Writing a Stellar Resume even with Unemployment Gaps!

When it comes to securing gainful employment after you’ve been jobless, your potential employer’s decision to hire may come down to how your resume portrays your worth, rather than anything you said during the job interview. A poor resume may cause you to not even be considered for a position. Your resume has the power to make or break you.

There a three common resume formats: chronological, functional, and combination. A chronological resume focuses on the duties and time period of each job starting with the most recent. A functional resume hones in on the skills acquired rather than each individual job experience, and it usually neglects to include any sort of timeline. A combination resume is, as one may guess, a combination between the chronological and functional resume. It provides a timeline of job history but highlights your unique skill sets.

The most effective resume format to use when in a situation of unemployment is the combination style. Rather than centering your resume on the positions you’ve held and the amount of time you held them for, the combination resume suits unemployed persons best as it focuses the reviewer’s attention on the specific responsibilities you’ve had and the skills you’ve developed as a result. Even though it includes a timeline, the negative perception of any employment gaps should be lessened with greater emphasis placed on why you are a valuable employee regardless of those gaps.

This format offers flexibility to allow for adapting your resume to fit the specifics of any industry. The timeline makes your resume easily navigated, which most any employer will appreciate. No one wants to spend their time decoding a piece of paper.

Now, how does one write a combination resume? Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Find a template that appeals to you. There are many free resume templates available online to choose from. Stick with one or two colors (ideally black or a color close to black). Choose a template with a clean, professional layout. Having minor embellishments is okay, but don’t add too many artistic details, as this will clutter up your resume, causing it to look less professional.
  1. At the top of the template there will be a place to fill in your name and basic information (email, phone number, and address)
  1. The first section is the “Qualifications”: 4-5 bullet points stating what qualifies you for the job you’re applying for (this needs to be tailored to each job). This allows you to highlight your best skills and traits right away, which the employer will have in mind while they continue reviewing your qualifications, causing the employer to focus more on what you bring to the table and less on any gap(s) in employment. (Click here for examples)
  2. The next section should be your educational or professional experience (these two can be flipped around depending on your preference). The education section is straight forward: Include the institution, the degree or certificate obtained (or in progress), and the year it was (or will be) obtained. You should also highlight any important achievements, awards, skills gained, leadership qualities, or other relevant traits that contribute to painting a picture of your qualifications for the given job.
  1. For the professional experience section: list each job and the years (YYYY – YYYY) you were in the position. Do not include months – this leaves some ambiguity with employment gaps. In the interview you should be more detailed about start and end dates. It’s important to have integrity in conducting yourself around future employers – most employers will care more for your honesty than they do for your unemployment gap(s). For each job, include the main skills you used and acquired (e.g. client relations, sales, administration, marketing, etc.). Under each skill explain what you did and any evidence of that skill (award, recognition, ect.).
  1. Look back over your professional experience. Do you have any gaps spanning close to or more than 12 months? If so, what were you doing during this time? If you were a student, stay at home parent, caring for an ill loved one, taking a year to travel, or something of this nature, you should include it (“full-time student,” “full-time parent,” “full-time caregiver”). Be sure to outline any skills you exercised or developed during this time – interpersonal communications, persuasion (parenting stubborn children), time management, organization, etc. This helps close those gaps and show that you have been doing something even if it was not a traditional job. If you were on medical leave or unemployed because of the economy, do not include those. Employers may see you as a high risk for quitting, being fired, or otherwise terminating employment early on.
  1. Lastly, while you are in the midst of the job search, seek out a volunteer position can help your chances. It is something current you can put on your resume and the employer will look favorably on it. Having YYYY – present under your professional experience is never a bad thing, so try and figure out a way to get that on your resume!
  1. Before giving your resume to a potential employer be sure to edit it and have someone else edit it as well. Spelling, grammar, and format errors are silly reasons to not receive an interview and are easily avoided.
  • Use short phrases, terms, and descriptions (there is no need for sentences)
  • Be strategic with your font sizes and text decorations (bold, underline, italics, heading)
  • Keep the length to a max of two pages – preferably one page in length
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative with using the space on the page (try out tables, columns, rows). How your format it matters.
  • Use Headings
  • Be strategic with your text colors in conjunction with font types
  • Be sure to use a professional font. Some industries have a specific font that is typically used in professional communications. If that applies to your industry of interest, use that font in your resume.

