I had a stellar career in senior management in the construction industry. My career stopped at the C level. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I have a degree in Business Management which I earned while working in the field as a union carpenter.
My career stopped when I was executive vice president of a medium size ~$75 million dollar per year company. It was due to a freak, totally debilitating accident that took me 17 year to completely recover from. I want to create a resume that highlights my skills.

How can I explain all this time away from my carreer?

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    See: Fell ill - huge gap in time on resume - what do I do?
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 12:07
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    @KentA. 17 years is a whole lot harder to explain than 4 though.
    – Mast
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:31
  • What level are you applying for? Different answers are making assumptions about this that influence how they answer.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 23:32
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    @Mast Yes, 17 years is a much wider gap to explain, but the principles are the same. You tell the truth. You explain what you've been doing during that time that might be relevant to the job you are seeking. And you express confidence that whatever was the reason for your absence is now over and done and you are able to fully apply yourself to the new work. After that, you just have to hope that someone believes in you enough to take a chance, or at least to give you a chance to prove yourself. And that's the reality for a short "sabbatical," too.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 3:10

4 Answers 4


How do I explain a 17-year hole in my resume?

Sounds like your explanation is "My career stopped due to a freak, totally debilitating accident that took me 17 year to completely recover from."

No need to get more elaborate than that.

As @snow mentions in the comment below, this isn't something you put in your resume. It's just a way to explain it when asked.

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    You don't need to put the explanation in your resume, let people question the gap.
    – user44108
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 12:06
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    If your recovery isn't too personal, or an item that you feel needs to be presented early, put it in a cover letter. Explain that you've spent the last 17 years recovering from (whatever) and you're keen to reenter the workforce. It worked for my friend who recovered from lead and chromium poisoning. If the resume is the only vehicle of communication, consider listing "accident recovery" as a job you've held for 17 years, formatting is as the (alas unpaid) job that it was!
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 14:17
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    It's even easier to explain if the said accident left a visible scar. We once interviewed a guy missing his left eye and ear, having a gap in his resume after a construction job. No clarification was needed.
    – 0xFF
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 14:19
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    In order to "question the gap" they have to talk to you. As @LP154 mentioned, leaving a gap of 17 years is risky; many recruiters won't even call you if your CV has a 17-year omission.
    – Zano
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:05
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    @Snow But most people will question the gap. The question will be asked, whether it's to the person who submitted the resume, or as an aside to a coworker as they throw said resume in the trash. To me, leaving it unaddressed indicates that the submitter doesn't understand that, right or wrong, this will be a red flag for at least some people. Perhaps address it in the cover letter and not the resume, but I agree with Zano that you shouldn't wait for an opportunity to explain it in an interview. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 17:45

I think you can explain it just like you did here, but in your resume, mention the gap, for instance:

2001-2018 Unable to work due to an accident

And, in your cover letter, you can add details and say that you have now totally recovered from this accident and it won't be a problem for your work.

I would not advise you to ignore it on your resume and wait for the interviewer to question the gap: with this kind of gap in a resume without explanation, there is a high probability that you won't be called for an interview (I interview people for my company, not a small one, ~40k employees, and if we have a resume with a huge gap without explanation, we won't call the candidate).

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    Would something to the effect of 'worked darn hard to recover from an accident' be better than 'unable to work'? This kind of recovery is at least as hard as any job. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:41
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    +1 For explain up front. Last time I saw a gap like that it was due to a murder conviction. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 17:36
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    I also get very circumspect at any gap > a year, and am likely to decide not to call on that.
    – C Bauer
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 1:45
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    I'd add a descriptive noun phrase, such as "recovering from near-fatal accident" it's dramatic, but it would justify the 17-year-gap
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 13:44

Recovering from a 17 year battle against problems caused by an accident and having the determination to head back into the workforce isn't something to be ignored but a measure of character.

If you have a section about yourself - perhaps better suited to a CV or cover letter than a resume - then mention this battle and place that spin on it. You're a hard working person and determined to get back into things don't labour the point but don't ignore it either. When recruiting a lot of snap decisions are made based on first impressions, mentioning it will make you stand out against a simple 17 year gap. You can then explain in detail when, undoubtedly, you are asked about this period of your life.

  • This is very true. But most people on the recruiting end won't see strength of character or see it as a plus. They are more interested in other things. Like being able to make you scared to lose your job to make you work harder. Strength of character is kind of the opposite of what they want for those positions. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:49
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    @mathreadler, any employer worth working for wants employees with strength of character.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:46
  • @mathreadler I don't doubt that view is based on some life experiences, and appreciate that may be true in some cases, but the op said he used to be an executive vice president - not a position you hire someone for if they don't have strength. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 21:06

Hm. I don't fully understand your question. This is because, after the C level, people don't really have any use for "a resume". I mean, you're probably not going to monster.com and filling in the job application form, right? You're more likely to work directly with a recruiter/head hunter, for very particular roles.

I would imagine you would want to spend more time at industry events, and perhaps do some speaking exercises. I'm saying I wouldn't bother with the old paper resume, because it's going to look terrible - it was 2000 when you left the industry - and instead focus on the networking aspect. You might want to reach out to construction consulting firms (I have no idea who they are, but I'm sure they exist) - as they would want the experience you have.

The construction industry is about contacts, so presumably you have some friends or acquaintances in the industry still - I would start by reaching out to them. You might try reaching out to the family-run construction companies - they're notoriously terrible at the internal processes and weighed down by family bureaucracy, but at the same time less cut-throat, so they would probably appreciate an outsider's viewpoints.

But if you think you can sell yourself with a resume, you're very mistaken. That's not how executives get found - that's for very junior staff.

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    It's reasonable to think the OP may be looking to restart their career lower than C-level. Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 13:54
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    @bharal for most of the middle management positions I know you either get them by networking, or by applying to a position with a resume.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 16:43
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    @Shoover the OP is asking how to handle a problem on their resume - but they shouldn't be using a resume in their marketing toolkit to get a job. The lead answer says "don't mention it" and my answer says "don't use a resume"
    – bharal
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 17:26
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    @bharal after a 17 year gap you usually don't try to continue at the same level as before, you start one or two further down
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:02
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    @shoover I think this answer does address the problem the OP is having for the instance that they want to start at or around the same level. Granted they might not want/be able to but in the case that they do I don't see a problem with this angle. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 5:55

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