7 year gap in resume + old references - hiring manager filter
February 1, 2018 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend. What's the best way to handle this situation a) on the resume and b) in the interview?

Answers to past questions have suggested referring to a (now-resolved) health condition or family obligations; both solutions also received negative feedback (conveying concern that the hiring manager may worry the health/family issue will return). If there's no better answer, how should these be spun? (The person in question can't e.g. speak about using the time for extended travel or picking up coding skills. That time mostly just sucked for them.)

Should whatever answer is workable go on the resume? If so, how should it be represented?

References are super old, as well. Person has expressed anxiety about reaching out to old referees.

Bonus question: what kinds of jobs are definitely out of reach with this profile?

Answers from people with current hiring duties are most welcome. TIA.
posted by cotton dress sock to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would say I was a caretaker for a family member for those years. This covers both her illness and the family obligations and end it with "the situation has passed." Which could be read as "the family member died" but they won't be saying it.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

I use "I was extremely fortunate to be able to have those years for obligations in my life. I'm so excited to go back to work now".
posted by Ftsqg at 2:39 PM on February 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

As someone who manages hiring processes for a nonprofit, and has done for over 8 years, we have appreciated and understood the kind of phrasing mentioned by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! Everyone has family (babies, elderly parents) that have required or will require one day some kind of leave from work. And if a person has had (or found) the financial/emotional/logistical ability to take extended leave for that purpose, wonderful that they have done so.
posted by pammeke at 2:59 PM on February 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

I may have read your question too quickly - if the 7 year gap is not due to (any) family obligations, but rather completely personal health related (regardless of what type of health matter), I would suggest stating that the time spent out of the work force was focused on "attending to personal obligations which have since been resolved". This is a broad enough as to cover anything from mental health issues to physical health issues to infant care to elderly parent care to anything in between. Good luck to your friend. If the question of references comes up (it may not), they could ask if the prospective employer prefers (older) professional references or (more recent) personal references.
posted by pammeke at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh, and to address your bonus question: I wouldn't think in terms of jobs that are out of reach, but industries that are most likely to see beyond an employment gap like this (to my mind this would include the nonprofit world). Your friend might also focus on skill sets and experiences which aren't necessarily dependent upon keeping up with new technologies (interpersonal, organizational, customer service, writing, research, etc). If you felt comfortable sharing this person's background (types of jobs they've held and enjoyed in the past) I might be able to offer more specific ideas.
posted by pammeke at 5:04 AM on February 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't think the nonprofit world is necessarily more tolerant of employment gaps than the for-profit world - this kind of thing really comes down to the unique needs and prejudices of the organization and the hiring manager.

I'm not a hiring manager (although I have interviewed people and made recommendations in both academia and for-profit companies), but I actually think these kind of vague explanations are not very useful. What an interviewer really needs to hear is not why you were out of work for so long, but why you're ready to come back to work now.

I honestly think you might want to consider telling a more detailed version of the truth - something like "I had a really tough time for a few years with a chronic health issue that I've finally gotten under control with some new meds" is going to be more convincing to a lot of people than "a [vague] family/health problem that has since been [nonspecifically] resolved." But I'm also sympathetic that you may not want to discuss personal issues with a complete stranger. And of course there are definitely people would hold a disclosure like that against you, but there are lots who wouldn't.
posted by mskyle at 6:42 AM on February 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

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