Writing a resume is not easy, especially if you have employment gaps to work around. With a little guidance and some creativity, you should be able to create a stellar resume despite unemployment status. Overall, when it comes to working around unemployment gaps, the key thing to remember is that having those gaps doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Spin that time period to highlight your accomplishments rather than harping on our turbulent economy and job market.

Landing an Interview: Revamping your Resume

You’re unemployed and struggling to land an interview. You feel like you’re doing everything right, yet you haven’t received a single call! A resume revamp may be exactly the competitive edge you need to get noticed by potential employers!

If you are recently unemployed, your chances of landing a job are much higher than those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more. Employers are generally understanding of the fact that finding a new job takes some time, especially in this economy. However, as the amount of time spent unemployed approaches the year mark, employers’ understanding diminishes greatly – along with your chances of securing gainful employment. Large gaps in your resume should be avoided as much as possible. As gaps grow wider, you need to address them and fill in as many holes as you can. Try to find part-time work, internships, volunteer positions, etc. – anything to keep you attached to the job market!

If you manage to land a job interview within 8-10 months of being unemployed, try to avoid explaining yourself to interviewers. Discuss your qualifications, past job responsibilities, and how you continued to develop those skills during the months you were unemployed. Once the 12 month mark is surpassed, you’ll encounter difficulties with potential employers. Many employers will look unfavorably at the large gap or gaps in your resume. The assumption will be that you had an unremarkable past year without having developed any skills worthy of contribution. You’ll need to highlight specifics on your resume that prove the potential employer’s assumptions to be wrong. Think of any and all activities you participate in as potential skills to add to your resume. Get creative with how you think about your abilities – everything teaches you something.

Regardless of how long you’ve been unemployed for, if you’re looking to make your resume shine brighter than the rest, the traditional, chronological resume format probably won’t help your case. Time may not be your ally in seeking gainful employment, as it might have been awhile since your most recent job. Rather than highlighting the amount of time you spent at a given workplace or what your specific job responsibilities were, a combination resume hones in on your unique skill sets. The combination resume’s format is still in chronological order, but the overall message it send is much different than a mere timeline of your career(s).

Potential employers often prefer resumes in a timeline so as to be able to visualize your career, making the combination format a happy medium between the chronological and functional resume formats.

Whether you have been unemployed for a year or five years, an employer wants to see that you’ve been productive.  A number of circumstances may have led to your unemployment: lay-offs, taking time off to raise children, caring for a loved one, etc. Employers are far more concerned with how you have spent that time and the skills you have gained rather than what caused your unemployment. Avoid explaining the cause and focus on how you will apply what you’ve learned to future employment opportunities. What makes you a good candidate, and how does the time you’ve spent unemployed contributed to that? Putting a positive spin on being unemployed is the absolute best route to take in seeking new job possibilities. Assure your potential new employer that you have kept up with the industry through highlighting newly acquired skills on your resume and narrowing your focus on new trends in the field.

Someone who has nothing to show for the past two years will raise a major red flag on a job application. Figure out how to stay active and involved in the community and market even if you are spending most of your time on the hunt for jobs. This will prepare you for the potential long haul of long-term unemployment in addition to helping you acquire new skill sets to add to your resume. Here are a few ideas to get you started:  volunteer, coach your child’s sports team, seek out freelance jobs (writing, editing, web development, computer programing, social media management, etc.), get involved with community organizations and campaigns, or look for part time unpaid internships. On your resume, point to these activities, the skills you acquired, and what you accomplished.

Lastly, stay active and persistent in your search and be sure to alter your revamped resume to suit the position you are applying for. Do not wait for jobs to come to you or to appear on a job board – be vigilant of job boards, but also call or visit places you would like to work and ask about job openings. Ensure your resume is flexible and adaptable so as to optimize it for each job you apply to. For example, if the job entails mostly independent work, highlight your experiences, skills, and achievements that are related to working independently (i.e. managed the store/project/etc. without supervision). If the job is mostly team oriented, highlight your strengths in collaboration and communication.

Do not allow the time period of your unemployment to discourage you. While long-term unemployment trends point to your likelihood of securing a job becoming less and less as the amount of weeks you’ve been unemployed increases, it’s important to endeavor on, finding new and innovation solutions to joblessness.

