Employers and recruiters are being urged to end career gap stigma which can often be a barrier when applying for jobs. The campaign is being led by de-biased hiring experts, Applied, and Women Returners, calls for employment histories to be assessed more fairly by asking candidates to share the number of months or years they spent in previous roles, instead of specific dates.
The campaigners’ research found that one in three British workers have taken a career gap, over half of whom (53%) would prefer not to share it during a job application. Furthermore, this figure rises to 77% amongst C-Level Executives, suggesting it can be more difficult to return to work following a career gap if you’re looking to re-enter the workforce at a senior level.
Of the 33% of British adults who have taken a career gap, childcare was the most common reason. Mental or physical health was the second most common reason for taking a career gap, cited by 20% of all respondents. Redundancy was the third most common reason overall, cited by 10% of respondents. Also, 9% of people have taken time out to care for a friend or relative.
However, a career gap does appear to affect how you are perceived by potential employers. In an additional survey of 200 HR professionals and employers carried out by Applied, over a third of respondents (35%) confirmed that they believed taking a career gap of a year or longer can result in skill-fade. And almost half (49%) believe that candidates who have taken a career gap should be prepared to explain their time away from work to prospective employers.
But the #DontMindTheCareerGap research also revealed that over half (51%) of respondents believed that they gained new or transferable skills, or enhanced their existing skill set during their career gap, pointing to a disconnect between employers’ and employees’ perceptions of career gaps.
There is broader evidence to support removing specific dates from CVs. 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% compared to candidates with a ‘gap’ on their CV.
So it seems that career gap stigma is real, and the #DontMindTheCareerGap campaign is needed to challenge our misperceptions.