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Dealing with Gaps in Work History

Sometimes people with disabilities have significant periods of unemployment or gaps in their work history. Unfortunately, these gaps are often a red flag to employers. If a job seeker has had periods of unemployment, she/he and One-Stop system staff need to develop strategies to address these gaps. Simply hoping the employer wont notice is not likely to be effective!

When To Address Work History Gaps

The first question that must be answered is when to address this issue. Should it be addressed in the resume or cover letter? Or should the job seeker wait until the interview? There is no right or wrong answer. As with many issues, it ultimately comes down to what the job seeker is comfortable with.

Designing a Resume to Reduce Attention to Work History Gaps

The traditional resume (organized chronologically) can call attention to such issues as gaps in work history or limited work experience. Consider using creative methods to downplay gaps in experience and work history:

Another alternative is to totally abandon the standard resume format, and instead use a personal profile of the individual, pinpointing his/her abilities, skills, and interests. This type of format can be particularly useful for individuals who have limited work experience.

Developing a Reasonable Explanation

Although strategies can be used to diminish the visibility of gaps in work history, if the individual has not been employed for significant amounts of time (a year or more), One-Stop staff should work with the job seeker to develop some type of reasonable explanation, because in all likelihood the employer will ask. The explanation should

The idea is not to mislead the employer, but to create as positive a perception as possible with the facts of what the person did when they werent working. Remember, the employer does not have a right to the job seekers complete life history, only to that information which is relevant to the individuals ability to perform the essential functions of a position. Possible explanations might include:

As with any disclosure issue, job seekers vary significantly in their comfort level concerning providing information on work history gaps. However, even in cases where the job seeker decides to be fairly open, he/she should only provide the information that is truly necessary. There is no reason to provide extensive details; in fact, giving too much information could even make the employer uncomfortable.

Emphasize the Present, Not the Past

Ultimately, the most important strategy is to emphasize current activities. The job seeker needs to demonstrate that:

This is also where having done some temporary work assignments, short-term job tryouts, internships, etc., can be helpful, as they can help diminish any concerns the employer may have, and demonstrate an individuals current capabilities.

Written by:

David Hoff

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