Fired from Job – What Next?

If you’re reading this, it’s reasonable to assume that you were most likely fired within the past few days. Before you panic, read on to find out about the next steps you should take. It may seem like your world is coming to an end, but don’t freak out yet, because there are countless ways to get back on the path of gainful employment! Here are the first directions to take on your (un)employment journey.

  1. Mourn and then get over it:
    When it comes to being unemployed, you don’t have much spare time to feel sorry for yourself. In today’s turbulent economy, getting back on the job market and seeking employment is a must for anyone who finds themselves recently unemployed. It’s totally fine to feel bad about being fired for a few days, but don’t let that hinder your progress in searching for potential employment opportunities. Feeling bad for yourself, being embarrassed, taking a vacation (this is a no-no; you need to be saving money, not spending it), or hiding yourself away from the outside world is not going to help your case. So, eat way too much of your favorite foods, watch a few episodes of your favorite comedy, and then move on.
  2. Trim: Compile a list of all the expenses you can live without. Being jobless means living on a strict budget to ensure your savings last for as long as possible. You need to stretch every dollar by trimming the amount of things you’re spending them on. A huge temptation in the interest of cutting costs might be to buy fast food over making grocery store trips, but this is a mistake! Cutting coupons, planning ahead, saving the sale ads, and getting resourceful will be the only effective methods for cutting costs. If you find yourself needing some new business attire or household items, instead of going to the store, go check out your local thrift stores. You will be amazed by the amount of things you can find that are practically new and cost practically nothing, especially compared to the costs of new items from the store.
  3. Figure out why you were fired: Yes, it will be awkward, and yes, everyone will be uncomfortable, but you need to figure out why you were fired. Send an email to your (firing) manager or meet with him/her in person about the circumstances that led to you being fired. This way you will be able to prepare for potential interviews by knowing the answers to the questions you’d rather not have to answer. In a sense, you will be getting your stories straight so that it doesn’t seem like you’re not telling the whole truth if you say something differently during an interview than what your previous employer disclosed. It may even earn you brownie points with your previous employer, since the contrary reaction to being fired is losing all sense of professionalism. Brownie points with your previous employer may even lead to securing a letter of recommendation from him/her!
  4. Reflect on why you were fired: Now that you know the circumstances surrounding your firing, you can reflect on the experience. Were you fired for a legitimate reason? Were you fired because of your own poor misconduct? If you knew then what you know now, would you do anything differently? As the saying goes, you need to learn from your mistakes. If mistakes led to you being fired, then reflect on those mistakes so you don’t make them again. You’ll be better prepared for any future jobs you take on.
  5. Form an Explanation: You will come to dread the imminent questions about why you left your previous place of employment that go along with job interviews, if you do not dread them already. If you actually want to be hired, you need to have a game-plan regarding how you’re going to explain being fired. Please note, though, that formulating an explanation is not the same thing as giving excuses or placing blame. You should give context, facts, and short explanations for any questions that arise. It’s best to approach questions through neutralizing them – you place the blame on no one – not yourself or your last boss. However, if you screwed up, then you screwed up and you need to own up to it. Actually, you should own it! It will show you’ve grown from the experience.
  6. File for unemployment: Another bonus to knowing the circumstances surrounding being fired is that you can determine your eligibility for unemployment. Many people hold the common misconception that the only ones eligible for unemployment are those who were laid-off. This is false! If you were fired for no good reason or for no fault of your own, chances are that you will qualify for unemployment. Receiving weekly unemployment insurance will help you out immensely with covering the bills and keeping things going while you’re looking for a new job.
  7. Take an inventory of your references: Over the years, you’ve had many accomplishments and gone through a number of experiences. Take an inventory of all those events and select the ones that will shine the brightest in the eyes of potential employers. References don’t necessarily have to come from previous employers; they can come from anyone you’ve worked for or with! This could have been within the capacity of a volunteer, intern, leader, teammate, and so on. Ask around to see who would be willing to write a letter of reference or recommendation for you. Once you’ve secured a few job interviews, reach out for those letters from the most relevant references.
  8. Update your resume: Technically, you’re always supposed to keep your resume updated, but most of us don’t get around to it, for whatever reason. You might not think you have much to update, but odds are that you do. Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates – how are you well-rounded? The preferred format and content of resumes is constantly changing. Make sure your resume is up-to-date with the current trends.
  9. Brainstorm: Considering you’re not currently working, you’re going to have a bit more time on your hands. You need to put this extra time to good use by brainstorming your next career move. You have this amazing opportunity to start over. Obviously you can’t jump into a professional role that you have no experience or training in, but there are tons of options out there. What can you do, how well can you do it, and do you want to do it? Ask yourself these questions to set a few starting points you can branch out from.
  10. Insurance: If your previous job had insurance benefits, use them! Soon you will be out of the job and out of coverage on your insurance plans. If you are having any health problems, tooth aches, or need prescription refills, schedule your appointments for as soon as possible. Most insurance plans will terminate at the end of the month.

