6 Reasons Why Recruiters Avoid Hiring Candidates with Employment Gap 

Are you a dedicated job seeker but have an employment gap in your resume? Here’s what you need to know.

Job candidates with years of employment gap are often perceived as an inadequate candidate by recruiters. Difficulty of job placement is cited to be the number one reason why recruiters avoid employment gaps in resumes. Another reason is that individuals who work freelance or are out of work to pursue their own ventures are often seen as having a lack of responsibility. Here are some other reasons why employers avoid hiring candidates with years of employment gap in the resume. 

  • More training – Recruiters often avoid hiring a person with a gap in resume for a senior-level position because they might require training which could add more work for HR and teams. Higher position needs professionals to do the job, so talents with a gap might have a lower chance of getting hired here. 
  • Employment gap means a hard time to verify employment background and it will be an extra task for a hiring manager. 
  • Recruiters often perceive that when you are out of work, your skills might not be good enough. 
  • If you quit the job to build your own business and fail, a recruiter might think that you are not good enough on your own and it could be a weak point because an organisation would prefer hiring a reliable person. 
  • Hiring qualified talents with a gap in their resume is more costly than hiring freshers. Fresh graduates can be paid less because they have no work experience, while qualified individuals with gaps might demand higher pay.  
  • Recruiters often fear low performance, instability, or unreliability at work if they hire someone with years of an employment gap. 

See also: What To Expect during a Job Interview?

Don’t be discouraged just yet – how to handle employment gap 

There is a way for job seekers to get employed even when they stop working for years. One way to hide employment gaps without lying is to use a Functional Resume. Concentrate on your skills and accomplishments and downplay when and where you did them. However, there are times when employers or headhunters ask you for a chronological resume or a separate work history. If this is the case, jump to trick number two. 

If employers or recruiters ask for work history, the chance for you to showcase your skills on paper might be low. But you can always showcase it in realtime. Thus, make sure you complete a project or certification before applying for the new job. This will help sell your skills again after years of no career advancement in the workplace. But remember, with those years of gap, applying for senior-level might be tricky even when you have completed some of certifications. It will be wiser to apply at a lower level and scale through time when you are employed. 

Once you have addressed the gap and explained what you did during that time but the conversation continues in a direction you are not comfortable with, you have the option of saying, “I’d prefer not to go into more detail. I am very interested in sharing details of my work experience, however.” From there, you can supply another anecdote from your work history that makes you qualified for the position. 

If the conversation continues to make you feel uncomfortable, you might want to consider ending the interview by saying, “I’m not comfortable with where our conversation is headed so this might not be the right fit. Thank you for your time.” This will not only show that you appreciate recruiter’s opportunity given to you for an interview but also show that you respect both of your time and recruiter’s. 

Ending a job interview unilaterally might decrease your chance to be hired. But it is better than explaining yourself in a way that the recruiter could not understand. If you are looking for a job that fits you best, check here and you might find a better employment opportunity than the one you are applying for now. 

Read also: 5 Things Recruiters Know that Job Seekers Don’t 

What To Expect during a Job Interview? 

If it is your first time to come to a job interview, it is normal if you think that interview is nerve-wracking. In such a case, knowing a few best practices can calm your nerves and keep you sharp. The first step is getting familiar with types of questions you’ll be asked, which include:

  • Background questions – These questions help hiring managers get an overview of your experience, goals and why you’re interested in the company. 
  • Behavioural questions – These are designed to uncover your past “behaviours” in different work situations. These questions also help employers decide whether you will fit company culture. 
  • Situational questions – Your answers to these questions should demonstrate your ability to overcome challenging workplace scenarios. 

See also: The Power of Informational Interviews

It will be all about you.

Besides the interview questions above, you can expect that a job interview will be all about you – as a job seeker. Therefore, set aside shyness or reticence and prepare to explain yourself thoroughly. First impressions always count, especially on particular occasions like job interviews. Practice and school yourself on what to do when employers ask illegal questions, such as queries about your marital status, children, or health issues. Understanding what you should disclose and what should be kept as secret will leave a good impression to recruiters. 

