Mind The Gap: How To Explain Cancer Related Work Absence In Your CV

I promised one of my readers that I would tackle the topic of how to address a gap in your work history as a result of cancer and I hope you will help by providing some of your own tips and suggestions too.

1. Accentuate The Positive

Get in the right frame of mind. For now, put aside your worries about how to explain the gap in your resume and spend some time focusing on why you are the right person for the specific job that you are applying for. List at least ten great qualities and skills you have and ask friends and family to help you brainstorm more.

2.  Make Your CV Skills Based

Forego the traditional chronologically based CV, which emphasizes your work history and make your resume one that  you to showcase  your skills  instead.  Click here for an example of a skills based CV.

3. Choose Your Skills

Go back to your list of skills and pick the ones that relate specifically to the job description. You will need to be able to back them up with specific examples. 

4. Add Your Skills To Your CV

Add your chosen skills to your CV in bullet points. Under each heading, provide an example of an area of accomplishment related to this specific skill.

5. Add Your Work History

You only need to add a brief work history –  include volunteer, freelance or internship positions.  Instead of putting in specific dates, include the number of years of service. For example, “Four years customer service experience”.

You do not have to disclose your cancer history during the application phase. 

6. Handling The Interview

So what happens if you make it to the interview stage? If the interviewer brings up the issue of a gap in your CV, you still do not have to mention your cancer diagnosis and treatment. This information is private and protected by law. Have a ready prepared and well rehearsed explanation that you feel comfortable with. You might say family or personal issues but stress that they are resolved now and that you are ready and eager to get back into the work force.  Then turn the conversation back to your strengths and suitability for the job. The more prepared you are before the interview, the more relaxed and at ease you will appear during the interview.

7. Monitor Your Digital Footprint

With an increasing number of employers googling prospective candidates, you need to be aware of what information you may already have posted online about your cancer. Many of us turn to social media sites like Facebook and blogs to keep our families and friends updated on our progress and to seek support during cancer treatment.  However, if you do not want your employer or prospective employer to know of your cancer history, you need to take some steps to protect your privacy online.

  • Set privacy settings on things like Facebook so that nothing can be seen by people who aren’t “friends” (including pages you are a fan of – an often forgotten detail).
  • Google yourself to see what a prospective employer can see about you online.
  • Think before you share online. Don’t share anything about yourself that you would not want an employer to know.

Have you had to apply for a new job after cancer? How did you handle the question of cancer? Did you disclose it at an interview? Please share your experiences and advice in the comments below.