Job Search Strategies and Resources


You need a job. What’s the best way to find one?

Looking for a new job can be a daunting task. Conducting an effective job search will improve your chance of success. Thankfully, there are many online resources available to job seekers that offer everything from resume writing tips to job search strategies.

Getting Started on a Job Search

Before you begin your job search, ask yourself some questions. What type of job are you looking for? Is there a particular company you would like to work for? What types of positions are you qualified for? How much income do you require?

The answers to these questions will give you a clearer idea of how to proceed with your job search.

Here are some places that can help you get started in the right direction:

Getting Organized before you Begin Your Job Search

5 Essential Things To Know Before You Start A Job Search

How to Start a Job Search

Before You Start Your Job Search

Before you begin…

 

Finding Your Dream Job

The next step in your job search is finding a position that matches your talents and experience. Networking with friends and colleagues is an effective strategy for discovering an opening. The internet is also a useful resource for locating an open position.

Here are a few of the more popular job search engine sites. Many employers use these sites to find candidates for their open positions:

Career Builder

Monster

Indeed

Simply Hired

Snag A Job

Top 15 Most Popular Job Websites

Craigslist

In addition, most states have job banks that contain listings of available positions in their particular state.

Social media sites like LinkedIn also post job openings

Visit a company’s website. Many companies post their job openings on the website.

 

Getting the Job: Cover Letters, Resumes and Interviewing

You’ve found a position that fits with your career objectives. Now comes the most critical part of the job search process: How do you convince a potential employer that you’re the best choice for the job?

The Resume

A well written resume is your most important and effective job search tool. An employer will use your resume to determine if you are a right fit for a particular position.

There are many different resume formats. Which one is right for you is determined by numerous factors. Remember there is no “one size fits all” resume; you should modify the information to fit the position you are applying for.

Here’s some places to find tips on creating a resume:

How To Create A Resume

Professional Resume Builder

Creating a Resume

Write Your Resume Online – Free Resume Creator

How to Write a Resume

Tips for Writing a Resume in an Online World

Resume Writing Examples

Basic Resume Generator

Free Resume Builder

 

The Cover Letter

Accompanying your resume should be your cover letter. The cover letter is important because it is usually your first contact with a potential employer. Your cover letter should be short and to the point, complementing the information on your resume and emphasizing why you are a good choice for a particular position.

Here are some places to get tips for writing an effective cover letter:

How To Write a Cover Letter

Creating a Killer Cover Letter

Create a Cover Letter That Gets Results

Free Cover Letter Creator

What Makes a Good Cover Letter According to Companies

 

The Interview

Your resume and cover letter has led an employer to consider you for their open position. Now they want to meet you in person for an interview. This is the point in the process where you will close the deal, so you’ll want to make the best impression possible

10 Job Interview Tips

Job Interview Tips

Secrets to a Successful Job Interview

Preparing for the Successful Job Interview

Tips to Make Your Job Interview Successful

Sharpen Your Interview Skills

Job Interviews: 10 Ways to Tell You’ve Gotten the Job

After the interview, it’s always a good idea to send a thank you letter to the people you spoke with.

 

You’ve Got a Job!

You’ve been contacted by the company you interviewed with. Congratulations! They’ve selected you for the position. Here are some tips when starting a job:

Ten Tricks to Starting Your New Job on the Right Foot

Starting a New Job

Ten Tips for Starting a New Job

Your Job…Your Rights…Your Responsibility

8 Workplace Rights Your Employer Might Not Tell You About

The Ten (Make That 15) Commandments of Keeping Your Job

 

Good luck with your job search! Remember not to get discouraged, keep looking!

