If you’ve been outplaced or laid off and have been looking for work for some time, the odds are increasingly being stacked against you. In this jobless economy, employers hold all the cards. They can be super selective as to whom they’ll even consider hiring. And most simply say flat out that if you’re currently unemployed, don’t even bother applying. That said, there are jobs that need to be filled right now, with some employers willing to look at candidates who they feel have the skills, knowledge and attitude they need.
So how do you convince these scant few employers that they should hire you, a person who has been out of work for 6 months, a year or even longer? Some suggestions:
Fill the Resume Gap
Update your resume and make sure it specifically addresses all the requirements asked for in the job posting. Check out Kate Wendleton’s book, Packaging Yourself: The Targeted Resume in which she provides case studies and how to focus your resume to the job you’re applying for. If you’ve been unemployed for a while, the question you know you’ll be asked is, “so what’s up with this huge gap in your resume?” If you were smart, you would have partially filled the gap with volunteer work, something that’s aligned with your field. If that’s not the case, you could have partially covered your tracks by saying that you went back to college to take a few courses, or that you regularly attended seminars and conferences in your field. All of which sound better than “I was looking for a job and sat at home waiting for the phone to ring.”
Sharpen Your Interviewing Skills
You had this down to a science when you landed your first or most recent job. If you were lucky enough to land an interview—over the countless applicants who sent in resumes—you need to take the time to polish your interviewing skills. Practice answering today’s most common interview questions with a friend or colleague. And don’t forget the importance of body language. Practice this in front of a mirror or with a friend. Employers want to know if you’ll fit in with their team or group and how you’ll mesh with their corporate culture.
Re-Master Job Skills
Here, you want to bring your lapses in job skills back up to speed. If you worked in sales, volunteer selling raffle tickets at your church or local charity. If you used a computer, re-master your skills on the latest sales and projection programs. Incidentally, most schools or libraries won’t have these, so taking classes at this point often exposes you to old programs that are no longer used. Attending trade shows and seminars in your field is a great way to learn about the latest breakthrough technologies and techniques used in your industry.
Adjust Your Attitude
Being out of work for long periods of time can affect your attitude. Many lose confidence, project negativity or become passively hostile in filling out resumes and taking phone and in-person interviews. You’ll want to get a copy of Mark Murphy’s book, Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude. It’s a guide for hiring managers, but you can get a good idea of the mistakes many candidates and employees make when it comes to attitude. In fact, Murphy makes a point that the lion’s share of failed employees is directly attributable to their attitude on the job.
Think you’re ready to “get back in the game”? Better prepare and hone your job interviewing and resume writing skills.
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