March 20, 2024

Perception of Career Gaps in Corporate America

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Episode Highlights

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In this week’s Talent Insights segment, we delve into the perception of career gaps in corporate America. This discussion sheds light on the common practice of candidates not updating their LinkedIn profiles to reflect career gaps, leading to potential misrepresentations of their work history.

Emily and Ryan break down both the candidate and hiring manager perspective of how career gaps are viewed on each side. While career breaks are stigmatized in corporate America, there’s a solution for it. The hosts embrace transparency and honesty from candidates, which they hope can lead to more meaningful interactions between candidates and hiring managers. Employers should view career breaks as part of a candidate’s unique journey and treat each candidate with empathy and understanding.

The TLDR; Candidates, be honest. Employers? Give candidates a break.

Episode Transcript

This week’s Talent Insights segment, we’re talking about the perception of career gaps in corporate America.

Yeah, it’s so interesting. I think we’ve alluded to this actually a few times on the show recently, but we have been seeing a lot, like this is just a common-

common, at least on the sales recruiting side of things. I don’t want to like, again, I always have to think about it, like the lens I’m coming at it from, is sales recruiting mostly.

But we’ve been seeing candidates not updating their LinkedIn profiles to reflect like career gaps. So for example, someone was laid off like sometime in 2023. Even like earlier 2023, LinkedIn says that their most role is like to present like the dates are like working here, you know, April 2020 to present and it’s like-

Sure. Actually, you haven’t worked there for like 8 months.

Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s something that I don’t think is just specific to the sales side of things. Okay, good to know. And we’re definitely seeing that across corporate functions too, from HR to administrative roles to finance and accounting. I’m curious though, from your perspective, why would candidates not be inclined to update their LinkedIn to reflect either unemployment or a career break or whatever it may be?

Yeah. I think like my first reaction is like always update it. But like, then I try to put myself into the shoes of candidates on the market right now. Exactly. And I’m like, okay, I actually sort of do feel for you. I think because it’s such a competitive market. Candidates like don’t want to give hiring manager or recruiters any excuse to pass up their profile just because they haven’t worked in a little bit.

So I think that they’re leaving their job dates just like open, like still here, in hopes that recruiters and hiring managers will still reach out and then they can explain like their career gap, live. I think the intention behind that, if that is the case, honestly makes a ton of sense. And you know, in the other vein, as you mentioned, you’re trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes and kind of think about it from a different lens.

There may be some issues with that too. Right. And I think when your work history isn’t accurate on paper, AKA your resume or your LinkedIn, those discrepancies can come out later and more than likely, they will, they almost always come out. And for lack of better words, like, it might come off as a little shady, right?

Especially if you’re meeting with a hiring manager, and they find out down the line that, you know, those are not reflective of the current dates hiring managers tend to perceive these types of discrepancies as dishonesty. And sometimes I think that they may think that a candidate is untrustworthy for simply not updating their LinkedIn dates, I’ve definitely had conversations like that with hiring managers in the past.

But then, you know, I think in that same vein, if you’re the candidate and then this is coming out, you’re immediately having to backtrack and spend time kind of telling that story and explaining yourself. And frankly, your interview time could have probably been used better if you didn’t have to do that.

No, totally. Like now you’re just wasting time backtracking and explaining yourself. Then it almost comes off as like defensive. Like doesn’t have to be like a gotcha type of situation, like. No, it shouldn’t be. Yeah. I mean, I like that we’re kind of looking at it from both perspectives here, right?

Like what hiring managers are thinking, what, like what might be going through the candidates mind. So I do get though where hiring managers are coming from. Sure. Me too. Why not just lay it all out truthfully, right? Like why start this, if we’re calling it a relationship, right? Like employer/employee relationship, why start off that relationship off with, I don’t want to say like a lie, but maybe like the lack of truth.

