Monday Management Minute: Addressing a Candidate's Resume Gap

The majority of chief financial officers find it challenging to recruit skilled candidates for professional-level positions, according to a recent Robert Half survey. That’s why it's more important than ever for a hiring manager to be efficient when filling in-demand accounting and finance jobs. Considering the cost of a bad hire, it's critical to carefully evaluate each application. But what happens if your top pick has a resume gap?

In this week’s Monday Management Minute, we’ll take a look at assessing an applicant with an atypical professional history. 

What is a resume gap?

There are two types of resume gaps:

  • A slight shortage in skills. In this case, the candidate demonstrates some of the relevant skills, training and experience. Perhaps the “nice-to-have” requirements aren't all there, but the candidate may have compensated in another way.
  • A break in work history. This happens when there's a period of unaccounted time on a resume. For example, perhaps the candidate has chosen not to list a former position on his resume because it doesn’t relate to accounting and finance jobs. Or it could represent a period of unemployment.

Inquiring about a resume gap

It’s wise to be cautious and considerate when broaching the subject in an interview. If a break in work history, for example, was a result of a personal tragedy or injury, managers may not be able to consider this information in making a hiring decision due to legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Be sure to get legal guidance before finalizing your questions about a work history resume gap. 

How can you evaluate skills gaps during the interview?

You can be more comfortable overlooking a candidate with skills shortages on his or her resume if you proactively “test” for them during the job interview. Here are some tips:

Quiz for technical skills. For example, if the position is for a mid-level staff accountant, you could create a sample sub-ledger with some intentional errors. During the interview, you can ask the candidate to identify the inconsistencies and describe how best to find a resolution. If using this approach, be sure to tailor it to address the skill area in which you have concerns.

Evaluate soft skills. Remember that soft skills are key for finance and accounting professionals as they interact more frequently throughout the organization. To evaluate these, ask questions based on an identified issue. Examples:

  • If a controller candidate has never had direct reports but has had experience leading cross-functional teams, you might ask, “How would you apply your leadership skills to managing employees who report to you?” Another good question: “What do you think your biggest challenge will be in leading your own team?” 
  • With a financial analyst, ask the candidate to pretend he’s addressing an executive committee charged with approving a new business strategy. Give the candidate a set of fictional data and budget objectives, and have him give a brief presentation to persuade the panel on a pre-defined position. 

Outmaneuvering a resume gap

If a minor resume gap is preventing you from hiring a candidate who would otherwise be great fit for your team, is there away to remedy the situation? For example, your firm could establish a mentoring or training program for the new hire to help address gaps in skill or experience. Of course, this requires buy-in from multiple parties. The mentor must be willing to lead the training, and the new hire has to acknowledge a gap exists and be open to on-the-job mentoring.

What sorts of questions have you asked a candidate with a resume gap? Share in the comments section below.  

Photo credit: Arz