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Embrace Career Gaps to Unleash Untapped Talent

Embrace Career Gaps to Unleash Untapped Talent (1)

In the worlds of job hunting and talent acquisition, where resumes are closely scrutinized, gaps in employment history often raise eyebrows. Human resources professionals and hiring managers can be too quick to dismiss job candidates based on these gaps without delving into the circumstances behind them.  

There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from a story of someone who was given a chance despite the gap in their career path. The lesson is just as important for job seekers as it is for HR professionals, hiring managers, executives, or anyone responsible for recruiting talent for their organization.  

This true story highlights the untapped potential in individuals who have faced unexpected life circumstances and are eager to rejoin the workforce.  

The untold story   

Picture this. A candidate with a three-year career gap applies for a job. Without questioning the reason behind the gap, the hiring manager decides to focus on what truly matters – the candidate’s experience, interview presentation, and passion for the role.  

The right fit: In this case, the candidate was a perfect fit for the job. They had the requisite experience, aced the interview, and exuded genuine enthusiasm for the work. The hiring manager saw potential and, without prejudice, decided to give the candidate a chance and extended the job offer.  

Fast forward to the present. That candidate is not only excelling in their role but also contributing significantly to the team and organization.  

This story underscores a crucial point in talent recruitment and hiring: Career gaps should not be the sole reason to reject a candidate. People can and do face unexpected or unplanned circumstances that force them to temporarily step away from their careers. Yet, this doesn’t diminish their skillsets, qualifications, competencies, growth potential, or desire to contribute value in a professional capacity.  

LinkedIn’s ‘Career Breaks’ feature   

LinkedIn recognizes the importance of addressing career gaps, for the benefit of both job candidates and hiring professionals. In the spring of 2022, they introduced the Career Breaks feature on LinkedIn Profiles to “make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations around the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace.”    

The Career Breaks tool is a powerful way for individuals to provide context and transparency regarding their employment history. By openly acknowledging career gaps on LinkedIn, job seekers can destigmatize this aspect of their professional journey. This not only helps hiring employers better understand the story behind the resume but also promotes inclusivity and empathy in the hiring process.  

The feature is generous in the options, or reasons, that can be selected. What hiring manager or human resources professional would dismiss valid reasons like these for career gaps – bereavement, career transition, caregiver role, parenting, layoff or eliminated position, pursuit of personal goals, seeking career development and new skills, relocation, volunteerism, travel, and even retirement. 

The bigger picture   

The story of our candidate with a career gap is just one among millions of American workers. Consider these demographics. According to recent statistics, approximately 3.4 million educated, working parents are on a career break for childcare reasons, with nearly 2.9 million of them being women. These numbers reflect the reality that life often presents unforeseen challenges that necessitate stepping away from work.  

As noted, career gaps can result from a multitude of reasons, including health issues (pandemic, anyone?), family logistics, personal reasons like burnout, or, as highlighted in the statistics, childcare. Regardless of the cause, overlooking candidates with career gaps is a missed talent management opportunity for organizations to tap into a rich pool of talent to fill staffing needs.  

The path forward: Embrace diversity and inclusion   

The workforce and work environment should reflect society’s diversity, which includes individuals who have gaps in their work history. For hiring employers, it’s essential to recognize that these gaps do not define a person’s ability or potential. They are merely part of a broader life journey.  

Give career breaks a break. In the recruiting process, organizations can foster a more inclusive and diverse workplace, not to mention more quickly eliminate talent shortages, by actively seeking out and considering candidates with gaps in their career path. This approach benefits candidates who have experienced these gaps and brings fresh perspectives, experiences, and resilience to the workforce. In our tight hiring market, it’s more important than ever to look beyond career gaps and focus on a candidate’s qualifications, skills, work experience, passion, and alignment with the job description. There is a growing need for transparency, understanding, and embracing the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. 

Recognize untapped potential. Career gaps should never be a barrier to opportunity – for hiring companies or job seekers. It’s time to recognize the potential in millions of individuals who, given the chance, can contribute immensely to the success of today’s organizations.  

Contact me for access to top talent. As a senior recruiter with Goodwin Recruiting who is DEI-certified, I can assist in helping you identify and onboard excellent candidates for your most important roles. Reach out to me when you’re ready to explore a new and untapped talent pool.