Career gaps — Are they still taboo?

Are companies still wary of hiring people with gaps in their resumes, or are they finally evolving?

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Looking for a new job can be stressful. Even candidates prepare to the best of their potential, there is always a nagging feeling at the back of their minds that something could go wrong — a verbal stumble during the interview, or a misunderstanding, or a fault in the CV— and ruin their chances of getting the job.

For a person seeking work after a long while, admitting the gap in the CV may prove to be the biggest source of worry for multiple reasons. Companies are known to look at career gaps with a lot of skepticism.

A career gap raises several queries, primary one being why the person sat at home without work for such a long period of time. Doubts arise regarding their trustworthiness, whether they caused some kind problem at their previous workplace. They may be judged for the gap and be regarded as unprofessional, or just plain lazy.

“It is important for the person to be able to explain the reason for the gap”

Abhijit Bhaduri, executive coach and personal branding advisor

There are probably a hundred different reasons as to why a person had to remain unemployed for months, but only few seem to appear authentic to the managers or recruiters.

The perception of career gaps being the death knell for a person’s dream job is not new. It emerged some years ago. The coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in 2019, and caused millions to lose their jobs, making it very difficult for many to get employment in the successive two years. However, as companies geared for a comeback, they had to hire people back, which meant looking at many CVs with career gaps in them. So, can we be sure that career gaps don’t hold as much deciding power as they used to do in the past? Surely, they are not taboo even today, or are they?

Abhijit Bhaduri, executive coach and personal branding advisor, and the author of Dreamers and Unicorns, says, ‘It is important for the person to be able to explain the reason for the gap.”

A person could have genuinely fallen ill, or taken time off to pursue advanced education. Of late, many people have been affected by the pandemic and lost their jobs. In such instances, the companies usually understand the candidates’ situation and avoid judging them negatively, Bhaduri explains.

A lot has changed in the past five years, Bhaduri points out. Most companies are less concerned about the gap between jobs than they used to be earlier.

Companies finding it challenging to fill up vacancies unlike pre-pandemic times are likely to be dismissive of the career gap now, as it can easily be explained away by the after-effects of the pandemic.

“Gap or no gap it is crucial for the candidates to be capable of performing all that the job requires”

Biswaroop Mukherjee, head – HR, commercial vehicle business unit, at Tata Motors

What companies are focussing now is on whether candidates can do the job or not.

Biswaroop Mukherjee, head – HR, commercial vehicle business unit, at Tata Motors, says, ‘Expertise and experience are the two main things that companies will focus on while hiring a person.”

He also mentions the various reasons —a willing sabbatical, illness, family commitments, and other professional interests — that usually crop up when candidates explain the reason for the gap.

It is crucial for the candidates to be capable of performing all that the job requires. Therefore, they need to be well equipped to handle the role. Beyond that, companies don’t find it necessary to look into the gap as something serious. “Candidates are mainly judged on their merits and what they can offer to the organisation,” Mukherjee explains.

As hiring managers become more sympathetic to the plight of candidates, who have been searching for work for long, the stigma attached to career gaps seems to be fading away as well. However, all is not perfect yet, because we continue to work while being aware that a surge in infections, or another discovery of a new variant may bring the world to a stop. It will not take long for companies to go back to their old practices either, once vaccination is successful worldwide.

What the new changes clearly point towards, however, is a future where people don’t have to feel embarrassed and afraid because of a gap in their resumes. Instead, they will look forward to being evaluated for their qualifications.

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