When returning to the workforce after a sabbatical, be transparent with potential employers and help them understand how the break may help your career, Johnny Taylor Jr. advises. (Photo: Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images)
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: After years of having bad managers, I decided to take a career break. I needed time to reset and spend time with my family. I am now trying to return to the American job market and want to know how to explain my return to the corporate world. How can I make my sabbatical a good selling point? – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: I’m sorry to hear about your string of bad managers. Managers, for better or worse, have immense influence over our experience at work. In fact, more than 84% of American workers say poorly trained people managers create unnecessary work and stress.
While you are far from being the first worker to take a break to recharge, it could be something potential employers inquire about. If they do, honesty is truly the best policy. Explain to your hiring managers that you needed time and space to focus on yourself and your family, but that you are ready and eager to return to the workforce full time.
Whether it’s the rest and rejuvenation this break gave you, the appreciation of the work, or new perspective you acquired in your time off, I encourage you to be transparent with potential employers and help them understand how your unique experiences fit the position and could improve the company’s bottom line.
You don’t mention what type of work you are looking for, but you should reflect: Did you do any freelance, volunteer work, or travel during your break that might have expanded or enhanced your skillset? If possible, connect the dots between your time away and the organization you wish to work for, so potential employers can see how it relates to the job you want.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this answer, it’s this: Don’t focus too much on why you took a break. Rather, hone in on how this was a positive experience for you, what you can bring to the table, and why you would be an asset to your future organization.
Good luck, and welcome back!
Q: With interviews not taking place in typical office settings, what guidelines are in place to ensure employers are still evaluating job candidates fairly? – Anonymous
Taylor: Good question. This year, organizations were forced to rethink business practices across the board. The job application and interview process were no exception – trust me, I know.
While interviews aren’t necessarily happening in person right now, virtual interviews, be it via phone, Skype, or Zoom, are by no means a new thing. In fact, they’ve been quite common now for some time, especially in the early stages of the hiring process.
The same guidelines for interviewing candidates in person also apply to employers interviewing virtually. In fact, when it comes to virtual interviews, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said equal employment opportunity laws do not prohibit the use of specific technologies or methods for selecting employees, and therefore do not prohibit the use of video resumes.
That said, technology – if it is to avoid becoming a tool for discrimination – needs to be wielded wisely. Whether it’s over the telephone, through Zoom, or in a socially distanced setting, employers should prepare for all interviews with the same, or sharper, eye for details.
Some employers use a candidate evaluation form to ensure applicants are being rated in a standardized fashion. Such forms can be used with virtual interviews as they would during in-person interviews. While hiring managers may expand on responses provided to the list of questions, this helps hiring managers stay on track with the questions they ask, keeping interviews fair and consistent. After all, if the goal is selecting the one, best candidate out of many, it’s prudent to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Lastly, if you are interviewing for a job virtually, make sure you are in a quiet, clean, and distraction-free area where you can focus on the conversation. The hiring process might look different, but your effort shouldn’t differ.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2020/11/17/how-get-back-workforce-after-sabbatical-ask-hr/6303322002/