Question of the day: How difficult is it for candidates to overcome a long gap in employment?

As if things aren’t difficult enough for some candidates in this job market, BusinessWeek had an interesting article entitled Why 3.5 Million Job Openings Isn't Great News. The article claims that despite recent news about the U.S. job market trending in a positive direction there is still difficulty filling millions of jobs due to jobseekers’ lack of skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are almost 13 million Americans looking for employment and yet employers are still struggling to find the right talent for their needs. Once employment numbers are updated this week it will be interesting to see if the job market is as healthy as we all hope it could be. Are clients (and hiring managers) suspicions of those candidates unemployed too long able to be overcome?

Question of the day: How difficult is it for candidates to overcome a long gap in employment?

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Perhaps the question should be, particularly in this economy why companies treat people with employment gaps like such lepers? It appears they rarely look at a situation through the candidate's eyes. Only through their own tunnel vision. Someday they may be in that situation. How would they like to be treated?

In the public accounting industry, it is a tough one to overcome - as many of the individuals who were "laid off" during the economic downturn were the "poorer performers" - at least in small and mid-sized firms.  Many are still looking for employment, and once you've been out of the industry and the profession for a while, your technical skills aren't current.  It's unfortunate.  As a sidenote, job stability in this industry isn't what it used to be anymore - so candidates aren't penalized for "job hopping" from one firm to another as much as they were in the past.  Times are a-changing!

I've blogged about this in the past:

Fatal Resume Gaps: How To Explain Them, How To Avoid Them

In a nutshell - if you have a legitimate explanation for your resume gap - health issue, economic crisis - it will be overlooked.

I remember job searching after the Dot Com Bubble burst and spent almost a year out of work. Every recruiter that's asked about it never gave me the slightest negative impression, and they didn't always ask, having recognized the dates.

Depends on what they have accomplished in the past. (Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior)


Could not agree MORE, Charlie.  I have been on the bench for a long time.  My highly disciplined work ethic in how I have conducted myself and handled the stress and crushing pressure over the past four years is almost entirely ignored.  The question I think that is the worst of them, is, "Are you WORKING???"  Yes, Of COURSE I have been working!  I have been working my TAIL off!  Doing the hardest job possible - keeping my sanity, and my edge, while pounding the pavement every single day.  No time off, no rest for the weary, no relief from the worry and fear.  It is pure hell, and the attitude I have encountered is phenominally offensive.  It is why so many have given up altogether.


As a career trainer, I'm seeing this as one of the major sticking points for my customers. They're trying all sorts of ways to hide a gap, including listing their current work as "contracting." Unfortunately, some have spent too much time on unemployment and not enough on proactively looking for work. In some ways, I think a substantial gap (what is it these days, 3 months) is more detrimental than lacking a few skills.

"Consulting " is the magic word!

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