It’s no surprise that hiring managers and recruiters spend very little time doing a first pass on the deluge of candidate applications they receive. In fact, they typically spend no more than six seconds scanning a candidate’s resume. With that in mind, a candidate must pay attention to those areas in a resume or profile that the employers and recruiters are most interested in.
In addition to education and the general structure of the resume, a candidate’s job history is certainly one such area where employers tend to focus their time. Some of the typical red-flag areas include job-hopping, lack of relevant experience, not enough domain expertise and one that often tends to stick out – employment gaps. Given the chronological sequence of a typical resume, such gaps are easy for the employers and recruiters to spot.
Having the gap is enough for some employers to sort the candidate into the rejected pile. Ruling out candidates with gaps however, could be ruling out those who have talent and are qualified, as gaps do not necessarily correlate with poor performance. When examining a resume with gaps, bare in mind the various possibilities: the candidate may have been laid off, currently searching for a new position, taking the time to further their education, potentially starting a family, or other personal matters.
When reviewing a candidate’s resume, consider these possibilities and see how you can still determine if the candidate is qualified and a good fit for your needs, despite the gaps.
Employee Referrals.Your current employee base is a great resources that is connected to thousands of similar talented individuals who could potentially be a good fit for your organization. Encourage current employees to refer your current opportunities to people in their networks. Social media referrals are an inexpensive and highly-effective way of getting your open jobs in front of passive individuals that your current employees know and have identified as potential good-fits for your organization. If an employee thinks highly of someone they know and believes they might be a good fit, a lot of the difficult work in the sourcing process is already done. Consider implementing a referral program that rewards employees for successful hires – in turn employee morale will be boosted and active referrals encouraged even when no positions are currently open. An employee will have no qualms referring the candidate’s name into consideration if they know the candidate and understand that any gaps on their resume are not something that could affect their performance.
Social Media.Profiles tend to reveal more of a candidate’s personality and fit than a standard resume and cover letter ever could alone. The great thing about social media is that it encourages individuals to share facets of themselves online, whether personal or professional. Consider reviewing publicly shared information on the applicant’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other profiles for supplementary information. Statuses can reveal their expertise and communication style while posted links can lead to other useful information, such as a blog or professional portfolio. Social media can easily help determine if employment gaps really do signify a poor quality candidate. Be careful in using information directly from the internet – when in doubt about the accuracy of the information you find, give the candidate the opportunity to provide more details.
Meet the individual.If the candidate appears to be a strong candidate, do not let job gaps cloud your judgement. Give the candidate a chance by inviting her for an interview or speaking over the phone. The recent economic environment may have had some an impact on many candidate’s resumes – but that does not take away their capabilities and what they can do for you and your company going forward. Stay focused on what the candidate can do and how they can help your organization move forward.
Job gaps do not have to be the end of a candidate’s hiring journey. Consider the reasons and ways to really verify if they are a good fit.