When you’re hiring for tech positions, it can be tempting to toss out any resumes with a gap of 6 months or more. IT recruiters see this all the time, especially because the tech job market is so hot these days. (To put that in perspective, the unemployment rate for IT professionals in the first quarter of 2017 was 2.5% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2017 was almost double that! It was 4.5%.) IT staffing companies find that employers often think if somebody is unemployed for long, there’s something wrong with them. The truth is, there are some legitimate reasons candidates might have big gaps on their resumes. Here’s why you may want to consider a candidate, even if they have a long gap on their resume.
1. Their reasons for a gap are solid. It’s becoming more and more common for people to leave the workforce temporarily to care for a relative. This will only continue as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age. Taking time off to care for a new baby or sick relative doesn’t tell a hiring manager anything about a candidate’s skills, performance, or dedication to work. The truth is, many people may face caregiving dilemmas over their lifetimes. Sharp, efficient, talented IT professionals and unskilled ones alike take time off for caregiving. So the next time you see a resume with a large gap taken for caregiving, remember that you could just as easily be in the same boat one day! It’s also important to remember that there’s a very real dearth of IT professionals in the US right now. You don’t want to limit your talent pool any further than it’s already been limited.
2. Their technical skills may not be impacted by a gap. With all the options for independent study, online classes, certifications, and more, it’s possible that a candidate has taken time off from a formal job but they haven’t taken time off from keeping up their technical expertise. If you see a resume with a sizable gap and it concerns you, check out their technical proficiencies section. Some people might even have a better arsenal of technical skills after taking time off from the workforce. They may have used the time off to learn more than they would if they were working.
3. Their base of technical skills might be enough, even if they don’t have the hottest new technologies under their belts. Especially recently, IT staffing firms notice that companies will hire candidates with strong, basic foundations of technical skills. Then they’ll just teach them the technologies they lack. This works because there are many languages a candidate can learn that will prep them to quickly and easily acquire more languages. Even if a candidate was out of work for a period of time and isn’t up to date with Python, for example, they might still have Ruby on Rails. Knowing Ruby on Rails will make it easy for the candidate to pick up Python and perform a role that requires it.
4. Their technical skills might not be up to date due to time taken off work, but they could have more vital skills. As mentioned before, candidates can be (and are!) often caught up with technical knowledge on the job. IT recruiting companies find that for some roles that require soft skills, companies will hire people with those skills. They’ll then catch them up on the technical skills they need. For some roles, like Helpdesk or Sales Engineer, having soft skills is imperative. It’s arguably more important that having the right technical skills or experience. For instance, a Sales Engineer who is charming and engaging with clients but needs to learn SAP on the job is a better hire than a candidate who knows SAP but is rude and off-putting to clients.