If you have an employment gap, explain it.

It is always a good policy to be honest about employment gaps, especially if it is lengthy. Having an employment gap will not decrease your employment chance if you know how to communicate it. Thus, be honest on why you take the gap, is it because you are working to find a new job, volunteering, becoming a parent or caregiver, or travelling? These reasons might be viewed in your favour. When explaining this, remember to emphasise the skills you’ve gained during employment gaps that will put value to the company if they hire you.

Be ready to discuss salary. 

When it comes to salary discussion, don’t disclose exactly what you expected. What you need to do is to prepare yourself by knowing what you are worth based on your qualifications and your salary history. You can also consult authoritative sources, such as Payscale. Once again, don’t feel it is your role to bring up specific numbers, but if you are asked, be prepared with salary ranges, based on your research. 

You are also required to ask questions. 

As the interview is winding up, the hiring manager might turn the table and ask if you have questions for them. When the time comes, make sure you take the chance to dig the company deeper, such as understanding the work hours, company culture, etc. Check here to know what questions you should ask. Nonetheless, it can be totally okay to finish with a non-question grace note, such as expressing that you’ve enjoyed the discussion and look forward to the next step in the hiring process. 

Read also: 3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

5 Things Recruiters Know that Job Seekers Don’t 

Do you often find that recruiters and hiring managers are intimidating? Don’t worry, they are not. They simply want to give you the best hiring experience in their own way. What you should pay more attention to is the secret behind their actions, because there are certain things that hiring managers do not want to reveal in front of their candidates. According to Dandan Zhu, Founder and CEO at DG Recruit, here are a few things recruiters and hiring managers know that job seekers don’t. 

#1 – All basic qualifications having been met 

“The smartest people do not actually end up succeeding the most in real life, while the dumbest people also have just as good as a chance to survive, if not thrive.” 

It means that B or C level students might be as good as A+ students in real life.  In other words, when it comes to the workplace, this means that the most talented and technically savvy engineer doesn’t always become the CTO. Most of the time, it is usually the politically admired and personally connected talent who wins and progresses into the C-suite. Basic qualifications are important to be considered as a feasible candidate, but success is dedicated more by one’s ability to influence, actively listen and respond appropriately, level of social etiquette, and general accentedness by their peers and superiors than one’s technical scores. 

See also: Job vs. Career: Life-long Adventure after Graduation

#2 – HR people are not that important in the hiring hierarchy 

“As you become a serious professional, you can utilise LinkedIn to directly approach hiring managers.” 

Most graduates might think that HR people deserve the utmost respect as they were the gateway to their future career prospects. Yet, Zhu emphasised that it is the hiring manager that makes the utmost decision, while HR is the service and administrative function in the process. Hiring manager dictates everything, including who to interview, what price to pay them, who to hire, and which headhunters to utilise. 

#3 – Job applicants can negotiate and leverage other offers to great effect 

“In today’s world, it is all about the etiquette and manner in which you communicate.” 

As a job applicant, you might be scared of upsetting prospective employers about disclosing where else you are going for job interviews and how much money you actually want. Yet, if a high-demand labour market where the supply of jobs outstrips candidates available, you actually hold a lot more power than employers do. 

Therefore, it is vital for you to research your niche and whether the position you are applying for is currently in the high demand labour market or not. Only then, you know your worth to negotiate and be transparent about offers. If handled appropriately, this will increase employers’ desire for you, not penalise you for looking greedy or not interested. Communication is the mother of all success when it comes to negotiation, thus master it. 

#4 – Interview your interviewers harder 

“Don’t be scared to say what’s on your mind. If something important to you does not align with your future employer, things won’t work out anyways, so it is better to know before you take the job to begin with.” 

Commonly, candidates are so scared of losing job offers or being looked at as needy or demanding so they don’t actually say what’s on their mind. This, however, could hurt your success on the job even if you manage to get a great salary and offer. Chances are, you probably agreed to something that you did not fully understand or align with.

That’s why it’s your prerogative to be a strong communicator. Get the answers you truly need during interviews by asking tough questions that are detailed and specific. This is where you’ll be spending your next few years; you better be aggressive in how you get it out!

