Woman holding baby and looking out window

Allison Ford, Vice President at The Headhunters, was recently interviewed for an article in Today’s Parent on how to go back to work after an extended maternity leave.

As a recruiter with over 20 years of experience and a mother herself, she has seen first hand how many parents who take time off from their careers can struggle when they’re ready to jump back into the workforce. Job hunting can be intimidating and would-be employers may be critical about resume ‘gaps’ or concerned about out-of-date skills.

But, as the article discusses, taking time off for parenting is a meaningful part of life for many people, and it is very possible to overcome the challenges of re-entering the workforce!

Accessing the Hidden Job Market

As we know well in the recruitment business, there is a “hidden job market”—that is, positions that companies choose not to post publicly on regular job boards. Therefore, as Allison says in the article, the only way to access this hidden job market is to announce—in person and on social media—that you’re looking for work:

“Not all jobs are advertised, and this is especially true when you’re trying to re-enter the job market. People who know you and know your work ethic and abilities will often go out of their way to make connections or recommendations. Let everyone know what you want to accomplish with the next step, and ask for introductions to people who might help you accomplish that—then you have people advocating on your behalf.”

Resume Gaps

Recruiters and employers typically don’t like seeing long gaps on a resume. Canada’s EI Maternity & Parental Benefits now has two options: standard (12 months) or extended (18 months), which means an even longer gap for those who choose the extended option. As Allison advised Today’s Parent, it’s important to be direct and acknowledge your time away from work:

“Gaps do need to be addressed, and it’s becoming more and more acceptable for people to put right on their resumé, ‘During this time, I stayed home with my young family.’ Just call it what it is. That said, never try to sell your ‘mom skills’ as assets in your application or in your interview. All applicants should be organized and able to multi-task—moms do not have a corner on these traits.”

But DO talk about professional, leadership or educational experience you gained while on leave. For example, if you were on the executive of the preschool association, fundraised for a new playground or took a course in digital marketing, these are great experiences to highlight!

Selling Yourself as the Right Fit

Technical skills and knowledge are always important, but employers today also truly value cultural and personality fit. You might be the perfect match for an organization, regardless of how long you’ve been off the job market! Ensuring that you understand your work style as well as you know your technical strengths is key to selling that ‘fit’ to a hiring manager.

Assessment tools can be remarkably helpful here. Our Workstyle & Performance Profile focuses on seven main dimensions addressing different aspects of your work style. The report not only shows you where you sit on each of these dimensions, but also how to showcase your strengths to a potential employer.

Advice for Employers

When an employee goes on maternity or parental leave, you may experience a business interruption, and with Canada’s EI Maternity & Parental Benefits now offering up to 18 months leave, this business interruption can be even longer. How you choose to handle that interruption will determine whether or not it negatively impacts your business. In the short term, a business may decide to just divvy up that employee’s responsibilities among current staff, while others may decide to fill that role with temporary or contract staff.

As you think about who could fill those shoes, you have a chance to open your mind to candidates you may have discounted before (Social Hire has a great article on this!), including those with resume gaps from parental leave and those who might be looking for contract or part-time options to get back into the workforce.


About Allison Ford

A well-networked “matchmaker,” Allison is passionate about bringing the right people together at the right time. Having hired for her own growing businesses, she knows the power of a great team, and digs into both the technical needs and personalities required for success. Deeply connected to loyal clients and candidates after 20 years in business, Allison is known for her strong relationships, positive reputation and service to the community.

Contact Allison at aford@theheadhunters.ca.