I have a friend who is looking for a job in the technical industry. He is 30 and just finished studying his degree for 12 years, which is supposed to take 5.
Before going on, let me give some context: I come from a country in which technical degrees in the university are very, very hard to get:
On a given year, +500 people may start the course and two years after way more than half of them will have quit the studies. Toward the last years, classes tend to be rather small and no more than 50 people graduates every year (10% from the initial batch). Exams tend to be quite hard and many subjects have a ratio of 2 or 3 people passing for every ten candidates.
Since the curriculum is prepared for a 5 years degree, all the above stated implies that graduate students spend, on average, 7 to 8 years in the university.
In the case of my friend, he did not perform well and there are no excuses for that. He did not feel motivated, worked for a while, spent some time in other countries, etc. Finally he has got his degree, some experience working in his field as a trainee in different European countries and he is also able to speak fluently five important languages in the region.
He is now applying for jobs and in all cases the recruiters focus on the amount of years he spent studying and the poor performance through that time. No matter if he could be good using his extra skills (languages, for example), most of the cases he does not make it to the first interview.
Lying about the curriculum is not an option, so all friend are suggesting some ways to approach it: indicating just the year when it was finished, expanding the explanation on the traineeships he was involved in, focusing on the amount of languages he is able to speak, etc.
However, I wonder what can be a good approach to overcome this first, easy question "why did it take you so long to finish your degree?".