7 tips for businesses hiring career-breakers

Your organisation feels distinctly male and stale at the moment - and you're having trouble recruiting people with the skills and experience you need. Where to look?

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 17 Oct 2016

1. Broaden your talent pool. Bringing back women - and men - who've had an extended career break enables you to tap into badly needed skills, meet diversity targets, and introduce fresh thinking. 'Returners bring a different perspective - not just of being a parent, but of having stepped out of the workforce and come back,' says Julianne Miles, founder of coaching and consultancy organisation Women Returners.

2. Reach out. The odds are stacked against those who've had an extended break: they are often lacking confidence, that career gap makes it hard to get through the initial CV screen, and if they make it to interview, their presentation is unlikely to be as polished as those currently working. 'Your recruitment advertising needs to spell out to returners they are welcome to apply,' says Miles. 'They have often been rejected so many times they won't bother otherwise.'

3. Bring your team onside. Before you launch a returners programme, make sure there is an appetite for it in the business, says Jessica Chivers, author of Mothers Work! and founder of consultancy Talent Keepers. 'Explain the benefits to your line managers, and consider running a trial in one department where there is a particular need for greater diversity.'

4. Try before you buy. A Goldman Sachs-style 'returnship' is an internship for returners - which may or may not lead to a job. Returners should be paid a going rate, typically over a 12-week period, to undertake an assignment worthy of their CV. 'Induct them in making the most of the opportunity,' says Chivers. 'That means them understanding their strengths and learning how to network in the organisation.'

5. Offer practical support. Identify skills gaps, and provide hands-on coaching to get your returners up to speed. 'Your line managers will need to spend more time with these individuals, helping them out particularly with things like technology and processes, where these have changed,' says Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

6... And psychological. 'One aim of coaching is to help returners re-build their professional identify and redevelop their self-belief,' says Miles. 'Be careful, some returners push themselves because they're trying to over-prove and that leads to early burnout.'

7. Get flexing. Consider parents and others with caring responsibilities. Offer different options - part time, four day weeks, job sharing. 'You need to move the whole culture from one of presenteeism to one where outputs are valued,' says Chivers. 'For everyone.'

Do say: 'If you have the experience we need, we will help you to transition into an appropriate role and put your career back on track.'

Don't say: 'Anyone who's been out of the job for six months is no use to us.'


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