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Mar 28

No. 69: Lab Tech Resume Gaps: What Can They Tell You?

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Lab Tech Resume Gaps: What Can They Tell You?

Reader question: Several potential candidates for our lab tech position have "resume gaps"; apparently they have been unemployed for various periods of time. They blame it on layoffs and the poor economy. I personally prefer to hire a person who has been working right up to the present. But I have heard that it may now be against regulations to "discriminate" in hiring according to employment status. Is that correct? How do I differentiate between these good workers but unemployed through no fault of their own" and the "unemployed because they were poor performers"?

Expert Comments: This has been an awful recession, and there have been many stellar employees laid off. Still, employees who are laid off usually had significantly worse job performance in previous jobs than those who left their last job voluntarily. And performance in a previous position is job-related.

At the same time, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently held a hearing on employer discrimination against unemployed job seekers. But the commission lacks statutory authority regarding this issue unless it can link refusal to hire laid-off workers with protected worker classifications — race, sex and disabilities, among others.

During the hearing, the EEOC sought to create this link by saying minorities and other protected groups were disproportionately unemployed. Therefore, discriminating against the unemployed in hiring decisions also unduly impacted protected classes. Although the commission showed there might be a disparate impact, it did not show that protected classes were actually negatively affected more than others.

Bottom-line advice: A resume gap is cause to dig deeper — if you think someone has the qualifications and check references, you may have found one of the stars who lost a job through no fault of their own. Or they may have been a poor or declining performer. Don’t automatically toss resumes with gaps, but you can see it as a red flag that requires you to confirm or refute whether the gap is related to previous job-performance.

Expert comments by Richard Bales, professor of law and associate dean of faculty development at Salmon P. Chase School of Law at Northern Kentucky University in Newport, Ky. Professor Bales contributes to the Workplace Prof Blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/.

Note: The above comments are intended as general information only, and not as legal advice for any particular case. Consult professional counsel for any individual situation you face.

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Comments (5)
written by Laid-Off PhD, March 28, 2011
Appreciate your covering this topic, and your general advice is good. But the expert ignores the "grapevine effect"--subterra and private telcons etc. What was my sin? I was not "politically corect; I doubted adequare scientific proof for some ills the "Power Structure" attributd to climate change. So, UNDER COVER of economic slowdown, a way was found to classify my section as redundant. I can only ask, that as you interviw your candidates from the unemployed pool, you look for a possible gem displaced because he followed his scientific idealism rather than his boss's politics.
written by David E. Harrison, March 28, 2011
"Bottom-line advice: A resume gap is cause to dig deeper"
Excellent advice. To dig, the first thing is to ask the candidate why.
The second is to check whether the answer fits what the references say about the candidate.
I hired a person with a gap who turned out just fine. However I checked to verify the candidate's reasons, and actually found that the reference gave stronger and more cogent reasons than the candidate did!
Certified Fraud Examiners Viewpoint
written by M782427, March 29, 2011
Dear Investigators:

Professor Bales is correct, but I wish to add that one must do more than a simple Google search. One must find out about the firm that the former employee worked for = due diligence

Do theses employers strike you as reputable employers: Enron, Worldcom, Conseco, & Madoff? Review court records, review OIG reports, etc. Need I say more? Answer: Yes! To assume that the employer has and is the authority, knowledge, and will not lie, or has even the slightest personal knowledge about the abilities, attitudes, knowledge, etc. of a possible future employee lacks due diligence.

The employer cited here not only lacks due diligence, but lacks the most rudimentary knowledge about employment law. Note: How about the Ph.D. who took 9 months off for pregnancy, or the Ph.D. who took off 1 year to care for his wife dying from cancer, or for the parents who needed to take a year off to care for their son who lost his legs in Afghanistan. The only 'gap' by this employer is between his/her ears!

In a private experience, our contract was terminated when I investigated to close to the top. But then again, why would anyone terminate a Certified Fraud Examiner with a legal investigation team, who was making the investigation a 'little warm' for top executives, (Corporate Miranda) who may be under investigation by federal and state authorities?

written by Dr. Draconian, April 05, 2011
OK, we're all sorry for the tech without a job. "There but for the Grace of God go I (or my child) etc..." But, aren't we being a little too PC here? We know certain thngs as scientists--why deny them?. (A) The cream rises to the top. (B) Sediment settles to the bottom. Did the applicant not contribute in SOME way to his/her dismissal? Exception: maybe the whole university went bankrupt and shut down, with layoff of all living persons? A plausible excuse--except I have never heard of such a thing, or it must be very uncommon. Otherwise, let's get real....Is it any wonder business is so hesitant to fund scientists when this sort of overwrought sympathy is extended to questionable candidates before they've even been grilled? I can only pray not many corporate execs and foundation program officers aren't peeking at these posts.
Whistleblowers suffer
written by Fired for Honesty, July 11, 2011
My career ended after 12+ months of unemployment. My crime? Refusing to say "yes ma'am" to my boss when she wanted to publish fake data under my name. With the increasing level of fraud in research, a frequent cause of unemployment is refusal to violate moral and ethical standards. Gift authors. Ghost authors. Tweaked data. Blatantly made up data. It happens, and if you do not play ball and at least condone and sign off on such unethical behaviour, you will end up with a sizeable gap on your resume. It's no longer the cream that rises to the top, it's the ones who can make themselves look like cream - by any means necessary.

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