Working mums and job seekers with gaps in their employment history have been advised to fight bias against them by focusing on their years worked.

People who have spent time away from work sometimes find themselves facing discrimination from employers over the gaps in their history.

A study by Nature Human Behaviour says researchers explored practical ways to overcome the bias faced by job seekers as they try to re-enter the workforce after a career break.

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In a series of experiments involving over 9,000 UK job vacancies, applicants were eight percent more likely to receive a call back from an employer when their previously held jobs were listed with the number of years worked, instead of specifying employment dates.

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When compared to those with an employment gap on their CV, those with years of experience had a 15 percent higher chance of getting a call back.

Now, Dr. Ariella S. Kristal, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and the study’s lead co-author, said hiring managers can incorporate the measure into standard recruitment practices.

She said: “Hiring managers can add this intervention to their toolbox of ‘debiasing’ strategies – that is, by explicitly requesting that all résumés be submitted with years instead of dates – just as ‘blinding’ résumés has become commonplace in many settings.”

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The first experiment compared the employment prospects of job-seeking mothers in a real-world setting with real employers.

It was discovered redesigned CVs that displayed the number of years of job experience gave job seekers a better chance of a successful application than traditional CVs that displayed dates.

The result was consistent for CVs with and without an employment gap, as well as when the employment gap was explained by the sentence: “Left to become a full-time mother and care for my children.”

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Researchers found that when they expanded the study to include male job seekers in a follow-up laboratory experiment, the findings were replicated, with the modified CV outperforming even the condition with no employment gap.

In a final experiment, researchers discovered that whether the success of the redesigned CV was dependent on the amount of experience a candidate had, it was effective whether job applicants had five or 15 years’ total working experience.

Oliver Hauser, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Exeter Business School and senior co-author of the study said: “The results of our field experiment offer applicants a promising and effective strategy to overcome barriers to work re-entry,”

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“While the onus should not be on unemployed applicants to prevent bias against them, there is plenty of evidence to suggest job applicants with employment gaps face lower employment prospects.

“We found that by replacing the standard employment dates on the résumé with the length of time of employment applicants are highlighting their experience to prospective employers, thus eliminating employment gap penalties that hinder these applicants’ advancement beyond the first gateway of the selection process.”

Leonie Nicks, a Senior Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team and a co-author of the study said: “The vast majority of people out of the workforce for caring responsibilities are women, so reducing discrimination against this kind of employment gap is critical for reducing the gender pay gap,”

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The researchers say their study provides a practical and costless method of counteracting bias and stereotyping in the recruitment process by focusing attention on positive associations such as accumulated experience instead of employment gaps.

Dr. Ariella S. Kristal, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and lead co-author of the study added: “Our intervention helping people return to work after a prolonged unemployment spell is not only critical for working mothers but has also shown promise for men and women alike, both with and without employment gaps,”.

While primarily aimed at job applicants, the researchers say their study also contributes to understanding how stereotyping can be overcome and could help organisations design their hiring processes.

Source: Business Live

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