The labor market has been showing signs of a stable recovery as employers continued to add jobs in May, but job seekers with a year or more of unemployment on their resume are still facing a tough battle to getting hired.
Whether it was by choice or a layoff, job seekers looking to re-enter the job market need to learn how to best sell and market themselves to prove to hiring managers they are still valuable and relevant.
“Sometimes it’s more of a sales job to convince someone you are up to speed and keeping up with the industry,” says Pamela Skillings, , co-founder of Skillful Communications. “It can be a little bit more challengin g. You need someone to be open to the idea that you still have something to contribute.”
Parents who took time off to raise children are often overwhelmed with the idea of leaving the house and the job-searching process. After all, they have to contend with gaps in their resume and concerns that they may not be current on the latest industry trends and skills. To combat this, expert suggest doing volunteer work or consulting to highlights talents and expertise.
Know Where to Look
Applying for jobs with family-friendly companies may also reduce anxiety about reentering the workforce. There are many online resources that rank and show companies’ culture and values. “Target any businesses that have earned recognition for work/life balance,” suggests Skillings.
Job hunters with resume gaps should also look at small and medium-sized businesses. Skillings says larger corporations tend to shy away from hiring people with gap years, but adds smaller companies are more likely to overlook any breaks as long as the right skills and enthusiasm were present.
Pass the First Hurdle
With the surge of resumes coming in for open positions, companies use automated software to help filter out the applications. Resumes with a gap could get overlooked, so experts recommend not listing employment in chronological order at the top of the page. Instead, opt for a skills- based resume that groups applicable skills and accomplishments at the top.
“The trend is to not do a chronological resume,” says Theresa Andrikanich, a talent search marketing manager at Progressive Insurance. She also notes that candidates with 20 years of experience with no time out of the labor market are switching to this technique to better highlight their skill sets.
How to Handle the Interview
The interview process is always nerve-racking, but even more so for those who haven’t put on a business suit in a couple years. But experts say job seekers need just one thing: confidence.
“What we hear often times is they feel like they lost the edge when the go on an interview,” says Andrikanich. “Confidence is a key factor in how you sell yourself.”
She suggests talking about the idea of going back to work with family and friends as soon as possible to make the topic more comfortable and to get any insight, advice and job leads. Hold mock interviews and look for sample questions online to be as prepared as possible.
Networking is a key element of getting back into the workforce, and don’t be afraid to solicit tips and connections from family, friends and former co-workers.
Be sure to create an online profile that includes a LinkedIn page, and join career-related industry groups.
“If you are trying to come back you have to make sure you are putting yourself out there and that you are comfortable in your own skin,” says Andrikanich.