If you’ve been actively looking for work for more than six months and you haven’t yet received an offer that meets your needs, you’re officially heading into the job search group known as the “long-term unemployed.” The longer you’re out of work, the more anxious, insecure or depressed you may become. Without you even realizing it, this can hurt your chances of landing a job. Being long-term unemployed can definitely seem like a nightmare that you cannot wake up from.
Employers tend to prefer hiring applicants who are currently employed. This makes things harder for the long-term unemployed. That’s why when you’ve been unemployed for a long time, you have to be creative about how you present yourself on your resume.
It is likely that you will just want to want to hide the fact that you haven’t worked in a while, but there are better ways to deal with this issue.
Feel like giving up? Don’t even think about it. You’re almost there!!!
These practical steps will help even the most discouraged long-term unemployed job seeker get motivated and beat the odds.
Bridging the Gap: The Long-Term Unemployed Job-seekers’ Resume
The best thing you can do, if you have an employment gap, is to list all of your dates of employment clearly in your resume. In your cover letter, briefly acknowledge your employment gap. If you are or have been a part of the long-term unemployed population, you’re far from alone. Being honest and direct about any employment gaps is better than trying to hide your employment dates. Even if you think you have done a good job hiding your gap, an employer that is experienced in screening resumes can spot it a mile away.
Before being honest about your gap in the resume, you need to accept the fact that your absence will have an impact on your recruitment and being honest upfront will only help you to make a good pitch to the recruiters.
One way to make sure that being in a long-term unemployment slump doesn’t count against you is by proving you haven’t been idly passing your time. Filling our time with productive activities helps when there are large gaps in your work history. Include those activities on your resume so that employers and recruiters will see your interest in your work and that you are demonstrably up-to-date. Some ideas for long-term unemployed job-seekers to consider are:
- Temporary or Contract Work– Doing freelance work and contracting are great ways to keep your skills sharp and get exposure to new tools or industries (even if it’s short-term). It also shows employers that you’re not afraid to take charge of your situation.
- Volunteering – Consider volunteering in a job that is related to the field of work you want to find employment in.
Doing something you’re good at, like bookkeeping or writing newsletters, can translate into relevant skills for the jobs you are applying for.
- Get more training – This is a smart way to fill-in the blanks on your resume when dealing with being long-term unemployed. Especially in areas that would expand your expertise in your field. For example, getting certified in Microsoft Office, can also add much-needed credibility to your resume. Before you invest in a certification or degree, scan the job openings on a site like Indeed.com to see how often it is mentioned or, even better, required for some jobs.
Continuing to work, whether as a contractor or a volunteer, keeps your skills current. It expands your network and fills a gap on your resume. Remember it is not uncommon to hit a bump in the road during your career. How you handle it is what makes the difference going forward.
Say “NO” to Chronological
Let’s be real…in this current technology era, not only are chronological resumes kinda boring, they also are not a great choice from a formatting perspective. Chronological resumes shine a white-hot spotlight on your gaps in employment. Having a large gap in your employment history is the reveal of you being long-term unemployed. So why would you want that to be the focus? You don’t want recruiters to jump straight to the gap and question your weakness. Yet by using a chronological resume, that is exactly what you are doing.
Emphasize Results Not Tasks
Every section of your resume should focus on the results you’ve achieved for your employer. Too many resumes focus on tasks. Long-term unemployed jobseekers need to stand out and NOT in a negative way. Instead of stating your duties, explain how your duties contributed to the success of the company.
- “Increased sales by 30% in 6 months.”
- “Created filing system that improved department productivity.”
Keep it Current
Just like out-of-date skills, using older terminology on your resume can damage your chances with a recruiter or hiring manager. LinkedIn is your best bet here: see what terms people in your industry are using and update your resume and profile accordingly.
There are hundreds of people applying for the same jobs. Companies with tons of applicants use an applicant tracking system to scan resumes for keywords. These systems scan resumes and rank applicants according to strength and relevance to narrow the pool of applicants. This is all before it even reaches the HR team. Using the words that appear in the job description and on the company website in your resume will increase the chances of your resume being seen by an actual person.
To see how well your resume is targeted for a given job, try Jobscan. The resume analysis tool will compare your resume and the job description. It gives you feedback in seconds, identifying ways you can strengthen your resume.
Being an unwilling member of the “Long-Term Unemployed” club can feel like a curse. But you have to stay optimistic. It can actually be a blessing in disguise. Use the time wisely to sharpen your skills and finish up projects.
Be sure to remain flexible in your job search. Consider part-time job opportunities until the position you truly want is offered to you. These tips may not land you a job immediately. But when combined with a smart job search strategy, they can help level the playing field.