I’ve recruited for top companies across Europe and North America. As an executive recruiter and recruitment consultant I partnered with talented people across countless industries to help get them in front of decision makers.
As a resume writing consultant and interview coach, I’ve worked with the 1% in helping secure them interviews with their target companies and helping them navigate the interview.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many Mothers returning to the workplace. One of the most common career-related concerns they have about returning is the gap on the resume.
Now this fear isn’t exactly unfounded. In a study conducted by Kate Weisshar, an assistant professor of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill, it was found that there was indeed a bias against parents returning to the workforce after an absence. That study found that stay-at-home moms were half as likely to get a call-back from a job application as unemployed moms, and one-third as likely to get a response than employed parents.
A staggering finding! In undertaking the study, 3,374 fictitious resumes were dispatched to live job postings in 50 U.S. cities over a period of several months between 2015 and 2016. The responses were then tracked to chart which applicants received interviews or requests for further information.
The results confirmed what many moms returning to the workforce fear. Only 4.9% of stay-at-home moms received a callback from potential employers, compared to 9.7% of unemployed mothers and 15.3% of working mothers.
Writing in HBR.org, the author of the study found that “The results show just how heavily parents reentering the workforce are penalized for their career gap….. people viewed both unemployed applicants and stay-at-home applicants as less capable than continuously employed applicants” She went on to say that “Respondents viewed stay-at-home parents as less reliable, less deserving of a job, and — the biggest penalty — less committed to work, compared with unemployed applicants.”
Ok, so this study supports what many stay-at-home moms instinctively knew.
So what do we do about it?
Revamp Your Resume – Demonstrate Your Value
Well, no matter the size of the gap the approach is the same.
What you’re looking to do here is to showcase the true value proposition you have to offer the target company.
You’re not looking to immediately highlight the gap in employment, so maybe you should consider using a functional-style resume or a combination/hybrid style document?
We need the target employer to focus almost exclusively on what you can do for their company and build out that messaging early on in the resume.
Can you increase sales, improve efficiency, enhance productivity, remedy deficiencies, win new business, or manage client relationships? Whatever it is you do, you need to focus on that and focus on how well you did it before leaving the workforce.
The main benefit here is that we present your value early on in the resume so we effectively ‘sell you in’ on your existing skills, accomplishments, and experience while making sure we do so in a high-impact yet accessible manner.
Identify & Document New Skills and Experiences
In addition to that, consider the new skills and personal attributes you’ve accrued since you’ve been away from the workforce.
I’m quite certain you will have developed an entire catalogue of new soft skills, haven’t you? Patience, communication, leadership, mediation, conflict resolution, anger management..just kidding. Did I mention patience?
What else have you done? Are you a member of the Parent-Teacher Association at your child’s school? Have you volunteered at community events? Have you helped organize or coordinate any of these events? Did you sign-up to support your child’s sports club? If so, what did you do?
Is there a family business you assist with? One of my client’s was amazed when we identified and catalogued all the work she did for her husband’s practice. In her mind it was “just a bit of administration” until we started talking about it.
She did the bookkeeping, records management, social media marketing, created marketing collateral, troubleshot basic IT issues, processed orders, and liaised with customers. Guess what? We can use this on a resume!
Leverage Your Network
Why rely on sending in online job applications? According to the study referenced earlier, chances of success are less than 5%. Get out there and use your network!
Start with the people you used to work with. They know you, can vouch for you, understand what a good worker you are.
Who have you met since you’ve been out of the workforce? Leverage any contact you have – other parents, people you’ve built relationships with in the community, whoever else you interact with on a regular basis. If appropriate, make it known that you’re looking to get back in the saddle and you never know where that may lead.
Make sure you have a nicely formatted version of your resume to hand over in person that they can take away with them and review or pass it on to someone in a position to hire you.
The bottom line is you have to know what you want and be prepared to use all available resources and contacts to help you get it.
Sometimes after a career break, it can be hard to ‘get back in that mindset’ again. Take the time to yourself that you need to understand what you want to accomplish, appreciate all the skills, attributes, prior professional accomplishments, and future value you can bring to an employer.
Consider the fact that many, many people understand the work ethic, commitment, and diligence associated with working parents. You’re coming back to the workforce, you want to continue your career, and provide for your family. All in all, that’s a powerful combination.