How do I explain the gap in employment caused by cancer?

I was unable to work for a year due to treatment, treatment complications, surgeries and multiple hospitalizations.

Expert Answers

Cancer_and_Careers (Organization (Verified) ) - 10 / 14 / 2011

Hi there,

This is possibly the question we get asked the most and everyone ultimately answers it differently. No matter what, in the initial stages of a job search, you will want to be prepared for questions related to gaps in employment history. And, if it comes up be future focused, non-specific and brief. What is key to a prospective employer is how you can solve their problems and meet their needs so be prepared to speak about that. Practice, practice, practice your answers so that you can be at ease during your interview. However you decide to field the question don't out and out lie, ever but you can absolutely be broad or vague.

One unexpected upside to the current economic situation is that employers today are used to seeing candidates with some gaps due to many reasons, so they may not even ask about caused yours.

Remember that though cancer is forefront in your mind, it is not for the person sitting across the table. Most importantly try and remember that you would be an asset to them and that this is your opportunity to dazzle them with how and why.

Also, if you did any volunteer work or consulting during your time off that should be on your resume and be part of your explanation.

It is also key that you understand what you do and don't have to do under the law in terms of disclosure, for more on that:

Some additional information from our website:
*Job Hunting After Cancer:

*In terms of downplaying the gap on your actual resume, a combination chronological/functional resume may be best for you. Find an example here:

*Not sure how to explain why you left your last job when it was due to cancer treatment? We've got a great career coaching thread on this very topic:

*Having trouble getting asked to interview, and think it may be due to the gap? Some of the advice here may help you out:

Hope this helps!


Rebecca V Nellis
Director of Programs
Cancer and Careers
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