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How To Evaluate Candidates with Employment History Gaps


Recruiters and hiring teams in today’s turbulent market have their work cut out for them when it comes to scooping up top talent before the competition. Even more challenging are situations where candidates have major gaps in their employment history. After all, as a recruiter, it’s your job to sell a candidate to a potential employer and those employment gaps can definitely raise some eyebrows. In fact, a study by Resume Go showed that candidates with employment gaps were 45% less likely to land a job interview. What, pray tell, is a recruiting superstar to do in a situation like this?

Well, first of all, don’t write off candidates with employment gaps without giving them a fair shake. Because there are plenty of good reasons why an employment gap may have occurred. And by dismissing those candidates without learning the why of it all – you might just be missing out on your next great hire! Fortunately, working the right strategies into your recruiting process can help you effectively evaluate top talent regardless of gaps in their work history.

Strategies for evaluating candidates with employment gaps

The key to fairly assessing a candidate with an employment gap is to take a holistic approach that considers a variety of factors. But first, simply ask the question.

  • Allow the candidate to explain the employment gap: There are any number of reasons for a candidate to have an employment gap. As a recruiter or hiring manager, it’s your job to gather all relevant information to develop a complete picture of a candidate’s background and experience. Resist the urge to side-step the question and be direct but empathetic. Often, employment gaps can be due to illness, caring for a family, pursuing education, or a number of other reasons. But gaining an understanding up front arms you with the information you need to make a fair assessment. After all, some of the reasons for an employment gap may actually be beneficial. For example, if a candidate was obtaining training or a relevant certification that would ultimately add to their skill set.
  • Evaluate the candidate as a whole: Every candidate is unique and brings something different to the table. During the screening process, it’s critical to paint a picture of the candidate from a 360 degree perspective. Focus on skills and achievements to better determine whether they’re a good fit for the role you’re sourcing. Ask open-ended questions to get a sense of culture fit, future goals, and past experiences that have shaped a candidate’s personality and work ethic. By evaluating the candidate as a whole, you’ll develop an understanding of whether they may or may not fit in a particular role.
  • Be empathetic: It’s important for recruiters to be empathetic when discussing career gaps with candidates. Especially in situations where the employment gap is due to personal reasons that may be sensitive in nature. In these situations, recruiters and hiring leaders need to exercise not just empathy, but also diplomacy, and interpersonal skills to engender trust with candidates. Phrase your questions carefully and be sure you’re conveying genuine curiosity, compassion, and no judgement to make the whole interaction a positive experience for both parties.
  • Keep an eye out for ‘hidden’ experiences: Everything from summer internships to maintaining a cash register at the corner grocery store can be relevant in terms of experience but may not always make their way on to a professional resume. That’s why it’s important to examine a candidate’s broader experience to identify potential hidden skills that may not be readily apparent but make the candidate a stronger option.
  • Ask relevant questions: Some candidates make an effort to stay updated on the trends and happenings in their industry during employment gaps demonstrating their commitment to the industry. Recruiters and hiring leaders can ask pointed, relevant questions to ascertain whether a candidate has remained up to speed on important industry trends which can offset any negative connotations associated with the employment gap.
  • Maintain an unbiased approach: Unconscious recruiter bias is a reality in talent acquisition – but it doesn’t have to be. When addressing an employment gap, approach it with an open mind and try to avoid injecting bias into the situation by making assumptions. This is where effective communication with candidates is crucial to ensure you have a clear picture of what your candidate has to offer.

Should employment gaps really be concerning?

The short answer is – no. If a candidate meets the evaluation criteria and the reason for the employment gap is not something which would disqualify them from performing in the role, there’s no good reason to eliminate them from consideration. In many cases, career breaks can be highly beneficial and can contribute to the overall growth and success of an organization.

How AI Sourcing Tools Can Help

Sourcing top talent is hard enough in the competitive landscape of today. Recruiters need effective ways to navigate challenges like employment gaps in order to maintain an edge over the competition. While the strategies referenced above are a great place to start, another powerful piece of the puzzle lies in having the right sourcing technology. With an AI sourcing tool such as the Arya platform, recruiters are empowered to rapidly source the candidates most likely to excel in the role.

Built on multiple machine learning models, Arya leverages predictive analytics, and utilizes 7 multidimensional data points and 300+ attributes to source, score and rank talent for compatibility. Arya looks deeper than any other AI sourcing tool to gain a holistic understanding of candidate compatibility. The amount of data Arya provides during candidate search and match allows recruiters to see the total picture of a candidate with or without an employment gap. Plus – Arya has built-in candidate masking capability that enables recruiters to eliminate unconscious recruiter bias related to employment gaps. Arya also automates recruiter workflows and streamlines manual sourcing processes, freeing up recruiters to focus on building relationships with candidates. If you’re ready to take your recruiting game to the next level, book your 1:1 demo of Arya today.


  • https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-evaluate-resume-employment-gaps.aspx

Danielle Cunningham


Danielle Allery is a skilled corporate recruiter with a proven track record of matching top talent with the right teams. Her experience at Leoforce, combined with a Bachelor's in Human Resources, fuels her expertise in understanding organizational needs and candidate potential. Danielle's passion for building relationships and maping candidate journeys makes her a trusted advisor in the recruitment content space. Outside of work, you'll find her unwinding with friends, family, and a dose of reality TV!

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