One of the most challenging and important parts of the job hunting process is creating a resume and cover letter that get noticed. This is one issue that seems to baffle many job seekers, especially those with gaps in employment. How does one address periods of unemployment?
Start With a Cover Letter
This is a chance to spin your experience in the direction that you want to focus on now. The value in a cover letter is the ability to present your intentions, qualifications and availability to a prospective employer in a succinct, appealing format while explaining any employment gaps.
While your resume can give specifics on places of employment, responsibilities and educational background, a cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on the job screener and personalize the information contained in the resume.
After the opening paragraph of the cover letter, write a descriptive summary by describing your work experience and profession. Follow with a statement of your broad or specialized expertise tailored to the company’s needs, and then close with how you plan to follow up.
Organize Your Resume by Skills, Not Dates
For individuals who have gaps in employment history, whatever the reason, the best resume format is often the functional resume. Focus on the skills you have that might be useful for most jobs; ability to arrange, organize, manage or lead teams. For an example you can consult our Resume Tip Sheet.
Add Relevant Unpaid Experience
There are many opportunities to volunteer in Houston and some offer tangible rewards such as letters of recommendation for employment, education, or scholarships upon completion of required hours of service. You should think ahead and beef up your resume now if you plan to jump back in the job market later. So, if you volunteer in the community in ways that use job-related skills, put it on your resume with specific dates (especially if they cover the gaps).
Whatever you do, don’t lie. In the job search newsletter How to Explain a Gap on Your Resume by Alison Doyle, a job search expert for About.com, the author warns applicants to always tell the truth. If you lie on your resume it will probably come back to haunt you. Employers verify work history, and if you put incorrect information on your resume they will find out.
The common thread in all of these cases is to highlight your skills and accomplishments so that your overall experience and knowledge can be presented to your best advantage. When you do this, your resume should get noticed.
Carolyn Kennard is a Regional Facilitator for Workforce Solutions in the Houston – Galveston area. She conducts job search skills seminars throughout the 13 county Gulf Coast region. Before embarking on a career in workforce development, Carolyn achieved success in marketing and training with a major oil company. Carolyn holds a B.A. degree from Virginia State University and an M.A. degree from Prairie View A&M University.