Different is Valuable When Returning to the Workforce
At Path Forward, we create return-to-work opportunities in partnership with forward-looking employers such as HubSpot. We asked Shyam Venkatramani, DI&B Recruiting Program Manager, for the employer’s perspective when interviewing job applicants who have a career break on their resume. His insights below provide a thoughtful view on what returners bring to the table and how to make your attributes shine.
* * *
“I’m eager to return to work after several years caring for my family. I’m interested in making a career change and I’m unsure of how to convince employers I have the skills to start something new. How can I demonstrate what I can do when all employers see is what I used to do?”
Career breaks are not uncommon, especially in light of the global pandemic when over 10 million adults have had to leave the workforce for caregiving.
But, it’s difficult to return to work or navigate a career change without the right support and when facing potential bias due to a gap in your resume.
There are a couple key pieces of advice that I’d like to offer based on the interviews we’ve had with returners and other career changers. There are so many impactful ways to emphasize the value that you can bring to companies everywhere.
1. Skills are learned, perspectives are brought
With most jobs, there’s an expectation that there will be plenty of time for you to gain skills on the job and on-ramp effectively. It’s the perspectives you bring and the lessons you’ve learned along the way from your varied life experiences, though, that ultimately inform how you use the skills that you have.
When interviewing a recent returner for a management position, they discussed their work with students in a teaching capacity. While they had never been a people manager in a corporate environment, their strong examples around listening to and advocating for their students showed us unique and creative ways to solve organizational pain points.
It’s those perspectives that hiring managers are trying to isolate for in an interview. If you can convince your employers that you have a strong perspective and growth mindset, then you’ll position yourself as a strong candidate who will embrace learning on the job.
2. Speak to your attributes
Storytelling can go a long way toward guaranteeing your success in any interview process. If you’re asked a question about a “time when you worked collaboratively on a team” or something similar, it’s much more important that you focus on the collaboration aspect of the question over trying to find a story that has more relatable attributes to the position itself.
Personally, I think the STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is an effective way to answer most interview questions . If you’re able to provide an example with a clear problem, your responsibilities, what your action was, and the overall resolution with the positive impacts created by your choices, you’ll give the interviewer a clear demonstration of your key attributes and strengths.
3. Different is valuable
In any pool of job candidates, there is a good chance that you have key differences from your peers. There is great strength to be found inside of those differences!
In a recent interview, a candidate who had clearly done their research told me that if they were to join our company, they would be closer to the top of our company’s age distribution as listed in our external Diversity Report. They then leaned into this difference, called out biases that employers may have held against them, and intentionally squashed all of them. They took something that an employer might perceive as a negative for the role and turned it into their personal strength. It made a very convincing case for why they would be an asset to our company.
Leaning into your differences to change the hearts and minds of your prospective employers is a surefire way to be remembered as a passionate candidate and potentially impactful hire.
* * *
At HubSpot, we’re leaning into the power of transferable skills and different perspectives through our HubSpot Returners Program, focused this year on roles in Recruiting. All that we ask of you is that you have an open mind and a willingness to work with people!
For any additional questions about our HubSpot program, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Shyam Venkatramani is the DI&B Recruiting Program Manager @ HubSpot.