Past research shows that decision-makers discriminate against applicants with career breaks. Career breaks are common due to caring responsibilities, especially for working mothers, thereby leaving job seekers with employment gaps on their résumés. In a preregistered audit field experiment in the United Kingdom (n = 9,022), we show that rewriting a résumé so that previously held jobs are listed with the number of years worked (instead of employment dates) increases callbacks from real employers compared to résumés without employment gaps by approximately 8%, and with employment gaps by 15%.
A series of lab studies (an online pilot and two preregistered experiments; n = 2,650) shows that this effect holds for both female and male applicants—even when compared to applicants without employment gaps—as well as and for applicants with less and more total job experience. The effect is driven by making the applicant’s job experience salient, not as a result of novelty or ease of reading.