Be the Boss Over Cancer

A resume may technically be accurate in showing employment as being current, but in fact there may be an extensive work gap due to disability/cancer treatment and the current job position will be eliminated as soon as disability ends. How should an extended job absence be handled during the interview process for a specific new job? Should it be disclosed when interviewing with the company's recruiter when discussing work experience? When interviewing with staff directly involved in hiring? 


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  • Julie Jansen

    Julie Jansen on Apr 1, 2014

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Kelly,

    This is a very common question that we receive and understandably it can make you feel nervous about how to answer questions about gaps on your resume or during your work experience. It is important that you craft a succinct response that you practice, internalize and get comfortable with. Some people do not want to divulge that they have been ill so they say things such as "I took leave for family reasons" or "I needed a break so that I could reevaluate my work priorities." If you have been given a clean bill of health, you may feel more comfortable saying this or if you still are undergoing treatment, you may feel obligated to be truthful. 

    The challenge with this situation is that there is no right or wrong response as long as you are true to yourself. I will tell you that although the recession is long over, there are still so many people who have been impacted by the poor economy who lost their jobs, or are underemployed so it is likely that you will not stand out quite as much as you believe you do. Many times the issues you are focused on are not quite as monumental or center stage to the person who is interviewing you.

    I hope this is helpful. Please write back again if you need more clarity.

    Take care,


  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Apr 1, 2014

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Kelly,

    Just to add to what Julie said, it isn't about being truthful or not as we would never recommend lying it is more about being strategic in your answers the same way anyone applying for a job is and prepared to redirect (we call this "the swivel") so as not to be overly focused on the gap. This plays out practically by acknowledging the question with a succinct response as Julie mentions and then moving the conversation forward (or swiveling) to something more relevant to the job in question. Because your resume might not reflect much of a gap at all given what you mentioned you might need to focus more on explaining why you are looking for something new now. For more on this topic: and for job search in general we just published a 60 page tool kit that can be ordered free:

    Good luck and let us know any follow up questions!

    Rebecca V. Nellis
    VP, Programs & Strategy
    Cancer and Careers 

  • Pippin L.

    Pippin L. on May 15, 2014


    Thanks so much for your support with this topic.  I have a related question.

    On my resume I don't show the year I was off undergoing treatment, however since I left my previous employer for good a year ago, on Linkedin I look as I've been unemployed for all this time. During an interview I was asked given I had sufficient years with the company why I did not take a or was granted a Leave of Absence.  I replied something similar to what you posted above, however it made me think about that year I was off, on leave which I don't show on my resume.  Do you recommed I modify and show the leave of absence on my resume?  Do you have a sample resume showing a leave of absence I could follow? Thank you.   

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