Investing in hiring, training and retaining an employee is a major expense for any business, especially small businesses that often rely on a small but powerful team to get them off the ground.
Because work experience is as vast and varied as people themselves, you’ll see all sorts of things on resumes, including the horrifying, once-dreaded employment gap — especially one that’s happening now.
While anything traditionally considered ordinary can quickly seem like a risk not worth taking, here’s an informed way to account for a job applicant’s employment gap. A hole can certainly be a warning sign to watch out for, but it can also be a paper tiger that keeps the talent you need from coming through. your recruitment process.
Believe it or not, there are benefits to hiring the unemployed
Like Deloitte’s Guide to recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed notes that the pool of unemployed job applicants is full of opportunities. “The long-term unemployed can really add value to your business – they’re a qualified and motivated talent pool that you accidentally overlook,” reads the guide. In addition, they explain that “you can reduce sourcing costs by leveraging government and non-profit organizations that work with the long-term unemployed to source skilled, pre-screened candidates.”
In addition to simply expanding your candidate base, hiring unemployed people can help companies meet corporate social responsibility goals, such as investing in local communities and increasing the diversity of your employees – and ultimately your workforce.
Check your bias
Many people have long assumed that a job gap means an applicant is unreliable, unstable, and potentially difficult to keep. The point, however, is that those assumptions are just that: assumptions.
Furthermore, those assumptions are more common here in the United States than elsewhere. In countries such as Australia, countries across Europe, and especially in Israel, after young adults have completed their required military service, taking time off from work to travel and otherwise live in the form of a gap year is not only accepted, it is practically expected.
“Taking a gap year after high school is becoming an increasingly popular decision among graduates and more universities are supporting students who choose to do so,” explains Mikael Mulugeta in Best colleges. “Some proponents have even argued that a gap year, or a year of conscription, should be mandatory.” The idea behind a gap year is that it helps young people gain experience and learn from it, rather than just passing through academia to a job with little opportunity to wonder or consider who they are or what they want to.
Evaluate the context
As gap years illustrate, it is important in general to consider the context of each individual application, but especially when evaluating a vacancy gap on a resume. Imagine an international applicant from Germany applying to a US company unfamiliar with the increasingly common practice of gap years. An employer may disregard them due to a lack of familiarity with traditions in other countries.
Therefore, it is essential to consider the unique context of each employment gap. Maybe someone had a sick parent to take care of. Or maybe they were dealing with health issues themselves that they wouldn’t be happy to reveal in a cover letter. Maybe they are a parent who has chosen to stay home for a while. There can be numerous reasons why someone has taken time off from traditional work, including economic downturn. Many people become unemployed through no fault of their own, such as the wave of layoffs that followed the pandemic.
The takeaway here is to not just zoom in on the fact that someone is currently unemployed, but to consider the whole picture of the applicant. Plus, you’re not offering them a job right now, just a conversation and a chance for them to explain their situation.
Ask the applicant
Which brings us to the final point: when in doubt (or even as a general rule of thumb in the name of fairness), give the applicant a chance in an interview or otherwise to explain why they had a labor shortage in the past or now.
As mentioned above, keep in mind that the labor gap may be related to an emotional or otherwise triggering event. While you should give them a chance to explain themselves, you should avoid looking for answers an applicant won’t give.
Finally, remember that a labor gap is only one — often small — part of a person’s employment history. Of course you are curious as to why someone has been out of work for a long time, but remember to treat an applicant or interviewee with a gap in their employment history like any other candidate.
You’ll want to evaluate them for skills, work experience, life experience, and the like — just like you would for anyone else. It is more than possible that what they have to offer will surpass any perceived setback associated with a current lack of work.