How to Explain a Long Absence from Paid Work: A Recruiter’s Perspective

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How to Explain a Long Absence from Paid Work: A Recruiter’s Perspective

About the Author

Laura Machan

Laura Machan

Laura Machan is a Partner, Talent Acquisition Group at Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions based in Toronto, Ontario. Although she has been recruiting for quite a few years, she still gets a big thrill from calling someone to set up an interview and an even bigger thrill when she hears a happy dance as she tells them when their new job starts. Laura lives with her family in Oakville, where she has lived for over 25 years, and is a significant contributor to the Canadian Federation of University Women - Oakville and Women in Nuclear, Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

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I have been working with several candidates who have been out of the regular workforce for more than a year. Now that they are getting interviews, they are not sure how to best deal with the questions and concerns about their absence.

This can be tricky because, as a candidate, you don’t know assumptions the interviewer has already made.

The only way to deal with this is to call it out at the first opportunity. If you introduce the length of your absence, how it came about and what you did with the time and present it in a positive light, you will have a good chance of putting their concerns and fears to rest.

Should you say you were “consulting”? If you were actually engaged by a company to do work in your field, then the answer is yes. If that’s the case, be prepared to discuss the nature of the assignment and the results. If the work came about from a referral and because of your reputation, throw this in too.

If you got a really good package after a long career at a single employer, it’s okay to talk about taking the time to reflect before jumping back onto the carousel of work. You might not want to share that you binge watched the entire Netflix library. You can talk about caring for family, taking courses, writing a book or exploring a hobby.

The object is to put this chapter of your career in a positive and constructive light. That’s what hiring managers want to hear. They want to feel comfortable that you are:
a) ready to be back in an organization and
b) not a flight risk.
Those are the real concerns that you need to address.

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