Why a "CV gap" might be exactly what to look for in your next tech hire
What's the most valuable resource in your tech company?
Your code is precious, of course, and so are your systems and customer base. (Those are all pretty irreplaceable.) But the biggest asset at the heart of any organization is its people.
The skills, experience, and intuition that, when brought to bear, drive the creativity and growth of your business.
However, job dissatisfaction in the tech industry is at an all-time high. A recent study of 1,000 UK tech workers found that 77% are unhappy with their jobs and have looked for another one in the past six months.
Similarly, in a Gartner survey conducted in late 2022, 86% of CIOs reported facing more competition for qualified candidates, and 73% said that they were worried about IT talent attrition. Clearly, when it comes to tech talent, demand continues to outstrip supply.
That means that tech businesses need to get smarter when it comes to sourcing the best new talent – and that’s where career returners come in.
Whilst historically a “CV gap” might have raised a red flag, these days that perception is changing. And employers are increasingly waking up to the incredible untapped potential of these recruits.
So, what can career returners do for you?
The curse of the “CV gap”
Today, the traditional “CV gap taboo” still weighs heavily on some career returners.
According to the 2022 Stem Returners Index, 66% of STEM professionals on a career break are finding the process of attempting to return to work either difficult or very difficult, and nearly half (46%) of participants said they felt bias because of a lack of recent experience.
Similarly, 40% of women reported that childcare responsibilities remain a barrier to returning to work, due to a lack of flexibility offered by employers.
However, leading businesses – and the growth in flexible working – are driving change. As the BBC reports, “now that millions of workers have resume gaps, the pressure to explain them away in interviews has eased: there’s a growing acceptance that the best candidate for the role may not have had an uninterrupted career history, for a variety of reasons.”
LinkedIn has even developed a function that makes it easy to highlight career gaps, taking inspiration from their own findings: In a survey of 23,000 workers, they discovered that 62% of employees have taken a break at some point in their professional career.
They also found that 35% of employees, mostly women, would like to take a career break in the future.
Three powerful reasons to employ career returners
So what makes career returners so special, and why are employers looking beyond the traditional taboo?
1) A wealth of wisdom and experience
Let’s think for a moment about the key skills a junior developer requires, beyond entry-level software experience. The best developers can showcase the ability to work in a team, manage their time, problem-solve, think critically, and communicate clearly with others.
These are skills that career returners offer in spades. Thanks to their previous lives, they can bring a wide range of finely honed skills which help them look at problems in different, creative ways and work more effectively.
According to the 2022 STEM Returners Index, 64% of career returners were previously managers or in professional roles, and 58% had more than five years of experience in their field before taking a career break.
And let’s not forget that career returners have likely developed their skills – particularly relating to communication, problem-solving, and time management – whilst away from paid work. According to that LinkedIn survey, 56% of employees say they acquired new skills or improved existing ones during their career break.
That means you’re potentially able to hire a seriously experienced individual into a junior development role – one who will likely continue to learn and advance at a rapid rate.
2) A boost to your diversity
It’s no secret that the tech sector continues to be dominated by white men.
That’s despite long-standing research that has consistently shown that diverse teams are more innovative, more productive, and better at solving complex problems.
Work returners, on the other hand, are diverse.
In the UK in 2023, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.5 million women were out of work due to looking after their family, compared with just 0.2 million men. Across STEM specifically, 46% of returners are female, and 44% are minority ethnic – compared with the 14% female and 9% minority-ethnic makeup of the average STEM organisation.
The increased diversity that these potential recruits bring can help you build a more inclusive, welcoming environment, founded on the creative thinking made possible by a true diversity of thought.
3) The resilience that comes with embracing change
It takes remarkable courage to change career path or to return to work after a time away.
That makes returners some of the most focused, driven, passionate, and resilient workers out there. They aren’t afraid to start over and try something new, to hit roadblocks and find a new way to reach their goal.
For software developers, these are hugely valuable skills. Career returners are, typically, open to learning, able to think creatively, and ready to collaborate effectively with others.
That makes your teams more productive, effective, and loyal – helping you combat some of the excessive churn currently facing the tech industry.
Where do you find the best career returners?
Skilled software developers are easier to find than you might think: Programmes like TechSwitch provide commercially relevant training via an intensive bootcamp that gets learners up to speed with the most useful technologies, tools, and techniques.
These full-stack junior developers don’t know everything, but they understand the fundamental principles of software development. They know how to problem-solve, ask the right questions, and work on larger projects with a wider team.
That gives them everything they need to hit the ground running in their junior developer role, delivering value to their new employer, fast.
The time of the returners is upon us
As traditional career routes fade into the past, and “portfolio” careers grow in popularity, it’s a great time for businesses to tap into the incredible resource of career returners.
Not only do they come with a drive, determination, and resilience that new graduates cannot match, but they also bring a wealth of past experience and soft skills and are typically more diverse than a traditional hire.
With insights and experiences from different walks of life, you can build stronger teams that can better cope with whatever the economy – and world – throws at you.