Gaps in employment on a resume have historically been a common cause for concern for job seekers and employers, alike. In the modern workplace, such gaps should not matter—and focusing on them can cause employers to commit anchoring bias*. We have identified four primary reasons employers should not fixate on gaps in employment:  


1. Life Happens: Life events such as family responsibilities, health issues, or other personal reasons may result in gaps in employment. Generally, employers understand such circumstances and are likely to be more interested in a candidate’s qualifications and abilities than their work history. When screening candidates, it is important not to let curiosity get the best of you. Inquiring about such gaps can force a prospective employee to divulge information about themselves that may be prohibited employment behavior (for example, requiring the disclosure of a disability prior to a job offer and acceptance). Generally speaking, it is also unfair to the candidate to put them on the spot about a potentially sensitive situation. 


2. Career Transition: Sometimes, people take time off to pursue education or training, or to switch careers. In such cases, the gap may be a deliberate and strategic move that indicates a candidate’s commitment to professional development. Such self-exploration should be celebrated, not penalized.  


3. Contract or Freelance Work: Candidates may have taken on short-term or contract work that did not necessarily span the entire duration of the gap. This type of work experience is valuable and should be included in the resume—and looked upon fairly by hiring directors. 


4. Focus on Results: In evaluating candidates for a position, it is crucial to focus on their achievements and the results they have delivered in their previous roles rather than the duration of employment. Employers are likely to be more interested in candidates who can demonstrate a track record of success, rather than the length of their tenure.  


Overall, employers should understand that gaps in employment are increasingly common and can be due to a variety of reasons. As long as the candidate demonstrates their skills and suitability for the job, the gaps should not be a significant concern to employers. 


*Anchoring bias weighs too heavily on the initial information you learn about something, in this case, a job candidate. 


Example: You review the resume of a job candidate and identify that they have a two-year gap in their work history. You then instinctually assess the candidate as being lazy, unfocused, or not serious about their career. Perhaps the gap was due to caring for a sick family member, or maybe they were battling an illness of their own. 


In a world of diverse experiences and dynamic career paths, shouldn’t we prioritize capabilities and potential over chronological linearity? In your hiring strategies, how do you ensure that you are focusing on a candidate’s potential rather than non-essential details? Let’s reshape the narrative around employment gaps and recognize the strength, resilience, and versatility they often represent. 


We’d love to hear your insights and experiences with assessing resume gaps. Send us an email!  Interested in seeing more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about trends and best practices in human resources and business operations for nonprofits and small businesses.