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Two out of three professionals today have at least one break in their employment, and yet the stigma on career gaps persists. Given ongoing economic turmoil, industry-wide layoffs, and rising childcare and eldercare costs, stepping off the traditional career track (voluntary or not) is pervasive. So, does it make sense to continue to disqualify them as viable or even ideal candidates?

On the latest episode of "The New Rules of Business," Chief Co-Founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan talk with Chief Member Jennifer Carpenter, VP of Talent Acquisition at IBM, about how much this bias creeps into how we perceive qualified candidates — and what leaders can do to stop it.

"We often think that inconsistency in a career journey might signal unreliability, which is certainly not the case. Some hiring practices use gaps as knockout criteria when they get a lot of resumes," says Carpenter. "But they end up discounting a lot of amazing candidates, and from what I’ve seen, a high proportion of diverse candidates. If there’s one thing companies are really good at, it’s putting up dumb barriers that prevent skilled people from accessing opportunity."

To really remove these barriers, leaders need to completely flip the script. Instead of treating gaps like kryptonite, actively pull candidates with non-traditional career journeys into your talent pool. Carpenter describes how her company does this with the IBM Tech Re-Entry, a paid, full-time program that helps technical professionals restart their careers after a break of one year or more. A re-entry program like this doesn’t just provide a huge benefit for the individual, but for the business’ diversity and risk management as well.

"Countless studies have shown that the most high-performing organizations are those with the highest level of diversity, but diversity isn’t simply based on what we can see. Diversity comes from all different experiences and ways of thinking," says Carpenter. "So if leaders think building candidate slates that only fit one type of person is going to lead to success for the company, they are sorely mistaken."

To implement a re-entry program, Carpenter says to focus on three things: community, connection, and customized learning paths. Create a community for those coming back to the workforce so no one has to take the journey alone. Connect with advocates who can help change the conversation and remove the stigma. And customize the opportunities you offer to meet the diverse needs and backgrounds of candidates.

"One woman in the program was coming back after a ten-year gap she spent raising her family. She’s now working in our quantum computing team. Another took years off to work on her family farm, and now she’s a senior cloud software developer," says Carpenter. "I have hundreds of stories like this. More times than not, these individuals far exceed our expectations because they come from non-traditional paths. They’re resourceful, adaptable, and bring a wide array of experiences that benefit us."

Listen to the full episode on "The New Rules of Business" and be sure to follow wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday.