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Is recent experience really a must-have?

"You will struggle to find a role as you do not have recent experience for the roles to which you're applying, hiring managers will give preference to someone already in work" 

Been told this twice last week by two different recruiters - wondered how true this really is?  Is that the biased views of two individuals or the reality of the HR job market at the moment?  Interested to hear your thoughts....

I appreciate that this challenge could face someone at any stage of their career but for me, this is following a mid-career break which has included interim contracts, study and volunteering aligned to my HR/business work experience.   I'm looking for senior HRBP level work.

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  • The reality of the current market is that there are more well qualified and experienced candidates available than there are roles. So I think the feedback you have received, whilst harsh, is probably true for 80%+ of recruiters who can have their cake (experience) and eat it (qualifications too) and as extra sugar on top demand relevant recent experience in similar industry sectors if they so wish.

    Some recruiters will look wider and a lot will depend on the interim work you have been doing and how closely aligned your charity work is.

    Sadly its probably a case of recognising that it will be an uphill challenge and redoubling your efforts with a very well crafted narrative. I suspect you will have more opportunity with direct opportunities rather than through Executive Search or Agencies.

    Good luck
  • It's always a case of one reason or another why an employer does not wish to hire someone, but essentially they want the best possible fit, the right match and the whole package. Years of relevant sector specific experience, CIPD 7, Chartered Fellow Membership etc. Gaps in working history are always frowned upon as rightly or wrongly, if one has been out of the job market for sometime, they think or feel that you are either out of practice or have somehow gone rusty.

    Not always does their wish list come true, but to get to the point, if you today want to be or become an HRD, you already need to be carrying the entire job description of an HRD on your CV with current, relevant and up to date matching experience.

    It also boils down to the age old catch 22 cycle and chicken and egg scenario. To get in the market, you already have to be in the market. To be an HRBP, you must already be an HRBP.

    Once someone is out, they are out. Look on the HR jobs market as a conveyor belt. Incredibly easy to fall off of, hellishly difficult to get back on.

    If I was you, I would take a job as an HR Administrator or an HR Advisor to get a foothold back in the labour market as conversely, once you are in, you are then in.
  • Hi Liz

    I was made redundant from a stand alone HR Manager position a few years ago, and got similar responses after a few months out of work - I had done some HR consultancy work which helped, but as Keith says there are many candidates for each role and many do put recent experience high on the wish list.

    After 6 months I applied and was successful for a temporary Senior HRBP position (6 months maternity cover) - they needed to get someone in quickly, and I was not only available but had the experience, and was also the right fit for their business (I was by no means the only candidate). I had originally shied away from temporary work after the uncertainty of redundancy but in the end felt it was the best way to get back into the market. In my case it worked out as I ended up being there for 6 years....maybe something to consider?

    I would possibly disagree with Andre about stepping down to try and get back in. It isn't always easy to convince people you are serious about the position rather than just 'wanting to get a foot in the door' and would a more junior role work for you now in terms of being an interesting position?  Maybe it depends on the company and the role. 

    Whichever way you go, best of luck!

  • Stepping down in my view is a good way to get back in and aap recognises the reality and realpolitik of the situation. At the end of the day, we all need money and whilst one may hold out for the ideal position, what happens in the meantime if you have exhausted your savings and don’t have enough money to live on, pay your mortgage and cover your other outgoings?

    Jobseekers Allowance at £75.00 a week does exist, but even working as an HR Administrator for £500 a week puts you in a stronger and better position, provides you with a platform and launchpad to network from and go after other positions.

    If one cannot currently get their level, it’s still best to have continuity of working history and some level at least.

  • It cuts both ways.

    Being currently "between roles" means you don't tick the "recent experience" box. But it means that you *do* tick the "immediately available" box, which most people currently employed, with contractual notice periods and a reluctance to burn bridges, will not.

    So prioritize roles seeking an immediate start and you will do better.

    These will predominantly be temp or FTC roles, but these are a great springboard back to a permanent role if that's what you want.
  • Thank you for the responses - confirmed my thinking and helped me set expectations.

    I think my action point is to extend and refresh my HR professional network which, I have a feeling, will be key to transitioning back into work along with direct applications where I can really position my situation (rather than rely on a recruitment agency).
  • Lot of companies have now started doing returner programmes which can help you get a role at the same level. These can sometimes be limited to mothers but not always.
  • In reply to Yamini:

    Thanks Yamini. I am actively looking into returnships however there are limited opportunities for HR professionals. Programmes are mostly geared up to skills such as IT, law and accountancy.
  • You describe one of the most complex catch 22 cycles and chicken & egg scenarios that many people often have no real answer to. You cannot get a job without experience and experience without a job. Many employers only want formalised paid experience gained in a 9-5 and do not value or recognise non profit volunteering as the same.

    The solution however is to keep going and keep at it until you find someone who gives you that lucky break.