Why Resume Gaps Are Not As Frowned Upon As They Used To Be

Employers have begun seeing resume gaps as less of a red flag due to what happened to the job market during the pandemic.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

resume gaps

The employment world transformed tremendously during the pandemic and continues to do so today. We watched as work shifted to remote or hybrid models, layoffs and furloughs decimated multiple industries, and the Great Resignation took its toll. But one bit of good news that came out of all this upheaval is that resume gaps are no longer a potential red flag.  

Historically, hiring managers or HR representatives would notice any gaps in a candidate’s resume. Many years ago, that may have been enough to dampen dreams of getting hired. And even as that criticism softened over the years, it was still a sticking point before the pandemic.

Candidates who stayed home to be caregivers, or took time off to travel, had to search for creative ways to explain their resume gaps. Sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn’t.

But overall, resume gaps were traditionally frowned upon in most industries. Then the pandemic hit. And the employment world as we once knew it changed irrevocably. 

According to the BBC, “Furloughs and layoffs through spring 2020 left many employees out of full-time jobs, while The Great Resignation saw 47.8 million US workers quit their jobs in 2021 alone – many of them without other positions explicitly lined up.” Additionally, “According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, there are a half-million more UK workers out of the labour force because of long-term illness since the pandemic. Another 1.75 million UK employees have paused their careers due to caring responsibilities, 84% of them women.”

And all of that occurred before the tech industry started laying off workers in droves. Some estimates suggest the tech industry cut 100,000 workers. Often, however, they leave with generous severance packages, which give them time to figure out what their next move is.

The unfortunate side effect of all this upheaval is resume gaps (frequently long ones). But the most intriguing aspect is not the employment pause itself. Instead, it is the fact that many workers are now being open and honest about why they are not working, which differs from past norms. 

Even LinkedIn, a site dedicated to the professional world, now allows members to declare their “career break.” However, even while resume gaps are becoming quite common, it may take some time for HR and hiring managers to fully jump on board. Many still view resume gaps with skepticism, which isn’t necessarily surprising news.

But now, instead of those gaps potentially disqualifying you from a role, it opens up a new line of conversation. Adam Nicoll from Randstad, a recruiting and job consulting firm says, “Unfortunately, there are some hiring managers who will still look at someone taking a career break for mental-health reasons as demonstrating a lack of resilience. On the other hand, no-one will ever think less of someone who’s taken time out to better themselves and learn new skills – it’s a CV gap that’s always been perceived positively.”

So, the good news is that you are not alone if you have a resume gap. But if you took that time to regroup from a mental health standpoint or care for a loved one, consider honing your skills too. That may soften the conversation when you do return to the workplace.