Should You Interview People with Gaps in Their Employment History?

If you are eager to find a great clinical or front office team member for your dental practice, you typically want to receive resumes that show longevity and achievement.  However, in a tight labor market, you may not get many resumes at all, and the resumes you receive may not initially motivate you to call the candidate.  This is especially true if resumes show unexplained gaps in employment. 

If, for example, a candidate‚Äôs resume shows a two-year gap since her last position, you may incorrectly dismiss her from consideration, believing there must be something wrong.  What if you learned the candidate had been caring for aging parents or had taken time off to pursue additional education?  How would that impact your decision?  In most cases, there are good reasons why people have gaps between jobs whether it was from a medical issue, starting a family, or gaining education.  Also, if the candidate has a steady work history of several years since the employment gap, the period of time without work has much less relevance than if the employment lapse is recent.

Instead of dismissing candidates for gaps in employment, contact the candidates for a phone interview assuming other parts of the resume look good.  Ask the candidates to walk you through their experience at other practices and what they liked most and least about those positions.  Ask specific, job-related questions to determine if the candidate may be a good fit based on the requirements of the position.  In most cases, as you have conversations with the applicants, they will explain any employment gaps.

What you want to avoid is to probe too deeply about gaps in employment.  If you find out about health and disability-related issues, criminal histories, age-related problems, etc. that are not relevant to the job, then you are more at risk for hiring discrimination lawsuits if you decide not to hire the candidate.  Avoid gathering non-relevant job information that could ultimately bias you when making an employment decision.

You likely already have great team members whose resumes did not initially create a lot of enthusiasm.  Some people are poor resume writers, some are not effective at showcasing their talents, and some are diamonds in the rough.  In order to find good team members in a tight labor market, be more open minded about the resumes you receive.  Do not dismiss candidates just due to gaps in their employment.

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