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Sloan the DEV Moderator

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How to deal with resume gaps due to mental illness while job hunting?

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If there's a big timeline gap in education and experience because of psychological issues, how do I best deal with that on my resume and while talking to potential employers? Do I just avoid adding years at all, or do I leave them in? Any other experiences in job-hunting where similar issues came up?

Top comments (5)

6temes profile image

A job interview is always a two ways process.

As Frank said, just leave the gap in the CV. If they ask you, just say that you had a health issue that is resolved now. If they ask for more details, you are free to explain more details or not.

At the end, what will happen is that some companies will not want to hire you. But, if you think this well, this is probably quite good news for you because those companies are not the ones you would like to work for, so you would be left with the ones that have a more humane work culture.

There are lots of companies trying to hire developers and it is really hard to filter out the bad ones. In your case, you almost don't need to do anything to filter them out. ;)

jfrankcarr profile image
Frank Carr

It depends on how big the gap is. If it was something like years and there are obvious gaps in your knowledge as well, then that might make things difficult. If the gap is about 3-6 months and your skills are good, it's less of a factor.

I have a 5 month gap due to a serious illness and I used to work with a guy who was out of work nearly a year after he barely survived a motorcycling accident. While these weren't mental, but physical, they were a gap due to a health issue.

You shouldn't have to give a lot of details about why there's gap. I'm not sure I'd want to work for a company that wanted to pry into my private life to that extent. Just say that you had a health issue and that you're better now. In the US, they should be careful because if they don't hire you because of that they could put themselves in legal trouble under the ADA.

One possible problem is if a company starts researching you on social media. Some do these days. Make sure it is as 'clean' as possible with no mentions of your situation.

figspville profile image
Salli Figler

what I have seen is something like

"Resolution or management of Family Issues 2017-2018"

People know that things happen in our personal lives that we need to take care of and sometimes it means a gap in our career. If during an interview, an inexperienced interviewer inappropriately asks what family issue was going on, I would answer, "it was a personal matter that I would rather not talk about". And leave it at that. I use family issue rather than personal issue because it is much broader and different people will interpret that differently, which would be what I want if I am in that situation.

tadman profile image
Scott Tadman

If the gap is obvious and there's no way to side-step it you can always cover that off by vaguely terming it "freelancing", "working on personal projects" or even call it a sabbatical. You don't want it to stand out unnecessarily.

Mental health issues are a serious concern. Burn-out is far more common, practically expected in some careers, but unfortunately it still puts potential employers on edge when it's mentioned. I took a couple of years off from tech to regroup and try different things and it didn't hold me back because I kept things focused on the present and future when doing interviews. What projects did I work on as a freelancer? Not enough of them, that's why I'm looking for full-time work!

Speak to your relevant work experience. Talk about the things you did that you're proud of, the successes you had and how they relate to going forward, the things you want to do, and this "gap" won't even matter. It might not even come up! Have a good story to tell, and if that chapter has to be omitted, that's how it has to be.

This sounds to me like a confidence problem more than anything. If you worry about it, they'll probably worry about it. If you're cool with it, they'll probably be cool with it.

Here's hoping for the best.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

This is one of those difficult things. My best advice is to try and not think about it yourself. It could psych you out a bit too much.

The issue is that there is the mental health stigma. There are probably some ways to downplay this (just call it a health issue without going into it?)

Overall I think of this post is the best advice I can confidently give: