Why You Should Be Empathetic When it Comes to Resume Gaps

Published: Jul 09, 2018 By

You may think a resume gap is a sign of inconsistency or a lack of commitment. However, having a space between jobs isn’t always a negative. In fact, the explanation behind those gaps could actually reveal characteristics you would want in a new hire. So if you’re automatically tossing out resumes that contain gaps, you’re doing yourself and your candidates a disservice. You should be empathetic when it comes to resume gaps. And we’ve made a list of why. 

resume gaps

Perfectly Good Reasons 

There are numerous situations when a candidate might take some time away from the workforce. They could have had a serious illness or a personal tragedy they worked hard to overcome, and they now have a new enthusiasm for life and work. Someone like that is likely to bring a great deal of positive energy to your team.

They could have had a child and wanted to spend the first few years at home to bond with their newborn in the most critical stages of development.

This potential hire understands and appreciates the value of sacrifice and commitment. 

Or it’s possible the individual decided to take time off to consider and/or study for a different career path. After some soul-searching, they’ve decided to enter your industry with a renewed sense of purpose.

Unless you dig deeper into the reasons behind the gaps, you’ll never know what really drives these applicants. You don’t want to pass up an amazing hire because of some false preconceived notions you developed just from looking at a couple of dates on a piece of paper. The least you can do is take the time to explore further, and find out what’s really going on. You may discover your best candidates are the ones whose applications you would have otherwise tossed in the wastebasket.

Burnout Recovery Can Be Critical

Discounting a potentially capable candidate who dropped out of the workforce due to burnout could also be a bad decision. Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes. If you were so exhausted and disillusioned that you ended up suffering from the physical and mental symptoms of extreme stress, would you continue to wear yourself down? Or would you take the plunge and give yourself some time and space to regroup and get back on track?

Just imagine how much energy and enthusiasm you would bring to your new employer after a vital rejuvenation process. Plus, it’s likely you would be fully committed to an organization that was so much better than the previous one (which of course, yours is, because you wouldn’t run it any other way). When you take all of this into consideration, you have to admit a person with this experience could be the most valuable employee you’ll ever hire.

Diversity Is An Asset

You might not have considered this, but automatically ditching resumes that have gaps could actually be a form of discrimination. Time off for maternity leave, illness, or recovery shouldn’t be punished. By systematically ignoring candidates with resume gaps, you may actually be committing a form of unfair hiring practice. Being an equal opportunity employer means keeping your mind open to all types of diversity. So you might want to reconsider before you routinely toss atypical resumes into the “no” pile.

A Sign Of Honesty

Like it or not, people sometimes play fast and loose with the truth on their resumes. The candidate could have easily changed a few dates to disguise their time without a job. However, if there are obvious holes in their work history, this shows they are being upfront and honest, which is definitely a characteristic you want in a new hire.

Finding a diamond in the rough isn’t easy. But it’s never going to happen if you’re not open to considering all types of candidates from all kinds of backgrounds. There are dozens of reasons someone might have a gap in their professional timeline, and it’s to your benefit—as well as the candidate’s—to look beyond what’s on paper and discover the person.

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