distinguishing between "army service (which is compulsory)" and "Compulsory military service". And how does one avoid asking about military service? If you ask someone what the did in a certain period, and they were in the army in that period, then what? Nov 23, 2017 at 2:28
  • @Acccumulation I wasn't distinguishing, my point was that the army service is compulsory here as well. You're welcome to suggest better phrasing. Nov 23, 2017 at 7:34
  • 1
    I can't suggest better wording because I'm not clear on what you're trying to say. Your first sentence implies that it shouldn't be mentioned, while your last sentence implies that it should be mentioned, but some unspecified further information should not. Nov 23, 2017 at 21:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .