Covid-19 changed so many of the standard practices within the hiring and recruiting space. Virtual interviews, expanded talent pools, hybrid and remote work options, the list goes on. Employers shifted their perspective on conventional issues to make the best of a less than stellar situation.
Another huge paradigm shift where employers seem to be changing their perspective is the issue of employment gaps.
The issue itself was a longtime source of contention among employers.
Some employers believed it was in their best interest to not deal with candidates that have gaps, not because of stigmas like candidates being unfocused or lazy, but because of the difficulty in assessing the true reason for the gap.
The same employers also held the belief that those candidates who are unable to confidently talk about their employment gap—they might try to stretch the truth about the gap, by shortening the gap or not providing an honest employment history on their resume.
And this is not to say that a candidate does so purposely, but in trying to make a good impression on an employer, truth and reality often falls by the wayside.
Other employers, before the pandemic were more kind to those with gaps in their employment history. As long as a candidate had a logical explanation for the gap, they were eligible for employment—no stigma. . The thinking here is that a hiring team can tap into an expanded talent pool with candidates that have the skills, experience, and hunger necessary to excel in their roles.
Both of these schools of thought came together, however, once Covid-19 impacted the world. The sudden change of heart came about from necessity as over 4.2 million Americans left the work between February 2020 to February 2021, according to Pew Research Center. The need to quickly fill these open positions with great talent offered employers more than enough reason to set aside their differences on the employment gap. This change in thinking presented a new shift in hiring employees.
Here’s how Covid-19 shifted the employee hiring process and made employment gaps more acceptable:
1. Employers now expect gaps – Employers across the world are aware the pandemic presented a less than ideal situation for job candidates. Some faced long layoffs due to caring for their children or aging parents. In some cases, candidates had no other choice but to choose family over their career.
It is fair for employers to ask about recent employment gaps, but hiring teams need to remain open-minded with candidates.
A number of possibilities could be the reason for a gap, such as shutdowns, caregiving responsibilities, health issues, or returning to school. So, it is to an organization’s benefit to properly vet a resume with gaps or run the risk of passing on a qualified candidate.
Employers seem to understand this concept as a LinkedIn survey reported that over 79% of hiring managers would hire a candidate with a career gap on their resume.
2. Job seekers remain productive in their downtime – Many candidates remained proactive during their career pause to earn a bevy of certificates and degrees from accredited institutions. These efforts from candidates showed individual drive and, in some cases, lucky job seekers received a raise and/or promotion when they went back to work because they invested time in becoming an indispensable employee.
3. Shortage of qualified candidates – Regardless of an employment gap, there are still numerous positions employers are looking to fill as soon as possible. In an effort to fill these positions, employers are willing to focus less on an employment gap and focus more on relevant experiences and the skills that a candidate brings to the table.
Reason for this focus is Covid-19 now has employers in a candidate- starved market where, according to Sondra Levitt, career coach at Korn Ferry Advance, “employment gaps don’t have the stigma they had 10 to 20 years ago, primarily because of the changes we’ve seen economically and socially.”
Employers are more willing than ever to not hold an employment gap against a candidate because they want to find great talent.
The long-held perception of employment gaps hurting one’s career is now changing due to massive shifts in the workforce. Employers have become more understanding of a candidate’s circumstances and job seekers are using the gap to further their skills.
How has your perspective on the employment gap changed? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.