Is that more fair? Sure. I think we’ve said this on this show a million times in the past five years that we’ve been shooting this, but why not just use your LinkedIn to tell the whole story. It doesn’t just have to be like a abrupt end date. Right? Like if you haven’t worked since, you know, like July, 2023, and it’s now we’re shooting this March 20th, 2024, it doesn’t just have to be like an end date. Like use your LinkedIn to tell the entire story. Maybe it’s like, “Oh, you know, was affected by a layoff and took time off, you know, to do this,”

Maybe it’s like, doing consulting work. Maybe it’s like, “Hey, I’ve been fulfilling a life goal of like traveling.” Totally. Spending time with your family, whatever it may be. So many things. It doesn’t just have to be like, an end date on your LinkedIn. Like, tell a story. Like, I mean, at least I can say personally as a recruiter, like I will read it.

Like I am, we are, curious. I can’t speak for everyone. But, I think it’s worth like telling the entire story on your LinkedIn and just like laying it all out there. Totally. I do too, Em. And then we’ve also talked about this a lot in the past on this show too, optimizing your LinkedIn profile. And how your LinkedIn profile can be a lot longer than a resume should be, right?

Like, I still want your resume to be a pretty concise version of your experience, but your LinkedIn is there for you to really expound on your roles, responsibilities, if you are taking a break, whether, you know, it’s intentional or not, why that is. So I think that’s a really good point to make from that perspective.

And, you know, in terms of character limits, I don’t think it’s something that folks have to worry about. But, you know, following up with this from the candidate perspective, though, I do sort of get why they leave their job dates to present. So they can hopefully, you know, get recruiters and hiring managers on the phone and then maybe explain their career breaks in a more thorough manner.

So I definitely understand that. And listen, like it’s no surprise or secret that career breaks are highly stigmatized in our society. They completely are. And if I were a candidate that hadn’t worked in a few months, I would also be worried about how that would be perceived on paper. And so we can definitely see both sides here.

But I’m curious, Em, like, do you think there’s a solution in this madness? You make such a good point. Like, I think that’s the whole purpose, right? At the beginning, we’re talking about how career breaks are perceived in corporate America and it’s not always positive. Which is why like we get the candidate perspective of like, “Ooh, I don’t really want them to know that I haven’t worked in eight months,” or like-

I completely get that.

I don’t think everyone would agree on this, to be honest. Like, I think if you asked seven different recruiters, you might, I don’t think you’d get seven different answers, but I think you might see a bit of a range of answers. In my opinion, curious years also, I personally think the solution is update your LinkedIn, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve worked.

I’m not saying that it’s the correct reaction from hiring managers, but like we said, recently we are seeing hiring managers not responding positively, at all, to discrepancies between your LinkedIn and your resume. Or between your LinkedIn and just reality in general, like it usually leads to a lot more unnecessary questions from the hiring manager.

So just start off on a positive note, with the truth. And as I mentioned before, use the space, right? Like use your LinkedIn to tell the story, optimize your LinkedIn to explain your unique situation, if need be. But like I said, what we were seeing recently with hiring managers is they’re just kind of turned off.

And it’s also kind of confusing for us. Like, I’ll just say that too, as recruiters-

totally confusing for us. Keeping hiring managers out of the equation, so you get my point of view, I’m usually very surprised when I get on the phone with someone and I’m like, oh, so like, why are you actively looking? And they’re like, oh, well, I actually haven’t been there for eight months.

I’m like, whoa, now we have to spend time like talking about that or maybe it would have been like a quick answer and we could really dive into your experience and what you’re looking for and like your ideal company. And now we’re spending time talking about, you know, explaining- Yeah, your gap. Totally. Yeah, I completely agree, Em.

And when I’m coaching folks on how to approach their job search, if they’re in a similar situation, I always say to update it so it’s reflective of what’s currently going on. And if you are, you know, in a more extended career break, again, whether it’s intentionally intended or not, you can have a space on your LinkedIn that says career break and you’re explaining and telling the story on there of what you’re doing.

