Let’s talk about career gaps

How to discuss a sabbatical in an interview.

After living through a global pandemic, a volatile economy, and changes in the workplace for the past two years, some of you may have chosen to take a break from your careers. Whether you paused to be a stay-at-home parent or reassess your priorities, on paper, your professional life may appear to have been interrupted. But if you decide to rejoin the workforce, how do you explain a resume gap? Sidekick spoke with two talent and recruitment professionals—Erin Scruggs, VP of talent acquisition at LinkedIn, and Neesha Guliani, senior recruiter at Mineral—for their tips on discussing sabbaticals.

First, negative stigmas associated with career breaks are “starting to change,” Scruggs told Sidekick, adding that almost half of hiring managers believe people with resume gaps are talent waiting to be tapped, according to a LinkedIn survey.

“What employers are realizing is that there are many benefits for taking a career break: learning a new skill, raising a family, or finding a new passion in life,” she said.

But if you’re still unsure how to approach the conversation with a recruiter, Scruggs and Guliani recommend taking these steps:

  • Think about the benefits of your break. Write them down if you need to. “Candidates should take some time to think about what their break brought them—from new skills to a mental health refresh—and spend time practicing how to discuss this period,” Scruggs explained, noting that it might help you “better appreciate the learnings” from a career gap.

  • Add it to your documents. If it was a recent break, add it to your resume or your LinkedIn profile, Guliani and Scruggs recommend. LinkedIn, for instance, launched a feature explicitly for adding career breaks to your profile, including options such as bereavement, caregiving, layoff, and more.

  • Be transparent when speaking with a recruiter. “Whoever you’re talking to is also a person who has a life outside of work and has situations that come up in their life that are unforeseen,” Guliani said. “There’s a lot of empathy that we’re taught as recruiters and hiring managers.”

  • Talk about your transferable skills. “Having a career gap…should not affect your marketability to future employers. [Be] optimistic and positive about how the skills you’ve learned in your time away could positively impact the organization you’re seeking a job with,” Guliani said. Taking online courses on YouTube or LinkedIn Learning to upskill can also help.

This article was authored by Sabrina Sanches and published on April 4, 2022.