Diamonds in the Rough: Job Candidates with Unemployment Gaps

By: Daniel James

New job candidates are going to be searching for your job postings, and that means one thing: new resumes, and a lot of them. Probably more than you have time to go through, at least without putting some serious effort in examining these resumes. The more likely scenario, however, is that most organizations will look for things in a resume that might help eliminate job candidates when there’s an influx of applicants. Impulsively, one of these things might be large unemployment gaps. However, a recent article from Glassdoor shows why candidates with large gaps in their employment may be some of the best candidates you can hire.

unemployment gap, hiring concerns, hiring candidates with unemployment gaps, job candidatesThere are a few things that will always act as red flags to employers, and a job candidate with some mismatching dates on their resume is one of those flags. The logic could be for any number of reasons:

The list can go on, but the reality is an unemployment gap feels like a boogeyman under the bed or hiding inside the closet – there’s a concern that something is there, but it’s the paranoia that creates the real issue. However, are these issues actual concerns, or are they just concerns we tell ourselves because the idea that unemployment gaps might be a problem is easier to believe.

However, there’s an issue with this belief – that is that unemployment gaps don’t tell the whole candidate story. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why, in 2016, you should take a second look at the candidate with unemployment gaps. They might be the candidate you’re looking for without you even realizing it.

“Employment gaps may look alarming at first glance, but there are few reasons why you may want to rethink your stance [on discarding these candidates],” writes Michelle Kruse in her Glassdoor article.

In the article, Kruse provides three critical reasons for why unemployment gaps exist, and why they shouldn’t be raising any concerns for your company. These include:

  1. The economy – The recession has been over, but that doesn’t mean the effects still aren’t being felt by many candidates and employees (and not to mention employers too). One of these effects was a struggle in finding or maintaining employment for meaningful periods of time. “While we like to imagine that organizations always find a way to retain top talent…the fact is that many factors have come into play when deciding who stays and who is let go,” writes Kruse. Kruse correctly notes that a good way to identify if the economy – not the employee – was an influence in these gaps is to look at the date and then coincide those dates with what was going on in the job market at the time. Were people still struggling? Were layoffs an issue? These are good topics of discussion for a job interview, and something you may want to discuss with the candidate if you decide to bring him or her in.
  2. Bad fitsWe all know that finding a candidate that fits the job and the company culture are keys to having a healthy workforce in your organization, but do all companies feel the same way you do? Chances are, there are organizations out there that don’t recognize just how important company culture and job fit are to the success of a candidate, and this can create some turnover issues in the organization. If a candidate seems qualified enough to interview, but the concern is a gap in their employment or a short term of employment with a previous employer, ask the candidate about their experiences at their organization. Additionally, Kruse recommends trying to get an understanding of their previous employer’s work culture. Remember, skill is only a portion of what makes a candidate successful – toxic environments will cause candidates to struggle, and that could be a reason for a “false red flag” to go up.
  3. Getting the Right Answers – At the end of the day, the candidate already knows that the resume might look like a red flag because of their unemployment gap. It’s 2016 after all, and there’s more than enough access to what recruiters and hiring managers think about unemployment gaps on a resume. What a candidate should be prepared to do (and what you should be prepared to ask about) is sharing the truth behind the concerning numbers. Was the candidate a bad fit? Were they mismanaged or suffer the effects of a circumstance beyond their control? If a candidate is willing to be honest about their employment tenures, then you should be seeking out the truth behind their honesty. “It shouldn’t be an interrogation,” notes Kruse. “As with any interview, your question about the gap is designed to provide insight that can be aggregated into a final, thoughtful decision.” In other words, the truth behind the situation will provide insights needed to abate the concern and help you make a choice about the candidate one way or the other.

Diamonds in the Rough: Job Candidates with Unemployment Gaps