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How to explain gaps in employment due to mental health?

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How to explain gaps in employment due to mental health?

Postby santos » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:32 am

I finally got an interview for a job, and I'm worried about one question that I know they'll ask.

I'm 25, living in the United States, and it's been almost a year since I was last employed. The reason why I haven't been employed is a combination of the economy and mental health reasons (I was hospitalized twice this past year).

I have no idea how to explain this. I know that saying "oh, the economy is rough" is a very bad answer. And I know that being honest and saying that I've been having mental health problems, no matter how I try to sugarcoat it, is a surefire way to destroy any chance of getting hired.

I can say is that I've been volunteering at a mental health peer recovery center (which is true), but again I'm afraid that eventually it'll come up that the reason I've been volunteering there is because I myself have been having mental health problems.

The only other thing I can think of is to say that I've been out of work because I've been taking care of my mother (who has breast cancer).

I'm just not sure how to explain this convincingly.
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How to explain gaps in employment due to mental health?

Postby claud28 » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:34 am

I really don't see why it is their business that you have taken time off for mental health reasons. All you have to tell them is that you were volunteering (if this is true and verifiable as you say it is). Don't spend much time trying to justify this gap in work experience. Give a concise, honest answer then move on to how excited you are to have the opportunity to interview. Always highlight the positive and veer away from negatives such as "the economy." I agree that this is a bad answer because many people dwell on this and I am sure the hiring manager has heard it all. Have you taken any online training programs or classes? You can say you took time off for educational enrichment. This is usually looked highly upon in business.
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How to explain gaps in employment due to mental health?

Postby fremont » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:37 am

Unemployment Gaps on Your Resume Due to Illnesses

You may have been unable to work briefly due to an illness, or because you sustained injuries in an accident. As you look for a new job, you may have to explain these employment gaps if they show up on your resume. If you explain them properly, they shouldn't hinder your chances of getting the position.

Structuring Your Resume
Your resume should list the most recent jobs you've had, especially as they relate to the position for which you're applying. If you have employment gaps due to an illness, there are ways to structure your resume so that these are less apparent. When listing the time period of each job, use the year for your start and end date, rather than the month. This way, if your employment gap occurred for only a few months in the middle of a year, it won't show up on your resume. If you missed work for longer than a year due to illness, you can still use this technique, but avoid calling attention to it on the resume. Don't write down the reason for the gap, because it will be addressed in the interview anyway.

Mentioning Employment Gaps
Most hiring managers look for employment gaps on each resume they encounter. Because of this, be prepared to answer questions about the gap. But, since gaps on a resume can be considered a bad thing, don't be the one to bring it up. Instead, wait for the hiring manager to mention your employment gap.

Answering With Honesty
Answer honestly when asked about your employment gap. Avoid lying or telling half-truths, as the prospective employer may find out in the future, if you lied. Depending on the illness, you may want to keep your answer vague. For instance, if you were admitted to a mental institution, this could be looked upon unfavorably by the hiring manager. Instead, say that you had a brief illness, and that you're better now. You don't have to be specific about the illness if it makes you uncomfortable.

Talk of the Future
The main reason a hiring manager asks about an employment gap is because he's concerned that you aren't reliable. When answering questions about the gap on your resume, make it clear that this won't happen again. Talk about your recovery and how you've been feeling lately. If your employment gap is due to a chronic illness that you haven't overcome completely, mention that you've developed methods to help relieve your symptoms, so you're still valuable to the workforce.
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