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How to Account for Gaps in Employment Due to Illness

by Nicole Vulcan

Even if you have all of the skills and qualifications necessary for a job, gaps in your resume can be worrisome. Legitimate absences from the workforce, such as because of a long illness, can appear as red flags to a potential employer. In this situation, focus on the positive and frame your application materials so that hiring managers see you as the qualified candidate that you are.

Create a skills-based -- or functional -- resume instead of the more traditional reverse chronological resume that highlights your work history. Functional resumes feature the skills necessary to do the job at the top of the page. Take a look at the job posting and identify the skills the employer wants. Create a bulleted list of five to 10 of the skills you possess, and briefly explain how you got those skills.

Mention your work history after the skills section, with minimal information. You've used a lot of real estate detailing your skills, which leaves less room for your work history -- and that's a good thing. In the work history section, name the job, the employer and the years you worked there. Include only the years of employment to place less emphasis on your gap in employment, especially if your illness kept you out of work for less than a year.

Mention the gap in employment only briefly in the cover letter, if at all. Try to turn the employment gap into a positive aspect, and work it naturally into the content of the letter. For example, say that the time you spent focused on your health allowed you to do more research on your profession. Or write, "While I was forced to take some time off due to my health, I'm motivated to fulfill the duties of this job now."

Prepare a positive statement that you can use during the job interview. Hiring managers may view employment gaps as warning signs, and they may ask about them during the interview phase. You don't have to go into specifics about your illness, but you can let the hiring managers know that you were concerned about your former employer and wanted to make sure the company was able to fulfill its mission -- which meant stepping down and allowing someone else to do the job. Make it clear that those issues are no longer a problem -- or whether you still have lingering health issues. Let the hiring managers know how you're keeping them under control.

Tip

  • During the interview, the employer can ask whether you are able to do the basic functions of the job, and whether you'll need any accommodations to do so. They are not allowed to ask about your physical state or any disabilities you may have. If they do, they may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act or the guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Photo Credits

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