And if you’re taking time to, you know, partner with a nonprofit, or if you’re traveling or whatever it may be. I think it’s, you know, honesty and being upfront and kind of laying the groundwork of like, this is truly what’s going on for me, like in this moment, is always the best scenario. And it’s always the best policy because like we mentioned earlier in this segment the truth is always going to come out.

And listen, we’re not saying like candidates are trying to be deceptive. Yeah, no. Not at all. But I do think that like just leading with the truth and leading with what’s going on, is always going to be the better solution. There’s no like magic way to get around having to tell this part of your experience.

So while you might eventually get on the phone with someone, you’re still ultimately going to have to tell the same story. I think it’s more important to do it up front. Yeah, and it’ll save you a little time and a little energy and your nerves around it too. Like, as a candidate, like, aren’t you nervous for like, when it comes out and then what you say of like-

Of course. I don’t know. One final thought. I know we didn’t really talk about this as we were kind of preparing for this conversation. And this is a way bigger conversation. My like, husband was in the room when you and I kind of brought this up in the first place. Shout out Scotty. Shout out Scotty, just always listening to our conversations when we work from home together. But he was just saying like, “Oh, that’s a bigger societal issue. Almost like, why are we tackling this on our show? Like it is a bigger societal issue in America. I think honestly, in particular, maybe not actually. I’ve talked to clients, we have some international clients that also have had a few layoffs and career breaks, like not super positively.

But I do think it is a bigger societal issue, we just should talk about more. Like, why do people have such an issue? Like, we all work so, so hard. Sometimes like around the clock, you know, like we just, our society works so hard. Like we take our jobs so, so seriously. We’re always grinding. And it’s like, we perceive that as being like successful, right?

Like the grind and like not taking breaks and like pushing ourselves. Why in society? And like, again, this is like, I’m now I’m getting way too like big picture. We’re getting deep. But it’s like, why in society can we not like appreciate a career break? Like appreciate someone who’s like, “Hey, I’ve been working nonstop for 10 years, like I got laid off my job. I’m going to take six months to like breathe and reset and do things that are important to me.”

I don’t know. That’s just, I’m just throwing that out there. Maybe if you’re watching this and you’re a hiring manager that has recently frowned upon somebody taking like six months off after a layoff or whatever it is like traveling or taking time to like, stay with family.

I just think we need to take a step back sometimes and kind of rethink that like stigma around career breaks. Like why is it such a bad thing? Yeah, a hundred percent, Em. And not only that, but I think with the way society has progressed, especially over the last four years, we kind of forget that the pandemic happened and what a catastrophic year that was for so many people.

And then the last, you know, 3 years after that have been just unimaginably different year over year over year. So collectively we have all been through quite a lot just as people, let alone what has happened professionally. So, you know, now more than ever understanding that maybe people need a little bit of a break because we certainly didn’t get big ones in the years prior.

So I agree. I think that leading with like that human element, especially if you’re a hiring manager, treating each candidate with, you know, the humanity that we should be treating people with and allowing for unconventional stories to be shared with you and professional experiences, I think, is really important.

So hopefully folks take, you know, some of the things that we shared today, whether you’re an employer, whether you’re a candidate, you’re job seeking, and you can implement some of the things we talked about. Yeah, it’s like our PSA today, like-

career breaks and let it be okay. Hello society, are you listening?

Exactly. Not everyone’s career is linear, right? Like that’s what it comes down to. Not everyone’s career is linear. I wish that people would, just like view breaks differently. That’s all you do. yeah, that’s all we’ve got. That’s all we got. Well, I think that wraps up this week’s, Hirewell Update. You want to take this home? I would love to. That is a wrap indeed for this week’s episode of the Hirewell Update. Thank you all for joining us. As a reminder, you can find all of our content at talentinsights.hirewell.com. Or if you’d like to learn more about Hirewell and our many service offerings, you can check out our website. It’s www.Hirewell.com. And we will be back, Ms.Ryan Brown and me, in this seat right here next Wednesday around noon central. We’ll see you all then. See you then. Have a great week.

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