#5 – Interview even if you don’t need to 

“Go out and interview even if you don’t need to.” 

Due to loyalty, fear, laziness, and/or arrogance, most candidates refuse to proactively learn about what opportunities are available. Don’t be like these most candidates. No matter if you need to look or not, once you hit a certain amount of experience in your role, it is time to take your head out of the sand and start interviewing, even if just for your own education. 

Read also: What to Do When You Hear Nothing from a Job Application?

The Power of Informational Interviews

Typical job interviews are started by recruiters asking a series of questions to see job seeker’s qualification. But in an informational interview, it will be the other way round. In an informational interview, job seekers will be the one who asks questions to obtain information of their preferred employers and/or job positions.

An informational interview is an opportunity to start a conversation with someone who works at a department that you’re interested in, or someone on your desired career path. Experts often refer it to ‘relationship building’ because this implies making authentic connections with people who could become friends, mentors, or maybe future colleagues. 

See also: Job vs. Career: Life-long Adventure after Graduation

Benefits of informational interviews 

Informational interviewing is effective for a college student looking to start their career. But it can be just as effective for mature adults who are in some form of career transition. Considering its major benefits (career exploration and networking), informational interviewing is designed for professionals at any career stage. Here are some other benefits: 

  • Obtain a great deal of information about your career field and the skills needed to do that job effectively. 
  • Gain a perspective of work that goes beyond the limitations of job titles, allowing you to see not only what skills are required for the job but also how you might fit into that work setting. Thus, you have greater flexibility in planning options.  
  • Get the opportunity to make personal contacts among management-level personnel.  
  • Gain insight into the hidden job market (employment opportunities that are not advertised).  
  • Become aware of the needs of the department and the realities of employment. First-hand and current information allows you to learn what happens on the job beyond the understanding provided through research. 
  • This exposure not only provides personal understanding but it could also result in your becoming a more impressive job candidate in the future.  
  • Informational meetings are comparatively low-stress because you are the interviewer. This is a great opportunity for you to gain confidence in talking with people while learning what you need to know.  
  • Because you are only asking for information, you are in control of the meeting; you decide which questions to ask. Later, evaluate the acquired information for personal use.  
  • It is an opportunity to learn whether you might fit into a particular organisation.
  • You can explore careers with someone who is actually performing the work you might want to do, thus allowing you to clarify your career goals.
  • You can obtain valuable feedback on your resume (and qualification in general), and help you determine what you need to do to make yourself more marketable for the career in question. 

Who to interview? 

Some tips for locating with whom to conduct informational interviews are as follows: 

  • Start with your current network, people you know personally. 
  • Search for professionals on LinkedIn. It is one of the largest databases of professionals in the world. 
  • Tap into professional and industry associations in your field of interest. They are great sources of career information – and contacts. 
  • Contact the alumni development office at your previous university, and colleges you have graduated from. They might be able to connect with alumni working in your field of interest. 
  • Identify the target companies you’d like to work for. Call them and ask for the names of individuals who occupy the careers of interest to you. Then, contact that person to request an informational interview. You can even connect to them on LinkedIn and use these connections to leverage an introduction. 

Read also: What to Do When You Hear Nothing from a Job Application?

Subscribe to Jobiness newsletter for the next series of informational interviews tips. 

How to Answer Behavioural Questions

Employers want to know that the candidates they hire will fit in both company culture and the position applied. In the job interview, hiring managers need to ensure that candidates have the qualities they are seeking for, therefore they often ask behavioural questions to uncover it.

Behavioural interview questions are questions that focus on how a job candidate has handled different work situations in the past to reveal their personality, abilities, and skills. Interviewees could use their work experience, volunteer positions, or sports experiences to answer behavioural questions. 

See also: 6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview

Simplify with the S.T.A.R Approach

STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. This interview technique offers a straightforward format which job seekers can use to answer behavioural interview questions. This technique requires interviewees to provide a real-life example of how they handle a certain kind of situation at work in the past. 

