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Reducing the Stigma of Candidates Returning to Work After a Career Break

Quick Look: Normalizing a non-linear career path can lead to greater opportunities for employers who may have previously disregarded job candidates with resume gaps. By destigmatizing reentry into the workplace, it expands the talent pool and can uncover hidden potential. To optimize the recruiting process in today’s continuously shifting workforce, it’s beneficial to work with a professional employer organization (PEO) which can provide and adapt HR outsourcing solutions to fit current hiring needs.

Career breaks often leave an uneasy question mark for recruiters. However, they often don’t paint a full picture. Though old ways of thinking can be hard to shake, employers should reconsider resumes which may not initially align with the average work experience since it’s becoming more common for individuals to take a professional pause.

While the long-held assumption of a resume gap has often been viewed as a potential red flag, the idea of the “traditional” career timeline has shifted over the years. A LinkedIn survey found nearly 62% of employees have taken a break at some point during their career, with 35% wanting to do so in the future. Fortunately, many of today’s employers believe career-break candidates provide an untapped resource for their recruiting efforts.

In order to continue building confidence about prospects who may not have followed a linear path, here are ways to customize HR solutions for those reentering the workforce and give proper due to the skills and experience they bring to the table.

Consider context when reviewing candidates

The concept of a traditional workplace is becoming obsolete. After all, what’s deemed normal anymore? The pandemic forced many out of their roles due to lay-offs and furloughs, as well as forced greater caretaking responsibilities and reassessments of work-life balance among full-time employees. However, without context, the numbers simply show people vacating their jobs mid-career.

When in reality, many used this as an opportunity to pursue advanced education and certifications during their time away. In fact, LinkedIn research reveals 56% of employees acquired or improved their skill set during their time out of the workforce. Additionally, a greater number of people chose unpaid internships or entry-level roles as a way to switch career paths, both of which aren’t necessarily fully credited as qualified work experience.

Whether strategic or unplanned, those who’ve taken time away from work likely still possess the skills and capabilities necessary to fill vacant roles. Therefore, employees should be forthcoming about what they’ve experienced and achieved during their career breaks, and employers should be prepared to ask questions to help fill in the holes.

Support transferable skills to support success in new roles

Skills like time management, problem-solving, and technical aptitude are often used by those who may not be actively working in a paid role. Furthermore, volunteer work, freelance consulting, and other substantial life experiences can all contribute to transferable skills even when a person is not currently employed. Although the responsibility is placed on the candidate to explain their gaps with lessons learned and skills acquired, part of a customized HR solution should include more meaningful interview experiences to open the door for these discussions.

Additionally, employers also look for a good cultural fit as one of the key factors during the hiring process, which means communication skills, shared values, and a proven work ethic should also be regarded in addition to previously held jobs. A person can’t be solely defined by their career and thus, should be able to showcase their life experience as a whole when determining qualification for employment.

Bridge the gap with return-to-work programs

To help destigmatize career breaks, company reentry programs have once again become a growing HR trend. These provide a transition opportunity for people following a temporary interruption. They are typically designed for mid-career candidates who have the basic professionalism and accountability entry-level employees lack but may need a bridge and “refresher period” to acclimate back into a working environment.

Also, LinkedIn has recently launched a designation tool to identify common reasons why people may pause their careers, which furthers the efforts of normalizing non-linear employment paths. Championing time to reset and redshift perspectives can help employers focus on candidates eagerly reentering the workforce and reduce the implicit negativity surrounding resume gaps.

Expanding the talent pool with a people-first approach

There’s no denying the workforce has changed quite drastically over the last few years and it will only continue to do so. People are voluntarily leaving their positions in droves. Job-hopping is no longer a sign of inconsistency but rather a strategic move by candidates wanting to rise the ranks faster. Plus, candidates are carefully weighing their options before embarking on new endeavors. These HR trends mean it’s up to employers to adapt and look at the state of today’s employees through a new lens.

Ultimately, a career break shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate. Instead, it should be an opening to uncover more information. The challenge is tackling an unconventional workforce and comparing skills to job descriptions can be time-consuming. The energy and resources required for recruiting can take away from the day-to-day operations and strategic planning necessary to help a company grow. However, with the help of an HR solutions partner like ExtensisHR, we can help you find the best talent to match your business needs.

We offer expertise in HR, recruiting, payroll, risk management, compliance, and more—through the support of leading technology and create flexible, customized HR solutions. With a people-first approach and experience in sourcing top talent, we can help you stay competitive and reach your company goals.

There are many qualified candidates who deserve a second look, and we make sure you’re not missing out on any opportunities. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.

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