What About the Dreaded Employment “Gap?”

I once talked with a man who had been a stay-at-home dad for seven years but wanted to go back to work. Prior to this, he had been the Chief Financial Officer at a company. His wife died in childbirth, leaving him with two special-needs twin boys. As he was in a good financial position, he decided to quit his job to take care of his sons.

He had the support of his family and friends, but some acquaintances were telling him that he should instead hire a nanny, leave his kids, and go back to his job since he made good money. These people were judgmentally telling him this to his face. It was pretty upsetting.

I believe that was totally intrusive for people not in his immediate circle to be judgmental like that. How he handled a family crisis wasn’t their business anyway! And, unfortunately, hiring managers are often guilty of this exact same behavior, especially when it comes to gaps in employment.

I have concerns about how hiring managers conduct their interviews with a judgmental approach.

  • Many families have special needs children, but they are not sure how much to reveal in an interview. For this father, taking time for professional development or volunteer work to fill that gap wasn’t realistic.
  • Many families also have parents who have special needs. My mother had Alzheimer’s and, as long as I didn’t make commitments to my clients that I couldn’t keep, no one else had the right to judge how I was taking care of her.

FOR AN INTERVIEW

I think it is appropriate to ask someone about a period of time they weren’t working if you are interviewing them. But it is not appropriate to be intrusive and judgmental about their answer. Remember that you will probably be in a similar situation yourself at another point in your life.

If you are the person being interviewed and are comfortable with your personal and family decisions, you don’t need to be defensive. It’s your life, after all. Just tell the truth and you’ll be fine. If they judge, that’s their problem, not yours.