Reasons Not to Ignore Applicants with Resume Gaps
Job seekers aren’t incompetent just because they’ve been outside of the workforce for a certain length of time. Their skills haven’t disappeared into the ether.
Professionals can cite any number of valid reasons why they’d take time off from a salaried position. Invite promising candidates for interviews just as you would anyone else in the running for the position.
The key to separating professionals with valid reasons from those who simply chose not to work lies in their story—so let them tell it as a part of their professional journey.
Find your barometer for valid resume gaps here.
Travel Brings Leadership and Perspective
We praise travellers for their willingness to explore the unknown, expose themselves to new cultures, and to adopt new perspectives from around the world.
Despite that, potential employers can be turned off when they see resume gaps involving travel. It’s easy to think that someone decided to take the easy road instead of building a career.
That might be the case from time to time, but you won’t know until you interview the person to hear the story behind the decision to travel.
In truth, experience travelling could be exactly what makes someone more qualified for your role than anyone else. The best leaders develop and invite new perspectives on a regular basis, which travelling instills far more than working at home for an entire lifespan.
Don’t be surprised to find that the most well-rounded candidates have significant travel experience under their belts. They’re able to step outside of their comfort zones, indicating a capability to learn new skills—both hard and soft—to grow with your company as its priorities evolve.
Parental Leave and Compassionate Care Show Dedication
Taking time off from work to care for a family dependent is common. Parents can take maternity or paternity leave, of course, but they might also need to care for aging parents or grandparents.
Hardly a week passes without a publication discussing how the aging Baby Boomer population will affect the workforce. It only makes sense that employers accept candidates who have taken time off for compassionate care.
Not only is it the norm—it demonstrates deep commitment on the part of the applicant. Looking after family members can be just as stressful as any workplace deadline, but dedicating personal and professional time for a cause without pay shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Speak to candidates about their experiences with compassionate care, but do it gently. This person may have experienced loss quite recently. You can also pivot the conversation toward the candidate’s development during this time, asking questions like this:
● How did you grow while away from work?
● Did you take on any personal or creative projects during that time?
● How would you reflect on your experience?
You don’t need to dig too deeply if you think there’s a risk of hitting a nerve, but these kinds of questions provide the opportunity to gauge the candidate’s attitude toward leaves of absence and ambitions for growth.
Personal, Creative, and Business Ventures Show Independence
It can be easy to forget that not everything in life is about work, but job seekers and employers tend to dance around that subject in fear of driving away the other.
Truthfully, pursuing personal projects could contribute as much transferable experience as a formal position. Once again, you will need to ask them about it to understand the context and factors behind the resume gap.
Hard-working professionals could take time to recover from a toxic environment for mental health, or even to work on a hobby.
It might be that this person volunteered with a charity or non-profit during that resume gap, or tried to start a business. Both pursuits take initiative, independence, and hard work—and both are fantastic qualities in an employees.
Do you know anyone who couldn’t use with another certification or skill upgrade?
Many certifications can be earned while working, but they still take up hours every week that could otherwise go toward freelance work, home improvement, and parenting. These things take time, and upgrading skills today carries significant costs on top of a formal education.
Candidates who are serious about upgrading their skills or changing career paths will likely opt to pursue that education full-time, since they wouldn’t be making the most of tuition fees as part-time students. More often than not, it makes sense for people to finish their education or training as quickly as possible.
There are numerous productive reasons why candidates might take time off from their careers, but the bottom line is that their skills don’t disappear during those gaps in their resumes.