Don’t mind the (career) gap

LinkedIn unveiled a new feature aimed at reducing the stigma often associated with résumé gaps.
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LinkedIn launched a new feature on March 1 called Career Breaks, aimed at reducing the stigma in résumé gaps by allowing users to highlight the reasons for them when they occur. The social network has said career breaks are more common among women, and the feature is also intended to capture the job seeker’s non-work skills.

According to LinkedIn, recruiters want to know why potential hires have career breaks, so employers will be able to get a better understanding of the person they’re considering for a job. “We’ve found that nearly half of employers believe candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool,” Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn’s VP of global talent acquisition, wrote in a post explaining the new feature.

The Career Breaks feature allows LinkedIn users to add a specific reason for the résumé gap in their profile. LinkedIn provides 13 potential reasons to choose from, including full-time parenting, bereavement, layoff, or a gap year.

Going from “nope” to “no big deal.” Some recruiters say the stigma that was previously associated with résumé gaps has shifted. Back in 2019, a SHRM article about evaluating employment gaps quoted Peter Yang, CEO and co-founder of ResumeGo, a résumé-writing service, as saying, “Those with gaps in their work history run the risk of being seen as lazy or unfocused with their careers, and not as an in-demand asset in the eyes of potential employers.”

Three years and a pandemic later, hiring expert Christy Noel told CNN, “You don’t have to be sheepish or embarrassed or concerned about it as much. You don’t want to inadvertently come across that way.”

Initial reaction. Some hiring and résumé experts say the current labor shortage, as well as the pandemic’s personal toll on workers, has made recruiters more receptive to applicants with gaps in employment. A recent survey by LinkedIn found that “nearly two-thirds (62%) of employees have taken a break at some point in their professional career, and just over a third (35%), mostly women, would like to take a career break in the future.”

Sara Lueders, senior director of communications at Scout Lab, took a six-month break in 2015 to focus on her mental health. She’s now in charge of recruiting for her team, and says her time off was key to deciding what she wanted next from her career.

A caveat. “Any initiative that works to reduce the stigma around this should be welcomed,” Lueders said in an email. “That being said, it is also my personal belief that as a hiring manager, the reasoning behind a gap in your résumé is none of my business and won’t impact a hiring decision.”— KP

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Quick-to-read HR news & insights

Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.