Moore’s Law states that computer processing speed doubles every 18 months, a good indication of how fast technology jobs change too. For a job seeker who has employment gaps of more than two years then the odds increase that their skillset may be outdated. However, the way people work is also changing. More people freelance, volunteer, and pursue online education in lieu of traditional 9-5 jobs that can be harder to represent on a resume. When encountering a potential great employee with resume gaps the first important step is to assess what caused them and what they did in between work.
1. Was it elective?
Highly qualified candidates often take time off to raise families or care for older relatives. Traditional gender-role thinking sees this applying predominately to mothers but a survey done by the Pew Research Group in 2014 showed that around 2 million fathers stay home to care for their children, with a noted increase in the number of fathers with college degrees doing so. Prompt an applicant to discuss how they spent their time away from work and you’ll learn more about their personal character. Attributes like loyalty, dedication, and modern thinking are just a few of the qualities that can be read through an employment gap of this type.
2. Was it forced?
An alternate reason for an employment gap is the result of firings, downsizing, or quitting. Being laid off from a position or choosing to leave after a year or two is a lot more common in today’s economy. Having an applicant explain to you their work history is important for a different reason though. It’s an awkward situation for an applicant to answer why they left a job or to acknowledge why they were dismissed. This is the chance to analyze a potential employee’s soft skills in communication, problem management, and leadership. Do they have the maturity not to trash their former employer, or the tact to represent their experience as an opportunistic move? Hire someone who knows how to find golden prospects amidst a problem.
3. Was it a “sabbatical”?
Sabbatical sounds prestigious but if it’s on an applicant’s resume be cautious. Ask the applicant to see the project or independent research they were working on during this period. They should respond with how they learned something of unique value to enhance this position. With seven days a week to have at your disposal you could easily learn new languages, computer programs, or travel the world and gain international insight. This would be an appropriate opening to ask about any contract work they may have done as well. If an individual performed freelance work while on sabbatical it means they know how to budget their time, and manage an agenda, even when on “vacation.”
No matter for which reason an applicant has gaps in their resume it’s best to assess what they have to show for their time outside the office. Volunteering their skills to a local organization demonstrates their active interest in working and contributing to a larger community’s success. Additionally free, online courses like Coursera or the Khan Academy allow candidates to pursue continued education to bring new tools to a position.
Author: John Giaimo is President of Software Resources, Inc. an IT Staffing Solutions firm. Founded in 1992, Software Resources is a certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE), and is a national award-winning staffing firm serving clients in the U.S.