Resume gaps tend to be viewed as a red flag, but if you automatically reject candidates because they don’t have a seamless work history, you could be missing out on landing committed top performers. Especially when you’re facing a skills gap or competitive job market for candidates, giving candidates with breaks in employment a chance could improve your talent acquisition, if approached objectively. Here is what you should do when you see gaps in a candidate’s resume:
Don’t jump to any conclusions when you spot a gap on a candidate’s resume. There may be a perfectly acceptable reason for their time away from the workforce (such as taking time to care for family or experiencing personal health issues), it could have been out of their control (such as a toxic work environment or company layoff) or they could be a habitual job hopper. Be open-minded and willing to learn more about the context of their gaps, then you can decide for yourself whether it’s a red flag.
Ask for an Explanation
When interviewing a candidate with resume gaps, give them a chance to provide information about their work history so you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s indicative of their work ethic or reliability. Ask for an explanation regarding their lapses in employment. Be direct, but non-accusatory so they don’t feel defensive, such as “Can you tell me why you left your last job?” Ask follow-up questions as needed about how they spent their time away from the workforce and if they’ve learned any new skills or took actions to keep their expertise fresh.
Evaluate Their Skills and Accomplishments
Focus on learning how a candidate performed when they were working, rather than just about their time being unemployed. Evaluate their skills and accomplishments – a candidate who has objective metrics in their past work history will likely be a strong contributor, making it unlikely their resume gaps are red flags regarding reliability or professionalism. Alternatively, if they are lacking solid evidence of their previous work performance, combined with a spotty work history, it may not be worth taking a chance on them.
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