Can we lay to rest the idea that asking candidates about their employment gaps will alert you to whether someone was terminated from a past job (and is therefore ineligible for employment with you)?
First of all, asking someone about their “gap” tells you nothing about whether or not they got terminated from their last job.
Secondly, people get terminated every day for essentially no reason because in the United States, that is completely legal.
Thirdly and maybe the most important point is that there is such a thing as an energetic mismatch, and an energetic mismatch will get a good employee fired quicker than any legitimate performance problem will.
What is an energetic mismatch?
It’s a situation where a manager hires a person they think will be great in the job, but the two of them don’t get along.
The employee is perfectly qualified, but they are not the hiring manager’s cup of tea.
If a manager and an employee don’t see eye to eye, who wins? The manager does, of course.
The employee has to go.
We do not know how to say to an employee, You are a fine person but it’s not working out, so let’s part friends, and here is three months of severance as a cushion because we hired you in good faith and you took the job in good faith and tried your best.
I had these conversations sometimes as an HR leader but conversations like this don’t happen much anymore, except at the executive level.
Instead, the manager starts a paper trail – and sadly, HR tells them they must start a paper trail even if they don’t want to, because if they are going to fire someone it has to be for cause.
They do not want their unemployment rate to go up, so they drum up a fake case against the employee who has done literally nothing wrong.
The person who was terminated, bruised by their experience at the hands of their former employer but eager to start a new job, may be the best employee you ever hired.
So if you are asking candidates about their gaps to make sure they have never been fired, please stop. It’s a pointless question.
Think about the question, “Have you ever been fired?”
The question suggests that every boss out there, every manager and supervisor and team leader, has better judgment than the intelligent and capable person sitting in front of you – the candidate.
The question presumes that if someone has been fired, they were fired for a good reason and are damaged goods. We all know that is ridiculous.
Don’t ask people about their gaps. Don’t reject a candidate because you suspect or know for a fact they were fired from a past job.
It’s a new day. We are smarter now, and more human. We understand the complexities of human relationships.
Recruiting is about inviting amazing people into your organization – not coming up with silly reasons to weed people out.