If you’re worried about how to explain gaps in your work history and exactly what shows up on a background check to potential employers, you’re not alone. Around 15% of people are unemployed due to mental health issues.
Keep reading to learn what shows up in a background check and how to approach gaps in your employment. You’ll also learn what’s acceptable for employers to ask you.
Does Mental Illness Show up on a Background Check?
During or after an interview, it’s quite common for companies to run background checks on candidates. They’re usually used so employers can get a good idea of your credit, employment and education history.
Does mental illness show up on a background check? No, employer background checks don’t typically include details of your medical or mental health, as these are kept confidential.
There could be an exception where mental health history is directly relevant to the job you’re doing. These could be high-stress jobs such as pilots, who may be required to get medical clearance to fly.
How to Deal With Gaps in Your Job History
Most people have gaps in employment. But when there’s space on your resume due to taking time off to manage a mental illness, it can feel stressful to face an interviewer and explain why.
Thankfully, employers are aware that many candidates do have periods of time when they weren’t employed for a variety of reasons. It’s not necessarily a negative, and life happens. Make sure you tackle this topic in the right way when it comes up in an interview so you can feel enthusiastic, not embarrassed.
First, don’t lie about your employment history in an attempt to hide the truth.
It can feel nerve-wracking to talk about when you couldn’t work due to mental illness, but it’s always best to be honest. References and background checks reveal previous employment, so make sure you tell the truth and only include positions you actually held along with the correct time frames.
Leave Out Irrelevant Employment History
If your unemployment was quite a while ago, it might not be necessary to include it on your resume.
Your current and recent experience is more relevant than a gap 15 years ago. Plus, resumes that are several pages long and feature every detail of your professional life since you left school don’t give employers the best impression. Keep it concise, relevant and up to date.
Frame It Positively
Taking responsibility for your own health and well-being is a critical step to living your best life and can be a value for your career. Although you might not think of it that way, it shows you understand how to prioritize and look after yourself so you can work at your best.
Taking time to manage a mental illness is a positive trait many employers will appreciate. When mentioning your gap, be honest and talk about how it was a challenge that you sought treatment for and overcame, so now you’re ready to re-enter the workforce.
Include All Relevant Experience
So you have an employment gap. What else did you do during that time? Other experiences that aren’t traditional employment still help you develop skills. Include volunteer work, freelancing and parenting.
Should You Reveal Your Mental Health History?
Now that you know mental health doesn’t show up on a background check, you need to decide whether to bring it up anyway.
If you want to address any employment gaps, it’s a good idea to be honest, which may involve talking about your past struggles. Discussing mental health in an interview should not be a deciding factor on whether you receive a job offer (in fact, it’s illegal to discriminate). But there’s no reason you have to bring up specific mental health details if it makes you uncomfortable.
For example, you could mention that you took time off to manage your symptoms and get help to recover, but don’t feel it’s necessary to talk about the exact symptoms you had or medication you took.
Can an Employer Ask About Mental Health?
Most of the time, employers won’t bring up mental health during an interview, as it’s private information. There are exceptions, however.
An employer might ask you questions about your health after you’ve received a job offer but before you start employment. This is only acceptable if they also ask staff in the same department the same questions.
If you ask for reasonable accommodations to do your job well, such as flexible hours or additional breaks, your employers may ask about your mental health to understand how they can help you.
If your employer is worried you aren’t able to carry out your job safely, they can ask about your medical history, which includes any mental health problems.
Can Mental Health Impact Your Chances of Getting Employed?
In many jobs, the state of your current mental health may not be relevant at all. You can still get a fulfilling and rewarding job regardless of what your past struggles with mental illness might be.
However, there are some occasions where mental health history might impact your chances of getting a job. For example, if your mental illness was related to criminal activity or abusive behavior, this may pose a challenge. And to be considered for a law enforcement or military job, you’re usually required to pass a mental health assessment and background check.
However, it’s generally illegal for companies to discriminate based solely on mental health issues.
Where to Turn If You’re Struggling
If your mental health history is getting you down or you’re worried about your future opportunities, please reach out for support. Our caring team of counselors is ready to help you. Call FHE at (833) 596-3502 to speak to someone who can help you learn more about our programs.