Behavioural questions usually are easy to recognise as they often have telltale openings like: 

  • Have you ever encountered a situation that makes you grumpy? How do you handle the situation? 
  • Describe your most daunting challenge and how you handle the situation?
  • Talk about a mistake you made. What happened and how did you handle it? 
  • Please describe a scenario in which you were under pressure. What was going on and how did you respond? 
  • Tell me about your proudest accomplishment. 

In some cases, recruiters can provide a situation in which interviewees have to answer with a real-life example based on their past experiences. 

Preparation checklist 

When answering a behavioural question, interviewees should be able to identify the most interesting event, hence could grab the attention of the interviewer. However, if interviewees do not have any work event related to the question, they can pick the most relevant ones from personal experiences. When doing so, make sure to tell a recruiter that the event happened not in the workplace but instead it is based on the personal experience. 

Here are tips to pick the best event and how you can relate it to the question: 

  • Categorise your experiences into successes, challenges, leadership moments, teamwork skills, and problem-solving situations. 
  • Practice your answer out loud before the interview session and plot the answer neatly. 
  • Get comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses because interviewers might ask more questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Always be honest. 

“It is all about lessons learned. Your answer to behavioural questions should demonstrate how you tackled and solved a problem. And of course, what you learned from this situation.” - Jodi Glickman 

Read also: 3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

What to Do When You Hear Nothing from a Job Application? 

Have you ever sent resumes to some companies but none call you back? Or, did you hear radio silence after an interview? If yes, you are not alone. CareerBuilder survey found that a staggering 75 percent of job seekers said they did not hear back from a position they have applied for. The reasons for not getting a follow-up generally comes from employers or recruiters themselves and not the job seekers. Some of the reasons are as follows: 

  • Employer has lost job seeker’s job application
  • Human resources policy that does not allow company employees to respond to any inquiries from interview candidates. 
  • Lack of consideration to not notifying candidates, except for those employer’s interested most. 
  • Change in hiring plans, such as teams getting cut.

See also: Dos & Don’ts when Asking Questions to Recruiter

Hearing bad news is a bummer but not getting a response at all, especially from an industry you expected, is worse. The good news is that there is something you can do about it: be proactive. All it takes to get the ball rolling again is a little push in the right direction. Here are some of the ways you should try: 

  • If possible, contact the recruiter or hiring managers and ask if they can give you a quick update regarding your application status. It will remind them that it has been a while since they’ve worked on their hiring responsibilities. 
  • If you apply through an applicant tracking system, check the system to see if your status has changed, for example from ‘submitted’ to ‘under review’. If it hasn’t changed, the problem lies in your resume, thus it is better to rewrite the resume and apply again when appropriate. 
  • If you have a contact inside the company, ask them to track down the hiring manager. See if they can get a status update for you. 
  • If the job was posted online, check the web site if the job is still listed. If it is not, the job opening might have been closed or they have already filled the position with somebody else. At this point, you should move on and start anew. 

Read also: 3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

Being a suitable job candidate for a specific position in a company requires more than a well-written CV. While having confidence could be one of the biggest advantages to being a candidate of choice, it might not be enough to secure a job offer. Job seekers must go beyond just well-written resumes by showcasing their personality.

See also: 4 Tips to Find a Job that Fits and Suits You

According to Heckman et al., personality has been a scientifically-proven predictor of job performance and assessing a candidate’s behavioural tendencies in a work environment. This allows recruiters to determine whether a candidate will be a top performer and if he/she will fit the culture of the company. Recruiter Experts cited there are three more advantages for job seekers when showcasing their personality during an interview: 

1- Your personality is a success indicator 

Personality is the driving force behind how one thinks, feels, acts, adapts and works. The stories you share in a job interview regarding past experiences can be an indicator of how you will deal with adversity and opportunity. Potential employers want a glimpse into your future successes and failures. Often, the simplest indicator is your personality. 

2- Skills can be taught, personality cannot 

More and more companies are realising that skills and knowledge can be gained on the job. However, personality is hardwired. If you come to the table with a personality that matches with a company’s culture, other technical skills can be learned over time. 

