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Should You Hire a Candidate with Gaps in Their Resume?

At some point, you’ve probably heard this advice passed down from hiring manager to hiring manager throughout the ages: “Unexplained gaps on a resume are a red flag!” But is this actually true? 

We don’t think so! 

In fact, there are many reasons why gaps in a resume shouldn’t bother you. Better yet, breaks from work could say more positive things about a candidate than you might think. 

As Hiring Experts, we have a lot to say on this subject. We’re opening up the discussion to help you determine if gaps in a resume truly matter and how to put more focus on other parts of the hiring process. 

Do gaps in a resume matter? 

A long uninterrupted work history isn’t necessarily a sign that a candidate is the right person for a job. If everything else looks good on paper but a candidate has an unexplained gap on their resume, before you jump to conclusions, consider the following common reasons for employment gaps. 

reasons for gaps in resume

The CareerPlug team shared some real life examples. Creative Design Manager, Kacie Sommers had this to say: “My mom’s friend Peggy quit the workforce to be a stay at home mom… until she got a divorce and found herself needing to work for the first time in 20+ years in order to pay her mortgage.” 

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Desiree Echevarria, shared: “Sometimes people only put relevant work experience on resumes. One summer, I worked a customer service job that I left off my resume when I was applying to marketing jobs because it’s not relevant at all, but to a hiring manager, that might look like a ‘resume gap’ – even though I just left it off for the sake of keeping it relevant.” 

When you think about it, a gap in a resume says very little about a candidate’s professional trajectory. Life happens to all of us and as an employer, it’s important to cut candidates some slack and consider the various reasons someone might have to take off work for a bit. 

Tips for addressing gaps in a resume 

A little perspective shift can help you see that gaps in a resume are totally common and probably nothing to worry about! But if you’re still feeling a little concerned, let’s go over some other hiring practices that can help you evaluate candidates with employment history gaps. 

Think about what you are truly evaluating

Before you begin reviewing resumes or even writing your job description, create an Ideal Candidate Profile that helps you flesh out the skills and experience your ideal candidate has for the role you’re filling. Reflect on what truly matters to you for this position. 

Ultimately, is the criteria you’re evaluating “a perfect work history” or is the criteria you’re evaluating more aimed at a demonstrable ability and a certain skillset? 

Evaluate for what matters. If a candidate has all the skills and qualifications you said you were looking for, does taking an extended period of time off work really matter when it comes to how they’ll perform in the role? 

Hire for growth potential 

Maybe you’d really like a candidate to have X amount of years in your industry. And sure, sometimes that’s possible to find. But when faced with a limited applicant pool, it may be worth hiring for growth potential instead.

This means looking beyond the resume and recognizing emerging talent. And it can help you make great hires that stick around. As CareerPlug CEO, Clint Smith, shared: “Giving the right person a chance can help you earn employees for life. There’s something special about being the first organization to give someone a shot.”

For more on hiring for growth potential, check out this video from our Senior Director of People, Natalie Morgan: 

Be mindful of potential bias 

Everyone has conscious and unconscious biases that can negatively impact recruitment. Gaps in a resume may lead you to wrongly assume something about a candidate, and gaps should never be used to discriminate against someone for a job. 

Here are some tips for overcoming hiring bias: 

  • Check out our hiring bias blog to learn what types of biases might be affecting your recruitment. 
  • Educate your staff (especially anyone that helps with hiring) to be aware of these biases. 
  • Return to your Ideal Candidate Profile to objectively evaluate candidates. 
  • Have criteria in place for evaluating resumes and run all resumes through the same process. Using candidate evaluation software like CareerPlug can take some of the guesswork out of this.

Create great candidate experiences 

A few years back, hiring managers could afford to be super selective. These days, job seekers have more options than ever and we found that application counts are down in every industry. In a candidate’s market, being too picky could cause you to miss great candidates. 

In a recent study, we found that the majority of job seekers who turned down an offer did so because of “a negative experience with people in the interview process.” So grilling a candidate about the year they spent abroad may be enough to sour them on your company and push them toward a different company that values experiences outside of work. 

In a candidate’s market, it’s necessary for hiring managers to adapt to the current climate and disregard outdated ideas of what constitutes a “serious applicant.” By making it clear that you’re evaluating candidates based only on the things that matter for the role, you can leave candidates with a great impression of your company and make the right hires.

To sum it up

When you make a general rule like “no resume gaps” you could be missing out on star candidates. If you want to hire and retain a diverse workforce, you need to create more generous stories for resume gaps while you review them. 

At the resume review stage, a resume gap doesn’t mean much. Use later stages in the hiring process to get to know a candidate’s story and understand their career goals and motivations.  Don’t make assumptions and keep an open mind. Focus on what really matters and determine if the candidate has the skills to be successful in your role in the future. Your next great hire may have taken a year or two off of work, and that’s nothing to be concerned about. 

Evaluate Candidates the Right Way with CareerPlug

CareerPlug’s hiring software has easy-to-use applicant screening and evaluation tools that can help you make better hiring decisions. Request a demo today to see for yourself.

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