Employers: Give a Chance To a Candidate With a Gap In a CV!

Tell Me About The Gap In Your CV: The Nightmare Job Interview Question

Some time ago, we released an article dedicated to job hunters who struggle with pitching the gap in their CV during job interviews, entitled “How To Explain A Gap In Your CV? Professional Development, Personal Development, or Wasted Time?” (please also take a look at our YouTube episode on the same topic). This time, we would like to flip the tables and take the perspective of the employer. Namely — to talk about why it might be a great idea for the employer to accept an employee with a gap in their CV.

Do Employers Indeed Have Preference For Hiring Candidates Without a Gap In Their CV?

Yes, research strongly suggests that employers still prefer hiring employees without gaps in their resumes. The recent field research by ResumeGo revealed that applicants with gaps in their CVs are, on average, 45% percent less likely to get invited to an interview than others. The difference was especially pronounced among professionals with a gap lasting for more than three years.

Why is this the case? Well, one might think that the main difference between a candidate with and without a gap in a CV is the difference in knowledge levels. Simple arithmetic — the same age, less experience and less skills, hence, less value for the employer. And, there would be a simple remedy for that difference in experience: a bit lower paycheck. In fact, it is not all that simple as the crucial question for the employer is: how did the gap in the CV even come about?

The issue lies in the potential implications of the long-lasting gap with respect to the candidate’s work ethic and personality in general. What employers fear the most, are employees who are unfocused, lazy, overly fragile, entitled, self-centered, and mentally unstable — an attitude to work that could be summarized as a proverbial “snowflake.”

Additionally, employers also traditionally search for signs of loyalty. Thus, they view a few long-lasting employer-employee relations as more promising than a long list of short contracts in a CV. Large organizations tend to receive hundreds of applications per position. In such circumstances, any warning signs suggesting that the candidate might be any less than excellent or disloyal can be a reason for early elimination. In a sense, automated elimination of candidates with career gaps is nothing else than time management with that respect.

The View at Gaps Is a CV Is Slowly Changing For The Better

However, according to Business Insider, to employers, gaps in a CV are not viewed as so much of a problem as they used to be in the past. Namely, while careers used to be linear and well structured a few decades ago, today, more and more professionals decide to change not only jobs but also professions during their professional lives. And often, quite a few times! (as nicely explained e.g., in Emilie Wapnick’s best-selling book “How To Be Everything?”).

Obviously, changing career tracks naturally triggers incubation time and delays between subsequent jobs. No wonder that, according to the aforementioned ResumeGo study, the employers were the most welcoming to the candidates who pointed to extra education as the main reason for the gap in their CV.

And, in general, employers prefer to see the gap in the CV well explained, preferably as early in the recruitment process as possible (e.g., in the cover letter). In other words, it doesn’t pay off to try to ignore the elephant in the room. It is all about openness, integrity (as mentioned in our recent article “Integrity: Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development and Why Do Employers Seek Integrity?”), and building trust between the employer and the employee. Employers want to know the reasons behind the pivotal decisions in the candidates’ careers and their personal motivations to better predict their future behaviors and reactions to problems.

Yet still, the problem persists and the candidates with a gap in their CVs are the often skipped in the recruitment procedure. Is this a real problem though?

Are Professionals With The Gap In Their CVs Any Less Productive?

Actually, there is no scientific evidence to back up the statement that professionals with a gap in their CVs are less productive than others. In fact, it was even shown that in some circumstances, disconnecting from professional life might serve in the long term. E.g. According to the study by American Gap Association, a non-profit organization collecting data for gap year students, students who chose a gap year were more likely to graduate with high grades than those who didn’t.

In fact, many professions involve huge gaps throughout the year by design, and that doesn’t diminish the motivation or professional skills. E.g., in many countries (e.g., in Poland) academic teachers have a mandatory 3-month break every year, as summer vacation in higher education lasts from the end of June until the end of September. In the American job market, a 3-month gap between two jobs would already be considered a “gap in a CV” while in Poland, it is just a statutory break. And, academic teachers don’t become any less motivated from taking long vacations — rather the opposite.

Also, mind that conservation law works as well: the day only has 24 hours, and while the candidate with a gap in their CV was not formally working, they might have been engaging in lots of interesting activities not mentioned in their resume — from trying entrepreneurship, via making personal investments, to reading books and/or writing books, and taking online courses. People often skip such activities from their resumes as they erroneously classify them as irrelevant.

What a Career Break Might Mean In Practice

Of course, many professionals take career breaks because of the family situation. But in many cases, this is a voluntary decision with a sole purpose of self-discovery and self-development. During such a conscious career break, most people maturate and learn better what they truly want from their professional lives. They can also better explore their career options, which allows them to calibrate better in the job market and make fewer mistakes with their next career choices.

In fact, many accomplished professionals in all disciplines famously took long career breaks, only to come back later with more energy and revolutionize their fields, including, e.g., Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, or J.K. Rowling. In that sense, a candidate with a career break is a big unknown before you give yourself a chance to talk to them — they might be the next snowflake, or the next big creator or entrepreneurial mind.

How Human Mind Rests

One should also remember that the human mind rests on at least three different timescales. First, it needs to reboot every night. Secondly, it needs at least a day of a break over the weekends. Lastly, it needs a long vacation once in a while.

But, is there any research on optimal vacation duration? We do not know too much about the natural rhythms in the human body, but the traditional vacation lasting between one and three weeks might not be enough to fully retrieve the capacity and productivity of the human mind. According to recent survey, most travelers declare to be fully rested after 8 days of vacation, but is this really enough to rest your brain on all the levels? Not necessarily.

It might turn out that when accepting an employee after a yearly career break, you’ll gain a rested and ultra-productive team member on board, with levels of energy unmatched by anybody else!

Why Is It Worth Giving a Chance To a Candidate With a Gap In Their CV?

According to research, hiring managers who take more time to make the decision, are also more successful in spotting the right candidates. Therefore, heuristics such as eliminating all candidates fulfilling a specific criterion (e.g. a career gap) might be highly suboptimal. It might prevent you from spotting a real gem in the job market — someone with top skills, entrepreneurial mind, and a truly unique professional story!

Furthermore, a career gap can increase motivation to work and prove oneself after a long break. If you, as an employer, give a candidate with a career gap a chance, they might become some of your most loyal and determined employees.

Lastly, let’s talk about statistics once again. According to a global survey of 22,995 workers and 4,017 hiring managers conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn (January 2022), the majority of professionals active today took a break at least once in their careers. Moreover, A recent report by ManpowerGroup reveals that 84% of Millennials plan significant career breaks for the future.

Career breaks are the new norm. So, if you are looking at a CV without any breaks, what is a chance that it is an honest CV — versus a bleached version of someone’s story? Perhaps, it is good to go with honesty in the first place?

Originally published at https://ontologyofvalue.com on March 22, 2022.



A neuroscientist helping professionals in finding their dream career paths at ontologyofvalue.com Privately, enthusiast of tech with affinity to blockchains.

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Natalia Bielczyk, PhD

Natalia Bielczyk, PhD

A neuroscientist helping professionals in finding their dream career paths at ontologyofvalue.com Privately, enthusiast of tech with affinity to blockchains.