How to Handle Medical Gaps on Your Resume
In an ideal world, most people prefer to maintain their employment without gaps. However, life doesn’t always work out this way, and many people may find that they have to take extended time off from work due to an illness or health condition. The big question, as someone preparing for a job interview, is how to address such a gap on your resume.
Your resume is your prime marketing tool in your job search. It needs to reflect your experience and education in a concise and easy-to-read manner, yet still catch the attention of hiring managers, who sometimes see hundreds of these at a time. There is a very fine line to balance when presenting this time off to a potential employer.
What are the downsides to the gap in employment?
Taking time off to care for yourself during a health crisis is nothing to be ashamed about or to hide. While honesty is always the best policy, favorably presenting the gap on your resume is challenging on many levels. Potential employers may wonder if you’re fully recuperated and can handle the rigors of a full-time job.
When preparing your resume, remember that it’s not important to include every detail or even every job you’ve had. You want to focus on the skills and qualities that will apply to this particular job. Your resume does not have to boldly state or show that there is a gap in your employment. There’s no reason to hide the fact that you took time off of work, but there’s also no reason to highlight it and call attention to it. Do be prepared to answer questions about it, though.
One tool to consider when you have a gap in your resume is using a functional resume instead of a chronological one. When using a chronological resume, it’s easy to see the gaps in employment at a glance and may catch a hiring manager’s attention. Using a functional resume presents your skills and experience in an easy-to-read format without giving as much weight to the dates or timeline. Instead, it focuses on your skill sets and attributes.
Focus on the positive
When asked about a gap in your employment, let the interviewer know why you took time off, then quickly move on to focus on your skills and what you can bring to the organization. Do not go into a lengthy explanation or extraneous details. Simply move the conversation towards the value you can bring them.
Additionally, if the interviewer continues to question this, you can highlight the fact that your time off gave you an appreciation for your work skills and for being in the workforce and that you’re eager to get back to working as part of a team again. Even though you may have been taking care of your health, some people decide to volunteer or pick up freelance work when they’re not physically able to work full-time. Be sure to mention this. It shows that you are resourceful and can make the most of your circumstances.
One other important thing to remember as you start the interviewing process: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to prevent employers from discriminating against anyone with a medical condition. You don’t have to provide details of your medical situation and, because of the ADA employers are not allowed to ask any questions that pertain to your medical history. Keep this in mind as you go into the interview and remember what you decide to share is totally up to you.
While the ADA may protect you from discrimination, it does not mean that the company hiring you will overlook your time off, especially if they’re a small company that may be concerned about issues such as insurance premiums or paying money on training you then having you leave due to a recurrence of your illness.
While it can be a challenge to present your time off from a medical issue during an interview, it does not need to hold you back from pursuing the job you want. Remember the tips above – be as positive as you can, don’t focus on your time off, and always take the opportunity to turn the conversation towards your strengths and why the company would benefit from hiring you.