Interviewing a Candidate with an Employment Gap
Many good candidates have resume gaps. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve consideration. In fact, if you eliminate them based solely on this factor, you may inadvertently reject top talent. Be sure you have all the facts so you can make an informed decision.
“Unemployed” doesn’t equate to “uneducated, inexperienced” or “unqualified.” In the aftermath of the recession, more than 4 million Americans have been out of work for at least six months. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s unemployed population have fit this category, a historic high. Close to one-fourth of U.S. workers were laid off at some point during the recession, and 80 percent knew someone who lost their job as a result of the economic downturn.
Keep an Open Mind
As long as they have the necessary qualifications to do the job, every candidate has the potential to bring something extraordinary to the table. Make sure an applicant can articulate why their experience during their employment gap is significant to the job at hand. Instead of automatically red flagging gaps, put emphasis on the bigger picture: how to comprehensively and accurately assess talent.
- Life experience can be just as valuable as work experience. It shapes a person’s attitude, work ethic, loyalty and personality. Moreover, it often teaches skills that can’t be learned from holding a job.
- Give candidates the opportunity to explain employment gaps. Allow them to present a reasonable explanation and demonstrate how they used the time off to better themselves. What did they do to stay informed, engaged and intellectually challenged? Did they keep up with developing technology and keep their skills fresh via volunteer work, freelancing, consulting or taking courses?
Look for Potential
Potential can neither be bought nor taught. Analyze the total candidate picture and look for valuable nontangible strengths like a sense of purpose and a desire to succeed. On-the-job skills can be developed once hired. Consider how a person’s skills, experience and personality would fit the position.
- Learn to spot the difference between good, bad and ugly omissions. Have a discussion about why the candidate left their former employer. This is generally a good indicator of why they would stay at a company for the long term or just simply fit in.
- As with all candidates, complete thorough resume and fact checking. Call the applicant’s previous employer and learn the circumstances of their departure and employment tenure. Not all companies will divulge this information, but at least you’ve done your due diligence. Check references for a clear overall picture of a candidate’s character and abilities.
- Never assume a person is overqualified. People who have been out of work may have used their time to reevaluate their goals and career direction. Many may be willing to accept lower salaries or positions in order to work in a new environment.
- Make temp-to-perm part of your strategy. This enables you to assess employees on a trial basis before moving to a permanent hire. The process works both ways, as they evaluate your company and culture to be sure it aligns with their goals.