When There Are Gaps in a Candidate’s Resume

In recruiting, it’s common to encounter gaps in resumes. Most gaps are either time or skills gaps. A skills gap is the unexpected absence of a skill or aptitude in a resume. For example, an experienced web developer who doesn’t list HTML or coding as a skill. Sometimes this is an oversight, sometimes the candidate has left it off the resume because the skill is assumed, and sometimes it means there’s an actual lack of experience.

A time gap happens when there’s break in a candidate’s work history on their resume. There can be a few different explanations for this. Perhaps the candidate has chosen not to list a former position on the resume because it doesn’t relate to desired career. Perhaps it represents a period of unemployment. Perhaps it’s an attempt to cover up a job experience that ended badly.

The question for recruiters is—how to get to the bottom of a gap?

How to ask about a resume gap

It’s wise to be cautious and thoughtful when broaching the subject in an interview. If a break in work history, for example, was a result of a personal tragedy or an injury, managers may not be able to consider this information in making a hiring decision due to legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If a gap must be questioned, it’s a good idea to get legal guidance before finalizing your interview questions that touch on it.

How to explore a skill gap

If you suspect a skill gap on a resume translates to real gaps in experience, create some simple evaluations. An easy way to evaluate a job candidate’s abilities is to present them with a problem-solving exercise. For example, a website developer should be able to spot errors in code that are causing a webpage to load improperly, or an accountant should be able to identify ledger mistakes. Quizzes for various fields, for a range of expertise, can usually be created internally or found online.

Candidates who seem to be missing management skills should receive extra attention to their soft skills and leadership capabilities. It’s good to ask behavioral questions like, “How would you apply your leadership skills to managing employees who report to you?” Another good question, “What do you think your biggest challenge will be in leading your own team?”

How to work around a gap for the right candidate

If a minor resume gap is preventing you from hiring a candidate who would otherwise be great fit for your team, there are ways around it.

  • Training. For the right candidate, training is a worthwhile investment. Not only does training add value and improve skills, it instills loyalty and helps employees grow, to everyone’s benefit.
  • Mentoring. A great candidate with passable skills can polish up nicely under the attention of an engaged mentor. Encouraging and rewarding mentorship in your organization is another program that benefits everyone—building relationships, developing leadership, and opening new lines of communication and ideation.

Sometimes a gap is a red flag, but often, a gap is just a gap. When unemployment is low and it’s hard to find new talent, it doesn’t pay to rule out candidates without a good reason.

If finding talent is getting a little too challenging, call on AllStaff. Our experienced recruiters are ready to help you find your next great employee.