In this post we’ll show you how to deal with caring for a loved one or including medical leave on a resume.
Employment gaps have always been a problem for job-seekers, and resumes that contain those gaps can easily be dismissed by hiring managers who prefer to see a more consistent work history. And though today’s employers often understand that these gaps are sometimes unavoidable, they still view them with skepticism and want to see them explained.
But how do you explain a resume gap that involves medical leave, and do it in a way that won’t leave employers doubting your fitness for employment?
How Do Medical Leave Gaps Occur?
A medical leave resume gap can happen for a variety of reasons. In some cases, you may find yourself ill for an extended period – leaving you unable to perform your job duties.
Diseases like cancer can sometimes force workers to take medical leave that can last for years while they battle to defeat their illness and recover their good health. Or perhaps you suffered a serious injury that left you facing many months or years of physical rehabilitation before you could rejoin the workforce.
It could even be a case in which you simply had to leave the workforce to care for an ill loved one. Because long-term care costs are so high, many families find it more cost-effective to serve as caregivers for their loved ones in those types of situations.
Sadly, however, those types of absences are not always readily understood by employers – which means that it is critically important that you know how to deal with medical leave issues in both your resume and cover letter.
Factors to Consider When Explaining Medical Leave on Your Resume
It might be tempting to just include an explanation that offers full disclosure about the circumstances surrounding your leave of absence. After all, what could be simpler than just laying all the facts out on the table and letting the employer draw his own conclusions? You should be careful about being too detailed, however, since that could create some unforeseen complications.
You should recognize that you don’t have to provide those details, since the Americans with Disabilities Act protects your medical information from such disclosure. Moreover, an employer who receives that type of information can be placed in an awkward position.
The last thing you want is to be hired simply because the employer is afraid of being accused of discrimination. You also don’t want to be denied employment because that hiring agent secretly wonders whether your medical needs could be more trouble than you’re worth.
The Functional Resume
It may also be a good idea to consider using a functional resume. A resume that allows you to emphasize your skills and strengths – while reducing the focus on your work history – can be an excellent way to address large gaps of the kind you might experience with a medical leave issue.
A functional resume should really be your last resort and only used when you have really long gaps in your employment. It’s also an option when you have little or no relevant experience for the position you’re targeting. We wrote a post here to help you choose the right resume format.
How to Address Medical Absense When It Was Due to Your Illness
For most job seekers, addressing medical leave related to their own illness or injury often seems to be the most difficult challenge. Many get so caught up on the details that they forget the broader goals on which they should be focused. If you have a lengthy gap to explain, remember these important tips:
- Be direct, but brief. Offer no more information than necessary. The goal is to quickly address the issue to get it out of the way, and immediately refocus the presentation on more positive concerns.
- Provide direct information about the dates when you were away on medical leave, but you don’t need to go into the nature of the medical concern.
If you don’t want to disclose your illness, simply write “Medical Leave of Absence” and include the dates.
Medical leave on resume example:
If the leave involved a battle against a major illness or disease, you may be able to turn it to your advantage. For conditions like cancer, there is a certain sense of accomplishment that you should feel when you beat the disease. If you must include details about your leave of absence, use power words to demonstrate your achievement.
Again, focus your resume’s attention on those positive attributes that you can bring to the new job. You don’t want to ignore your medical leave, but you also don’t want the hiring agent to dwell on it either.
How to Address Medical Leave When You Were Acting as a Caregiver
When your leave was due to a loved one’s illness, the explanation can often be easier to manage. Most hiring agents have had relatives who fell ill at one time or another, so there is often greater empathy for those who have had to take a leave of absence to care for a terminally or chronically ill family member.
- Be brief. Unless you learned new skills during your time as a caregiver, there is no reason to focus too much on what you did during this period of your life.
- Be prepared to discuss in greater detail during any subsequent interview, but always have a strategy designed to refocus the conversation back to your strengths.
- Provide the date and reason for the absence, and briefly describe it. A good example of that description would be something along these lines: “Full-time caregiver for terminally ill family member.”
Here is an example of listing caregiver on a resume:
Addressing Medical Leave In Your Cover Letter
You should strive to be as brief as possible in your resume description of any medical leave. Your cover letter is often a better place to succinctly dispense with the details of any leave. This will free you up to focus your resume on your skills, achievements, and qualifications for the job at hand.
Medical leave can seem like a difficult thing to explain, but it can be one of the easiest employment gap issues you’ll ever confront. As human beings, we all get sick from time to time, and any of us can fall prey to illness or disease at any time.
The key thing to remember is that you need to address the employment gaps caused by such illness in an honest and straightforward way – and then move on to convincing the hiring agent that you’re the right person for his or her job.
Good Luck With Your Job Search!