Trying to find a new job when you’re already employed or recently unemployed is hard enough; when you’ve been out of the workforce for longer than a handful of months – it can feel downright impossible.
However, it isn’t impossible. You can find that new job to kick-start your career, and you can’t find it a lot faster if you effectively address your current stretch of unemployment.
Since a long period of unemployment can be an elephant in the room, you need to address it upfront in both your resume and cover letter.
While it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that you have to address the long period of unemployment in your resume, it’s generally recommended, especially if you left your last job on your own terms. Hiring managers will invariably see the gap in your work history and not addressing it can work against you.
If you’ve been unemployed because you had an addition to your family or went back to school, go ahead and list it under your last job as a reason for leaving. If you were fired, it’s probably best to leave that off.
You may also want to opt for a ‘functional’ resume format. This format features the job seeker’s most valuable skills at the top of the page and pushes the work history section all the way down to the bottom, de-emphasizing your bout of unemployment. This format is especially useful if you have several in-demand skills.
Ideally, you should also have kept busy during your long stretch of unemployment, possibly taking classes or doing volunteer work. Be sure to list any activities you think might be of interest to a potential employer.
The Cover Letter
First and foremost, you don’t want to come off as apologetic in your cover letter. You want it to be positive and upbeat. Yes, you will probably have to address your unemployment gap, but you don’t want to be a Debbie Downer about it.
When you do address your unemployment gap, ideally in the second paragraph, you should put a positive spin on it and try to work it to your advantage. For instance, maybe your time away allowed you to gain some new skills, gain a new appreciation for your family or look into new avenues of work through volunteering or freelancing.
Your cover letter also needs to be like any other cover letter in that it should trigger an interview. Your cover letter should talk up your strengths in a way that makes you seem like a valuable addition to any team. If you can connect the dots between what an employer is looking for and what you have to offer, your long stretch of unemployment will suddenly seem less significant.
At SSI, we regularly assist folks who have been out of the workforce for a long period of time. If you are currently in this situation, please contact us today to find out how we can be of assistance.