It has long been known that we should do all we can to avoid unexplained gaps on our resumes, but a recent study from researchers at Ghent University, KU Leuven, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and University of Oxford attempts to shed some light on just why employers think the way they do about long spells of unemployment.
Central to this perception is the unseen (in terms of what we put on our resumes).
“Recruiters judging job candidates are confronted with very limited information. They use this information to predict other factors that drive productivity. In this respect, a main finding of our research is that recruiters perceive long-term unemployment as a signal of lower motivation. This turns out to be the most important explanation for the fact that long-term unemployed job candidates are immediately rejected,” the authors say.
What’s more, the long-term unemployed are also regarded as lacking in a number of other areas, including social skills, technological knowledge, ability to learn and their intellect more generally. Whilst this appears pretty damning however, it is actually the perception that they lack motivation that matters most.
There is also a strong social proof element at play, with recruiters often believing that the long-term unemployed had been rejected by lots of other people just like them, so if others had found them not worth employing, why should they do any different?
It all paints a pretty bleak picture of life if you’ve been out of work for an extended period, so what can you do to improve matters? One obvious strategy would be to ensure you include as much information as you can that highlights your motivation for the job. You should be careful to ensure this is professionally orientated however and not general motivation, so spells spent volunteering, for instance, might not do you much good.