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  • Report
  • 4th Jun 2021

Facilitating return to the labour market with a novel CV format intervention

Research report

Key findings

  • How can small changes to CVs improve #genderequality at work? We found that presenting previous roles in terms of years of experience vs. chronological dates increased positive callbacks by 14.6%. This could help women with CV gaps get back to the office.
  • 91% of returners to work are women, but a #CV gap makes recruiters more likely to dismiss applications. So what’s the best way to present a gap in employment? 📅 Chronological dates 💻 Years of experience 🤷 Unexplained gap

We ran a randomised controlled trial, comparing four equivalent CVs and cover letters, with the following differences in the way the employment history was described: 

  1. Unexplained gap (control): Gap of 2.5 years since last job left unexplained 
  2. Currently employed: No gap 
  3. Explained gap: Gap of 2.5 years since last job explained for childcare 
  4. No dates: Dates of employment history replaced with the number of years’ experience 

We applied to 9,022 job vacancies over a 6-month period spanning October 2019 to March 2020. We found that displaying experience in terms of the number of years rather than dates led to a 4.8 percentage point (14.6%) increase in the positive callback rate. Further analysis suggested that the ‘no dates’ CV variant performed best for high skill and full-time roles. 

It made no difference to the callback rate whether the gap was explained for childcare or left unexplained. Qualitative research finds that HR professionals express a preference for an explanation in interviews, but this does not translate to recruitment behaviour.

The difference in callback rates for CVs with and without gaps was not significant. These results do not replicate findings from previous studies in the unemployment literature and may be due to specific contextual factors of this trial. 

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