Disability & Work: Effectively Explaining Gaps in Employment to an Employer

When it comes down to business, employers want to hire reliable people committed to their jobs.  For this reason, most employers check for a progressive path through education and work and are sensitive to gaps in the resume of a potential employee.  If such gaps remain unexplained, employers will often assume the worst.  However, by offering positive explanations of the time spent away from work a job seeker may turn a gap into an asset and reassure an employer of their reliability and skill.

How a job seeker decides to explain gaps in his or her career depends, to a large degree, on the reason behind the gap.  The key, however, is to keep it as positive as positive as possible.

Keep in mind that not all gaps need to be mentioned.  These include gaps that lasted for a couple of months or occurred long ago.  In such cases, it is often easiest to give only the years, rather than the months of a job seekers career history.  If the gap in employment was used constructively, the job seeker may consider including it in his or her resume.  Often, time taken out to travel, study or pursue a dream could be used to a job seekers advantage.  Many people have gaps in their employment due to maternity or paternity leave.  Such details can also be mentioned and it may be useful to reassure employers that all childcare arrangements have been made for your return to the workplace.

Some gaps are trickier to explain.  These include periods of unemployment, which may or may not be related to disability or illness.   If the mentioning of gaps can’t be avoided, an explanation is preferable to simply ignoring it – leaving employers to draw their own conclusions.  Even if time away from work was related to an unexpected and negative event, a job seeker may still be able to turn this into a positive by reflecting on lessons learned and how these could be helpful in the workplace.

A job seeker can explain gaps either in the main body of a resume or in a cover letter.  If a cover letter is used, a job seeker should take care to communicate a positive and confident attitude.

Job seekers may also adapt the format of a resume to emphasize their skills and abilities while placing less emphasis on a detailed career history.  A “functional resume” format does not outline a career in reverse chronological order, but groups experience under appropriate skill sets.  Examples of skill sets includes marketing/sales, budget/finance etc.  A functional resume can also be combined with a regular reverse chronological resume.  By using this hybrid format, a job seeker will first draw the attention of the employer to their skills.  A chronological account of his or her career will follow only after the employer has already been impressed by their ability.

Gaps in a resume are less problematic if good work experience can be illustrated.  This is true even of volunteer experience not related to the specific field in which the job seeker is applying.  If a job seeker is unemployed for an extended period of time, it might be a good idea to volunteer in order to gain valuable experience to share with an employer.

For service providers, scheduling practice interviews could boost a job seeker’s confidence and ability to answer difficult questions with poise and confidence.  Recording such interviews may provide the job seeker with helpful visual feedback towards improving their demeanor and communication skills.

Always remember that there is a thin line between making a good impression and deceiving an employer.  Job seekers should never extend the length of time they were employed or add fictitious educational experience to cover a gap in their resume.  The consequences of misrepresentation could mean losing the job.  The best advice is to be positive – using proactive and energetic terminology to ensure the job seeker comes across as enthusiastic and ready to start work.

Lisa Jordan is a disability and workforce development expert. Lisa uses her keen ability to identify challenges and develop solutions so that workforce development professionals can increase their comfort level, productivity and effectiveness when working with a diverse clientele. Download Lisa?s Special Report on 5 Easy Disability Tips to Immediately Increase Agency Accessibility by visiting http://www.human-solutions.net

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