A Resume Gap Doesn't Mean What You Think

Why bias against candidates with a resume gap is actually a feminist issue


Ashley Cleland, MEd

3 years ago | 2 min read

Ah, the dreaded gap in the resume.

Job seekers worry about it and recruiters wonder what it means when someone has a period of unemployment.

I think this is nonsense.

Recruiters, say it with me, a gap in a resume is not a big deal. It should never be a deal-breaker. Having a gap on the resume says nothing about how hirable, trainable, and valuable a candidate is for the job.

The misconception that it does is super harmful and especially damaging to women.

Women usually leave a job for a good reason.

As an empowered career coach, I speak with people navigating career and life transitions. People usually don’t talk to me when they’re happy and satisfied in their careers.

But I didn’t expect how often I’d hear from women and particularly women of color who escaped workplace harassment, sexual violence, and racism. This is often their primary reason for job loss, even now. These brave women left jobs for their safety and well-being. Leaving a toxic workplace isn’t usually a part of the five-year plan.

Having left a job for similar reasons, I know how hard this decision can be.

When your work is unsafe, waiting until you have a new opportunity can be dangerous.

The gap can grow bigger when you struggle to ask for a reference from a company you’ve left on not great terms. That is on top of barriers that impact women and people of color in hiring processes.

People quit people, not jobs.

A gap on a resume may be there for a variety of reasons. People leave for their safety. People leave because they are brave enough to find something better. People leave because inflexibility that made the job incompatible with family.

For women, especially in the US, lack of support of working mothers can lead to employment gaps. Roughly 40 percent of women with children leave their jobs. Not because they want to, but because they are so inflexible for working parents.

Even more often, people quit people. Research shows 57 percent of employees quit because of their boss.

There are so many reasons to leave a position and we shouldn’t punish people for seeking to be safe and valued. If an employer can’t meet these basic needs, they deserve to be left.

Before you judge a gap on a resume, remember the gap usually gives more information about the former employer than the candidate.

Let’s focus on what people have done rather than what they haven’t.

A gap on a resume doesn’t give you good information about a candidate.

Do you know what does? Experiences. Skills. References.

Let’s engage with a little more grace in our hiring processes. We are hiring complex human beings. Their experiences will vary and that’s a good thing.

We can’t claim to care about equity and then ignore that resume gaps are often caused by sexism and racism.

The solution:

Focus on what candidates have done, not what they haven’t.

It is frankly none of your business why they had a period of unemployment.

It is your business what they can do now.

If you have been laid off or furloughed, you can get a free copy of my digital Job Loss Journal here.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Medium.


Created by

Ashley Cleland, MEd

Ashley is an educator, writer and empowered career coach.







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