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(Don’t) Mind The Gap

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As the labour market tightens, the demand for skilled talent will only increase. It’s time for employers get creative with their recruiting strategies and give those job-hopping, gap-taking professionals a real shot. Richard Shea, Global Expansion Markets at Korn Ferry discusses further.

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You’ve probably read a personal essay or two about a young professional who quit his or her prestigious day job to travel the world. Or, perhaps, you know of colleagues who took time off to start a family and later realised they were ready to re-enter the workforce. Stories like this are not uncommon these days. Many workers are trading in their stable jobs for a less traditional career path. And as this trend grows, employers are coming to terms with the fact that resume gaps aren’t as detrimental as they were once perceived to be. The stigma of taking time off in between jobs is fading – and for good reason. Experts believe that misjudging resume gaps could be holding employers back from hiring high-performing workers. As the labour market tightens, the demand for skilled talent will only increase. It’s time for employers get creative with their recruiting strategies and give those job-hopping, gap-taking professionals a real shot.

Don’t underestimate someone’s merit

Richard Shea

If you’re zeroed in on the fact that a candidate was unemployed, you may be overlooking all of their relevant work experience, strengths, and accomplishments. Furthermore, just because someone took a break from a formal day job does not mean his or her potential has disappeared. Make a point to hire on merit – or ability to perform a job – rather than credentials alone. A lot of professionals have the capabilities to succeed – despite the fact that their resume may, at first glance, suggest otherwise.

More and more examples are popping up of companies hiring candidates who’ve had employment gaps. One such organisation in the supply chain management space recently hired a marketing strategist who’d been out of the workforce for two years. After leaving a corporate marketing gig, the candidate spent some time working on a lifestyle blog and teaching yoga. The hiring team decided to give her a chance – even with the gap – because of how articulate she’d been in her interview regarding her creative plans to grow the company. And they’re glad they did: within one year of hiring her, the organisation’s brand awareness increased by 38 percent.

Many companies – such as Ogilvy, Google, and PricewaterhouseCoopers – have all recently taken stronger measures to hire people based on merit as well. Rather than strictly assessing one’s credentials or education, these companies are evaluating people’s ability to perform by administering performance-based tests.

Ask candidates to clarify their gap

Although career breaks have traditionally carried negative connotations – such as lacking ambition or being inconsistent – most of the time, people leave their jobs for completely legitimate reasons: to start a family, care for ageing parents, handle medical issues, travel, go to school, commit to the side hustle.

There’s nothing wrong with asking a candidate why, exactly, they took some time off. Avoid dismissing their application upfront, and give them the opportunity to explain their gap. You don’t want to miss out on hiring a high achiever simply because you misjudged them on paper.

Furthermore, you may learn your candidate picked up some non-traditional skills during their time off that can be valuable. From learning how to bootstrap a startup to furthering educational goals or learning about different cultures, many of the experiences people have during their employment gaps can actually be strong selling points. For example, in the case with the marketing strategist above, the candidate was able to use her time off to run a blog and hone her writing, editing, and social media marketing skills – skills that proved extremely useful for designing catchy marketing campaigns in her new role.

In general, the more diverse a workforce is, the more successful the business will be. Research has shown that hiring employees from a variety of backgrounds and experiences helps boost internal problem solving and generate more revenue.

Host workshops and training seminars

The war for talent is tight. To combat this, many companies are now offering workshops or development training programs to professionals who’ve been out of the workforce for some time.

Certain tech companies have launched “returnship” programs to attract and train workers who took a break from the workforce and are now looking to re-launch their tech career. For a few months, participants are assigned to various projects that align with their interests and abilities.

By giving professionals the opportunity to work with the latest tools and technologies, these companies hope to help these workers update their skills in a modern work environment. At the end of their returnship, participants often have the option of applying for a full-time position, while the employer has a whole new talent pool to choose from.

All in all, as the tightening labour market continues to put pressure on organisations to recruit skilled workers, HR professionals need to consider candidates outside of the traditional mould of success. In many cases, those glaring resume gaps will prove to be significantly more advantageous than they traditionally put on.

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