Is Your Resume Preventing You From Getting Hired?

Creating a resume is not an exact science. Advice on how to go about it abounds, and differs on nearly every facet, from how long it should be to how far back your work history should go. Even choosing factors that may seem insignificant, such as formatting and structure, can cause anxiety. What is the employer looking for? What if they don’t like the font you choose?

As long as you’re not using comic sans or a fancy italic script, you should be safe in your font selection. But employers do look for certain things in a resume, and if yours is lacking—or overabundant—in them, it may very well keep you from getting an interview, much less hired. Here are a few tips to give you an advantage over the competition.

Use The Correct Keywords

Imagine how many people apply for jobs every day, and how many resumes a large company must receive on a weekly basis. Hundreds. Possibly thousands. This is especially true with as mobile as our society has become. It’s not uncommon for someone in Los Angeles to apply for a job in New York City, and move upon acceptance. This means the field of competition is wider than ever. Let’s be practical—it would be a gigantic waste of time and money for someone, or even a few people, to sift through resumes all day, every day, trying to find the few that will stand out and warrant an interview. So how do large companies tackle this enormous and time-consuming task? With resume scanning software.

Often referred to as “gatekeeper” software, these programs are designed to look for certain keywords the employer has identified as being important. When your resume arrives, before anyone even looks at it, they run it through the scanning program. If the gatekeeper doesn’t find what it’s looking for, right into the circular file goes your resume, never to be seen by human eyes. To make it past that step, your resume should adhere to a certain format, and should include the keywords most relevant to the job you’re pursuing. If you’re applying for a position with a large company that is likely to use this kind of software, you may want to consider hiring a professional resume writing service whose writers are trained to create resumes for scanners.

Keep It Short

Whether you’re applying to a large company with a gatekeeper, or a small one that doesn’t use scanning software, a shorter resume will go over better. In fact, in smaller companies where hiring does entail a human resources manager actually reading each resume, the less you make that person work, the better impression you’re going to make. No one wants to read through six pages before they finally get to the part that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s a common misconception that a resume has to be a detailed history of every job you’ve ever had, including every single responsibility you took on, and that if you leave something out, you’re reducing your chances of getting hired.

The length of your resume may vary according to how much work experience you have, or what kind of position you’re applying for. But for the most part, think of your resume as getting your foot in the door, leading you to an interview where you can talk about your past work experience in more detail. When writing your resume, cover the highlights of your experience, include your education and the most important skills you have that pertain to the position you’re seeking, and then be prepared to give more details and background in the interview—if you’re asked. You also don’t want to talk your interviewer’s ear off with explanations of irrelevant experience or on-the-job anecdotes. Remember, the hiring manager’s time is valuable, and if you demonstrate that you understand and respect that, you stand a better chance of getting to the second interview.

Be Honest, But Modest

Your resume can be a powerful tool that either works for or against you. If you keep it in the right perspective, it will be helpful. You don’t get a job based on your resume—it’s really only one small factor in the whole package. The resume’s true purpose is to make that ever-important first impression that will hopefully lead you to an in-person interview. When it works against you is when you take things a bit too far, and write your resume as though you were writing your professional biography.

Prospective employers want to know what you can do for them. They want to know that you have the prior experience they’re looking for, and that you’ll be a fit in their corporate culture. Keep the descriptions about your skills and background pithy and fact-based. When you start getting flowery with adjectives like “motivated” and adverbs like “incredibly,” or “extremely,” you begin to sound…well, pompous. Remember, you’re trying to convince someone that they want to eventually work with you. No one enjoys working with an arrogant jerk who thinks he’s a gift to the company. That’s not you, so make sure you don’t sound like that in your resume. And above all, don’t call yourself a “guru.” That’s a sure way to get your resume thrown in the trash, but not before it makes the rounds in the office so everyone can get a good laugh over it. Just say what you do, simply and clearly, and leave the fluff for your overeager competition.

Finally, don’t think of your resume as a one-size-fits-all document. Before you send it to a prospective employer, look it over to make sure it covers the aspects that particular position calls for. Do some editing, if necessary. Yes, it means some extra work each time you send it out, but when you land that great job you’ve been searching for, you’ll find a little editing was well worth the effort.