3- Culture is king 

Your personality can indicate that you will build good culture in a company which will create a healthy place to work, not only for yourself but also for others. 

Using insights from personality assessments and your past experiences to really understand what an ideal environment looks like will lead you to the right career path. Remember, it needs to be a fit on both sides. There is no use in denying your personality. 

Read also: 10 Suitable Jobs for YOU Who are Bad Communicators

Dos & Don'ts when Asking Questions to Recruiter

If you, as a candidate, are enthusiastic during an interview, the chance of getting hired is higher. An interview session is a place where you can figure out whether the job and workplace culture is a fit for you. Therefore, don’t hesitate to ask the questions you prepare beforehand to the interviewer.

See also: 6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview

Here are the dos and don’ts that will help you get the most out of every question you ask: 

DO

  • Ask your most pressing questions first. These could be about the culture, goals of your future team or how performance will be evaluated.
  • Ask probing questions. Consider asking which personality traits are most common among the most successful employees, or what employees enjoy most about working there. 
  • Ask interviewers about their own career paths. For example, ask them how they decided to go into their field, or what steps they took within the company to attain their current position.
  • Ask about challenges. What will make this job difficult? What will you need to overcome?
  • Ask for their contact information and whether you can connect with them for further information.

DON’T

  • Don’t ask questions to sound smart. For example, interrupting the recruiter before he/she finishes their questions, just because you know the better option or better solution to the question asked. 
  • Don’t ask about something you could find online. This might make the recruiter think that you haven’t done your homework well. Remember that searching and researching information about the company before an interview is vital to your interview success. 
  • Don’t be unprofessional. You should limit yourself when asking questions even when the recruiter says that you can ask anything, NEVER ask about personal life, such as marital status, his/her personal salary, etc. 
  • Don’t push. If the hiring manager won’t answer your question, it’s best to leave it alone.

Read also: How to Discuss a Gap Year in an Interview

What Job Seekers Need to Know about ATS

Nearly every Fortune 500 company and a growing number of small and mid-sized businesses filter resumes through an applicant tracking system (ATS) which will be tricky for job seekers when submitting their resumes.  

What is ATS? 

Applicant tracking system is a software widely used by companies today to keep their hiring track right as it allows an employer to collect and sort thousands of resumes. 

Why do employers use ATS? 

Back in 2008, the Great Recession hit the United States, forcing companies to conduct massive layoffs. When the situation got better, people started looking for a new job that employers were flooded with job applications. The problem was, employers found that nearly 90 percent of those applying were unqualified for the job, making it difficult for employers to sort and get the best and most qualified ones. This is where the idea of ATS created. ATS was first created for employers who demanded features that could discourage and filter out unqualified candidates in no time.

See also: Maximize Your Job Search with Matrix Decision

Applicant tracking systems then gradually come into play to help recruiters do their job right. ATS would help keep all these resumes in one place, help recruiters and employers stay organised during the recruiting process. ATS also helps employers save time by automatically surfacing and highlighting top candidates. As of today, ATS becomes a necessity for both big and small firms because it could streamline, widen recruiter’s talent pools, and save time to sort massive candidates. 

Does ATS have its drawback? 

Nothing is perfect, so is ATS. Albeit an applicant tracking system could help ease the job during the recruiting process, it has one drawback. According to a Swoop Talent survey, ATS does help hire professionals to narrow their applicant pool, but top candidates often slip through the cracks. This happens because candidates do not know the right standard resume writing for ATS, thus, they applied through a system that has less-than-optionally parsing or data management. 

How does ATS work? 

Generally, different ATS providers would operate a different system. Yet, they have similarities to collect and store resumes in a database for hiring professionals to access. In addition, resumes that are in the system might be stored long in the system before it is sorted and read by real recruiters. Then, recruiters or hiring managers would search and sort through the resumes in a number of ways, depending on the system they are using. The following is the elucidation of each ATS system. 

Automatic rankings 

Some applicant tracking systems use automatic comparison from job description to resume applicant. Based on Jobscan review, one of the best ATS that uses this system is Taleo. Taleo will rank each applicant based on how well their resume scores are based on the job description. This would surely help the recruiter focus on candidates with the best job description match. 

Keyword rankings 

Keyword rankings are very common in almost all ATS systems. As an example, if a recruiter is hiring for a General Manager Assistant, the ATS will then search and sort for “ General Manager Assistant” out of hundreds of resumes in the database. Hence, this system will save candidates who have done the exact job before and anyone that does not would only be kept in the system. 

Viewing application

Last but not least, some recruiters or hiring managers would take a glance over their ATS database to get real results. This, however, is only done by a few small- and medium-sized businesses. Commonly, recruiters would take a glance over a candidate’s past highlights, job titles, and past companies. With this quick scan, recruiters could determine whether they want to learn your resume more or not. Thus, it is important to make sure your top skills and qualifications are easily identifiable, not only for the ATS but also for the recruiter’s eyes.  

Now as you are already armed and know what and how ATS works, it will be easier for you to write better resumes for ATS. If you need more guidance, read here for more tips on how to beat ATS system and get your resume into human hands

Read also: Job Fair & Online Job Search Tips for Students and Graduates 

Who Should be Your Professional Reference? 

Bad hires can cost a company a fortune. That’s why recruiters are being more careful when it comes to bringing in new talents to the team. In their approach to hire the most suitable candidates, recruiters will conduct background check and screening by asking a professional reference to potential candidates.

What is a professional reference? 

Professional reference, also referred to as a job reference, is someone who could provide an insight into your earlier working experiences. As fresh grads or students who are currently looking for a job, their professional reference can be lecturer, teacher, or professor. For those who have working experiences, professional reference can be former colleagues and/or supervisors who can attest to one’s skills and qualifications. 

See also: Are You a Boring Job Applicant? 

Why does an employer want a professional reference? 

When an employer sees you as a prospective hire, more often than not, they will ask for you to provide one or two job references in order to reaffirm all information you put on your resume or say during an interview regarding your skills, experiences, and suitability for the position you applied. 

Job reference also helps employers confirm that candidates are honest in their job applications and interview responses. Besides, references are also vital opportunities for employers to get a sense of candidates’ performance on the job and personal qualities. 

Who should you ask to be your job reference? 

For fresh job seekers a.k.a graduates with no working experience, finding the right job reference can be tricky. As graduates, however, it is likely that you are applying for an entry-level position, so recruiters will understand that you might not be able to provide professional references. Recruiter might as well not consider your lack of professional reference as a problem. 

Nevertheless, you might still need to provide job references in case your recruiter will ask you for that, advised Jessica Hernandez, the president and CEO of Great Resume Fast. In many cases, college grads will have their supervisors from internships or work-study jobs as a reference. Even if your past internship does not really align with your current job application, former supervisors could still provide insights into your character, dedication, and overall attitude. 

So what if you are a fresh grad who has no job experience, even an internship? In this case, Hernandez advised that you should turn to your professors, coaches, or any authority figure who has knowledge of how you work hard, grow, and deal with people. Parents or relatives are not great choices here, added Hernandez, because they might give biased answers to recruiters. 

Who is the most effective job reference? 

To provide the best professional reference, you should consider these points. These considerations will help you choose the most effective reference you can ever have. 

  • Do you have the list of who your job references are? 
  • If yes, choose the most recent person you work with/collaborate with. If you have graduated from university 2 years ago and ask for your professor reference, it is likely that your professor could not give updated information about you. 
  • If no, you might want to consider a colleague you are collaborating with, be it a volunteer colleague, project partner, or stranger you’ve been working with for some time. 
  • Consider their relevance to your job and/or their position/seniority. For example, if you are applying for a junior accountant and you have two reference choices who would be able to provide high praise. Refer to one who either has knowledge of an accountant or who is the most senior.
  • Lastly, ask your reference politely and tell them that you have included them in your resume/job search. To deliver your intention, it is always better via face-to-face communication. However, if you think your reference is a highly busy person, sending a chat or email first could be the best move. Always cite your intention earlier to avoid misunderstanding. 

Read also: 6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview