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I have just started looking for a new job which will be my second job out of university and so far I've had one telephone interview which went mostly well. The interviewer did raise some concern that it took me 9 months to find my first job considering my strong qualifications, and was unimpressed by it.

The truth is that I had a couple of classes to re-sit (due to personal problems) so a 1 year MSc actually took 18 months. I had begun looking for a job after the official course end date, since the classes could be studied in my free time, but my efforts were divided, while also being quite unmotivated due to the stress and disappointment.

I have already written on my CV that it was difficult for other graduates to find a job in the midst of the recession and that I spent all this time updating my skills with personal projects and volunteering with teaching school children, both of which are completely true and can be verified so it doesn't seem like I sat around playing video games all day.

However, I'm worried that other employers are getting the same impression, and possibly rejecting my CV as soon as they see it. I'm not sure whether it's better to say that I essentially spent 2 academic years doing a 1 year course, which will put into question my skills in the specialist field I want to go into, or to leave it as it is, hoping that no one cares about it as much.

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    A 8 month gap is definitely, far, far worse. I don't even think anyone will make a huge deal out of you taking longer then you're 'supposed' to. I encourage you to be honest, and only elaborate if they ask about it. I guess it also depends a little on your culture, but over here, it's pretty common to have spent more time in school. Especially if you eventually did get your degree. – Ivo Coumans Dec 4 '14 at 12:53
  • Is there any reason you can't say "I was taking classes to further my education"? Putting it in a positive light sounds a lot better than "I was struggling to attain a degree". – user17163 Dec 18 '14 at 20:13
  • it's quite common in most european countries to waste one year or even more doing stuff or retaking failed classes. – Formagella Dec 18 '14 at 21:30
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Is it better to admit that I failed part of my degree, than to have a 8 month gap in my CV?

In my experience, it's always better to be honest, rather than having to constantly dance around an uncomfortable issue or to lie about it.

Clearly your interviewer wasn't happy with your explanation, and you are worried that others will be equally unhappy. It sounds like you should follow your instincts and be more direct about it.

I have already written on my CV that it was difficult for other graduates to find a job in the midst of the recession

That is probably a mistake. It sounds like an excuse - it's best not to call attention to excuses in your CV.

I'm not sure whether it's better to say that I essentially spent 2 academic years doing a 1 year course

Is there really a need to specifically say "I spent 2 years on a 1 year course"?

Every resume I have read simply lists the graduation date (or at most the start and end dates). These days, it's not uncommon at all in my part of the world for folks to spend 5 years attaining a 4-year degree.

I think there's no need at all to call attention to one course.

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    +1 Making excuses is a terrible way to start. People could stop reading the CV right there. – Spehro Pefhany Dec 4 '14 at 13:26
  • I was advised that the "excuse" was better than not addressing it at all. Thanks, I will mention the year I retook and that I did the other stuff alongside it. – ant274 Dec 4 '14 at 15:06
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    I disagree with that advice: a CV is the place to list your achievements (with dates, if relevant) and skills, and that is ALL a CV is for, other than perhaps contact details and hobbies (which are really just about social and informal skills): simply state the start and end dates of your degree, your certification will back that up, nothing to worry about. – Jon Story Dec 4 '14 at 15:31
  • Don't bring up the fact you took 18 months, and don't use your inability to find a job, as a reason that was the case. It took you 18 months, it's not a big deal, anyone that makes a big deal likely isn't a company you want to work at anyways – Donald Dec 5 '14 at 3:19
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Honesty

Being honest is almost always the best coarse of action on a CV. if you lie on a CV there's always the chance it'll catch up to you and if it does it'll bring your trust into question.

No Excuses

I never want to see "because" on a resume or CV. It has no place there. You should treat your CV as if you are both product and salesman. Your CV is something between an advertisement and spec sheet. That said no excuses or negative stuff should be there.

When you have something that might not be perceived in a good light you might as well own up to it. In your case the real story would be the best sell to me. We all know $%@# happens and you dealt with it. That's a respectable thing. The market being crap... yeah... Unimpressed... I'd rather you told me you took a break for 6 months as sort of a sabbatical than give me an excuse.

The CV

With your CV keep in mind I have one goal in hiring. I want to acquire the best talent I can ascertain for whatever sum of money I intend to pay. Simply put, best long term ROI.

You want to make your entire CV to make you seem like a better investment to me. 8 month gap? I honestly wouldn't even mention it until the interview. I personally have not known people to hold gaps against their candidates so long as they aren't currently unemployed.

What matters is when I interview you what you say when I inevitably ask about that gap. Taking ownership of your actions for better or worse is always a better sell than skirting the issue. (I need to trust you, and one of those things is when you make a mistake that you handle it professionally. Demonstrating that is a very valuable thing in an interview)

When gaps hurt

Gaps themselves rarely hurt... Essentially if you have 10 years of experience with a one year gap in the middle, I'll ask why, but mostly I'm just looking for a red flag like "I was fed up with ...",or "I just didn't feel like working", etc. Stuff like "I wanted to go see the world while I was young" or "I took time off to learn skills I felt would benefit me in the future" or "I wanted to spend time with my family", etc are all perfectly acceptable responses I wouldn't hold against you.

In those cases I'd read it all as "they have 10 years working experience".

Now the catch is if you're currently in a gap. If you've not been working 8 months and I'm your first job coming back into the work force I'm going to ask a lot more questions. Still all the same reasons are find, but I need to make sure in the gap your skills haven't regressed or your work ethics haven't changed. (which does happen)

Many times when people take a lot of time off it's to reflect, pursue skills and opportunities, etc. Often this involves a shift in priorities that are typically good for the individual, but sometimes those changes are bad for me as the employer. Case and point, before reflection a person might consider their career top priority. Show ambition, attention to detail, and always put in the extra mile to see things through. After reflection this person shifts their priorities in finding more fulfilling outlets for their time and make work a low priority item. Their work isn't bad perse, but they aren't the ambitious go getter they were before taking time to themselves.

(This is not a bad thing, I'd rather have a clock watcher who does honest work and is happy then someone miserable who slaves away at a desk day in and out)

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