As a Hiring Manager I am sure you see candidates with gaps in employment as an area of concern.  You may have questions regarding the applicant’s dependability, work ethic, or if the candidate is even truly qualified to perform the job.

However the reality is that not all employment gaps are negatives.  Layoffs happen, new babies are born, relatives become sick and need to be cared for, people take time off from work to go to school, and many other things can occur resulting in a significant resume gap.

So in the effort to find your next quality team member, how do you determine which employment gaps are valid and which ones should be a big red flag?

Did the applicant explain their employment gaps?

I like to work with people who are honest and up front about their situations…and those who pay attention to details.  Therefore, when an applicant sends a resume to me without explaining significant or multiple employment gaps, I automatically jump to a negative conclusion about their circumstances.

I believe candidates who are tuned in to what Hiring Managers are looking for and have a strong work ethic are aware of the perception work history gaps leave and feel the need to explain those gaps in a well-crafted cover letter or in the submission email.

I recently posted an in-house Data Entry position and received 772 applicants for that one opportunity.  As the hiring manager I had to be smart about which candidates I would speak with and unfortunately, those candidates who had a trend of short job tenured positions and unexplained employment gaps were the first to be culled from the applicant pile.

Here are some things the Hiring Manager should look for:

1.  Did the candidate keep up with industry trends and focus on education to maintain their skills during the gap?   This may include volunteering as well as informal and formal studies within the industry.

2.  Is there a trend of employment gaps or just one instance?  Past job history can be a predictor of future job performance so you want to keep your eyes open for a trend of short job tenured positions and/or employment gaps.

3.  Was the employment gap recent or did it happen some time ago?  If the gap in work history happened in the past and the candidate has shown strong job tenure since, then I wouldn’t be concerned with it.

Did the candidate attempt to hide their Employment Gaps in their resume?

I will make this one super simple – hiding or falsifying anything in one’s resume is a deal breaker for me.    

People use all sorts of tricks to hide hiccups within their work history.  Some things you should be on the lookout for:

1.  Do the applicant’s start and stop dates for all their positions seem to “fit” too perfectly?  Said differently, did the applicant always manage to leave one position in one month and always start the next position the following month?  Many applicants will “stretch” their dates of employment in order to cover gaps in their work history.  Before making an offer, always conduct a background check as well as an employment verification to confirm the candidate’s dates of employment were not falsified.

2.  Did the candidate eliminate the dates of employment for their previous positions?  Alternatively, did the applicant only use years (and not include months) when listing work dates on their resume?  While this practice can cover several months of unemployment it is clear the candidate is hiding something.

3.  Did the candidate get fancy with the formatting of their resume?  If so, pay close attention to their dates of employment as applicants frequently use functional resumes and nontraditional formats to hide employment gaps.

I hope you find this article useful and if you have any experiences you would like to share, suggestions or questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Dedicated to Every Client’s Success

Angela Roberts


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