Employers have been urged to stop asking job candidates for the dates they were employed in previous roles to reduce the risk of ‘career gap stigma’.
According to a survey by the #DontMindTheCareerGap campaign, which has been launched by recruitment platform Applied and return to work specialists Women Returners, 53% of people with gaps on their CV would feel more confident applying for jobs if they did not have to share the gap with potential employers.
It defined a career gap as a period of six months or more out of work for any reason, such as through choice, redundancy or caring responsibilities. Around one in three people in the UK have had a career gap.
Half of the 2,001 people polled believed they gained new or transferable skills or enhanced their skillset during their career gap. However, a separate survey of 200 HR professionals found 35% believed a career gap of a year or longer could result in “skill-fade” and 49% said candidates should be prepared to explain gaps on their CV to prospective employers.
Screening job candidates
One career returner, Janna Scott, a relationship manager at London Sport, said interviewers tended to focus on gaps when she began applying for roles after a 10-year career break to care for her child with special needs.
“At one interview, questions about my caring responsibilities and son’s needs seemed to be more important than the question of whether I was a good fit for the role,” she said.
Fear of stigma from employers is rife, particularly among those who look to return into a senior role. Seventy-seven per cent of executives felt it would be more difficult to return to a senior position if they had gaps on their CV.
Theresearch found childcare was the most common reason why respondents had taken a break from work (33%, rising to 38% of women). Mental or physical health was the second most common (20%), followed by redundancy (10%) and caring for a friend or relative (9%).
The campaign group urged organisations to stop asking candidates to include dates on their CV. It said a fairer way of asking for employment history would be to request the time served in previous roles.
Research from the government’s Behavioural Insights Team found that when CV dates are replaced with the number of years’ experience, call-back rates for candidates improved by 14%.
Khyati Sundaram, CEO of Applied, said: “We want employers to help level the playing field for all candidates by evolving their application process so that candidates with career gaps cannot be screened out of the process early. By removing employment start and end dates from CVs, and using a skills-based hiring model, employers can build an inclusive hiring process that empowers all candidates to showcase their skills – no matter where, how, or when they gained them.
“Candidates should not have to explain their career gap to employers beyond the extent to which the skills they gained qualify them for the role at hand. The notion of ‘skill-fade’ during a career gap is a fallacy and we want to ensure all candidates are given a fair and equal chance to succeed.”
Women Returners CEO Julianne Miles said: “We have been working with employers for many years to challenge the career break penalty and to promote inclusive hiring practices that recognise the skills, experience and fresh perspectives that career returners can bring to organisations. Embracing returners is a necessity for employers, the economy and society if we are to tackle skills shortages, close the gender pay gap and build a strong and diverse workforce.”