One constant fear on the part of the applicant and a constant disappointment on the part of the recruiter is a gap period on the resume. It is well known that the gap is not taken positively on almost all occasions. A lack of continuity in one’s professional career is taken as a lack of talent/loyalty/dedication on the part of the employee. A career gap in the resume continues to be a hindrance to the HR Manager while hiring a candidate and is considered a red flag. Is this the right thought process?
A sabbatical can have various causes. They range from maternity leaves, accidents and eventual rest required due to medical reasons. Perhaps it's the sudden demise of spouse or any family member, the pursuit of further studies or even starting up one’s own company.
While it is natural for an organization to have its apprehensions while selecting a full-time employee, a candidate should not outrightly be rejected only because he/she has a gap period in his/her career history.
There’s an old adage that says: "Don’t quit your current job until you have another one lined up." Is this true? Is this even good advice anymore? Employers tend to prefer to hire candidates who are already employed and tend to assume that people don’t quit jobs without another one lined up unless:
- They were about to be fired
- They actually were fired and are just saying that they quit
- The candidate is of the kind who walks out when things are frustrating, which is worrisome because of course every job will have frustrations at one point or another.
Hiring managers do know in theory that some jobs really are so terrible that a reasonable person might quit with nothing else lined up. But it can be hard to tell from the outside if a situation truly rose to that level or whether the person’s bar for frustration is low. So, it's a red flag. Plus, finding another job can take a long time — a lot longer than people expect it.
A newborn's father may want to take a leave for the overall development of his first child, wanting to give complete attention to the baby in the few of its most formative years. Funnily, the reason that the candidate chose to give up on his previous job may be the exact trait that a firm looks for in an employee. This, when taken in the right sense and seen through an unbiased, clear lens, can reveal traits like a sense of responsibility, affection, dedication, and loyalty towards the man’s role as a father. It also reveals his clarity in thought and prowess in decision-making; he earns for his family and realizes that his child needs him more at this point.
Performance and talent have nothing to do with someone currently out of work. It needs courage and determination to try something different. To question the crowd mentality is a must for every leader.
Hiring managers at times can be shortsighted and many organizations miss out on some great talent - resourceful and efficient human resources - by judging people on their past. Yes, there is always a possibility that the smoke is a sign of fire – that the gap period has had adverse effects on the candidate as a professional. It may even be that the gap year is an effect of the candidate’s inability to perform or deliver. But is dismissing him just like that fair?
It is time we start acting and hiring not only women after their maternity leaves, but also men who have considered something else more important in their life at that point.
They say every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, but by continuing with these practices of considering career gaps as a corporate taboo, we steal the candidate of his chance to even prove his mettle – whether saint or sinner.
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