Question: A close friend eecently completed five weeks of inpatient alcohol rehab and is now in the middle of an intensive outpatient treatment for three more months. When he gets back into the job market, how should he address the time period involved for rehab on his resume?
There are many variables that must be considered: is the patient an executive, manager or hourly worker? Was there an incident that sparked the decision to seek treatment — DUI, a disturbance in the home or at work? Is there any prior work/performance history that would suggest that this is a long-term problem?
For the purpose of providing an answer I will assume that this individual is an executive, that this treatment was not court-ordered or the result of a family disturbance involving a law enforcement intervention, and there is no Google paper trail.
First and foremost, I am an advocate for transparency. That said, I appreciate that being honest with someone about this type of issue requires trust and a sense of timing — at what point do you feel you have a sense of trust with the recruiter — and do you feel he or she is someone who will value your accomplishments and not be distracted by a serious health issue. Regrettably, I have seen people quickly eliminated from searches because they admitted to prior abuse or addiction.
In terms of how one would list the treatment period on the resume, I suggest using the phrase medical sabbatical — that the individual took time off from work to address a serious medical condition. If there was no criminal issue that will almost always pop up on a thorough background review, the candidate has more leeway to take this approach and pick the appropriate time to disclose the treatment to a potential employer. At some point, a candidate in this situation will be asked about this in more detail and they need to be prepared to explain the facts and offer a verifiable progress report. The further an individual successfully has moved away from the hospitalization, the more manageable the issue.
I led a high profile search several years ago where an excellent candidate admitted addiction treatment to me in our face-to-face interview. He had previously explained the issue to the associate working on the engagement even though there was nothing in a background check or gap in the resume that would have pointed to a problem. There had been some limited press coverage which is why, I presume, he was fully transparent.
He was an exceptional candidate with a robust value proposition as to why he should be selected. I disclosed the treatment information to the client. They were very supportive and encouraged his continued consideration. We did obtain a HIPPA release from the candidate and spoke to his program counselor who provided a positive prognosis. We reviewed local police records and talked to community leaders who had knowledge of his hospitalization. Additionally, in an interview with the board, the candidate volunteered to submit to random screens.
He was selected and went on to lead an impressive turnaround there and at another large public hospital. In the world of turnarounds, he is a valued go-to resource. His successful recovery continues all these years later.
His transparency and integrity helped seal the deal for the Board of Managers.