LinkedIn de-stigmatizes workplace absence via new career breaks function on profiles

 April 19, 2022

LinkedIn has introduced a Career Break function on LinkedIn Profiles to make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations around the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace.

Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn's Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, shares how LinkedIn members can now spotlight career breaks on their profiles.

LinkedIn introduces Career Breaks


As a talent acquisition professional, Jennifer has interviewed hundreds — maybe even thousands — of candidates, and more and more frequently she is seeing people take much needed breaks from their careers.

"Over the past few years, we’ve seen these work pauses increase even more as the pandemic upended the traditional workplace. Many people were forced to leave their jobs; others chose to take a career break to better manage life outside of work. Women especially have been impacted, with 54 million women out of jobs globally during the first year of the pandemic," Jennifer explains.

"To understand more about career breaks, we recently surveyed nearly 23,000 workers and more than 4,000 hiring managers and found that nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of employees have taken a break at some point in their professional career, and just over a third (35 per cent), mostly women, would like to take a career break in the future," she says. Yet even with career breaks becoming more popular, some hiring managers are still hesitant to pursue those who have taken a break — indeed, one in five hiring managers say they outright reject such candidates.

"But we’re also seeing a shift in perspective: we’ve found that nearly half of employers believe candidates with career breaks are an untapped talent pool," comments Jennifer.

The company has introduced Career Breaks on the LinkedIn Profile and is hoping this new feature will make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations around the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace.

Capturing a job seeker’s life experiences

LinkedIn has rolled out the ability for its members to add a Career Break to their Profile, whether it was taken for full-time parenting, bereavement, caregiving, a gap year, layoff, or other life needs or experiences. The company has heard from its members, including 68 per cent of women, who’ve said they wanted more ways to positively represent their career breaks by highlighting skills learned and experiences they had during a work pause.

And for talent professionals, these highlighted pauses will soon show up in Recruiter when they search for candidates. They will be able to see how the life experiences and skills people have built while they are away will match the skills that recruiters are looking for in their open roles.

“At Amazon, we understand that whether planned or unplanned, life happens and careers can be interrupted,” says Alex Mooney, senior manager of DEI talent acquisition with Amazon.

“When a professional pauses their career, the decision is not taken lightly and we believe that restarting a career should not be as challenging as some find it to be. LinkedIn’s Career Breaks will help recruiters more easily identify talented professionals who are on a break and align them to opportunities such as the Amazon Returnship Program," Alex adds.

Embrace candidates who have taken a career break

Professionals who take a career break are often polishing skills or developing new ones. What some employers may not realize are the varied benefits that a career break can bring: fresh perspectives, new skills, and a renewed sense of energy.

"Over half (56 per cent) of employees say they acquired new skills or improved existing ones — such as problem-solving, communication, and budgeting — during their career break. And over half (54 per cent) of women say they are better at their job than they were before," says Jennifer.

During a five-year career break dedicated to raising a family, LinkedIn member Kristan Gross never stopped improving her skills — learning how to better lead people, manage budgets, and plan strategically. She says she also grew in emotional intelligence, “all the things I would be doing in a managerial position,” says Kristan, now the executive director of the Vision Impact Institute.

“I was doing while managing three very different personalities — all of whom were under the age of four. Don't ever diminish the value of resume gaps; life is often the very best teacher.”

Spotlighting candidates skills

It is important to embrace candidates who have taken career breaks by spotlighting their skills and rethinking go-to interview questions While it may take some time to de-stigmatize career breaks globally, there are some things companies can be doing now, especially during the interview process.

"We found half (51 per cent) of employers would more likely call a candidate back if they knew the context of why they took a career break," Jennifer comments.

Here is what LinkedIn is doing, along with some tips for employers:

  • Recognize the whole person - rather than looking only at a candidate’s most recent experience — whether that’s a career break or their latest job — recruiters are advised to remember to look at the full set of skills they’ve developed throughout their lived experiences, whether those experiences be personal or professional. Identify what abilities they need for the role at hand and assess candidates against that — and that only
  • Skills know no boundaries - as LinkedIn's insights show, a career break is a time when people learn and develop new skills. Think of a new parent or someone who is taking a break for caregiving responsibilities: compassion, empathy, and caring are all skills they’ve likely developed during this time. Employers are encouraged to make sure to ask about the skills a person has — and what they want to learn in the role — and how those can be applied to the open role
  • Help candidates put their best foot forward - LinkedIn knows that the interview process can be nerve-racking for anyone, especially if candidates have been out of the workforce for some time. Recruiters are encouraged to help the interviewee be made to feel comfortable and shine by asking questions that are inclusive of those who might be coming off of a career break. LinkedIn encourages recruiters to provide the candidate with an opportunity to share what they have learned that could be applied to the role, regardless of whether that skill was learned outside of work. Example questions include, what are some things you learned during your break? How would you apply those skills in this role?

PARTNER CONTENT: Developed in collaboration to support IWD's Women and Work Mission.


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