Collectively, we all accept some things in hiring as absolute truth. You can't have gaps in your résumé, you have to have the right kind of degree, the right references, the right things on paper that help you pass an algorithm test.
But unless you're Carl's Jr. and about to replace nearly all your workers with kiosks, you're not hiring an algorithm. You are hiring someone to help your company succeed. Somewhere along the line, HR lost its way.
It's not HR's fault. Online applications meant that thousands of résumés were coming to its inbox. To process those kinds of submissions, HR had to filter résumés. By making the process to apply easier, we took the nuance out of hiring and made it binary--a data set of 1's and 0's.
We started looking at which résumé met the most prerequisites. There was no opportunity to explain a gap in your résumé or why your experience was more valuable than where your degree was from.
Why Companies Are Changing How They Look at Jobs
There are a variety of factors swinging the hiring pendulum back to employees. The steady retirement of Boomers is creating more open positions. Millennials, who value different things in their careers, are filling these positions. They start businesses, have side hustles, and bounce back and forth in their careers knowing from an early age that 40 years with any company is never going to be a possibility.
As companies look to attract top Millennial talent, they are adjusting their policies and opening doors not just for Millennials. Flexible work environments, work-from-home, and looking past gaps in résumés to snag Millennials are also opening doors for three million women who have taken breaks to raise a family or help take care of an older family member.
Filling Objectives, Not Job Descriptions
Another factor is that companies are looking less at filling vague job descriptions and more toward finding creative and cost-effective ways of meeting specific business needs. If your goal as a company is to solve for a specific objective rather than fill a checklist, then gaps in a résumé don't matter. You're just looking for the best, proven talent you can find.
Make Women Feel Welcome
So how do you attract all of these talented women to your organization? "Equal pay, more flexibility, and more purpose," said Amy Jo Martin, New York Times best-selling author of Renegades Write the Rules and host of the Why Not Now? podcast. "It's possible these women are in a life place where they'll be more attracted to companies that have a 'for purpose and for profit' economic model."
Creating the On-Ramp
Addie Swartz, CEO and founder of ReacHIRE, has been innovating how companies onboard returning women, working with Boston Scientific, Fidelity, and more.
"Women that are coming back have strong life skills and have had to negotiate their way around a lot of things," said Swartz. "They are used to compromising and navigating different situations and personalities. Anyone out more than two years needs to be updated, refreshed, because jobs are different and have more sophisticated systems. Technology changes significantly. But returning women are strong, thoughtful, capable professionals who can contribute greatly given the opportunity."
What currently holds companies back from hiring returning women is the perceived time and cost of having to train them in new systems. Some companies don't try at all. Some offer jobs that are less critical, pay less, and have less responsibility in order to mitigate risk.
Swartz had had unforeseen circumstances force her to leave the work force. "I was motivated. I was working my whole career," said Swartz. "We had a car accident, and suddenly I off-ramped to take care of my daughter." While out, she saw how others couldn't get back in to their careers, and she started working with innovative corporations and companies.
It's a Project
Swartz partners with companies to create six-month projects, helping to mitigate risk for the company and create a positive commitment to hiring returning women.
Her company identifies roles and develops custom training for the corporation, and then attracts, selects, and trains women. The women come in as a group so they can lean on and grow with one another and live support is provided.
"If we keep going like we are going, it will take 100 years to have parity in the C-suite," said Swartz. "We need more programs that think about on-ramping women, identifying talent that is hidden, and how to repurpose their talent so they are successful."
Corporate social responsibility is a major department in any large company. Swartz has proven that you can tie CSR, HR, and business objectives in a rare win-win-win, but she's right: We need more, much more if we're going to put three million women back in the work force.