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Resume and Cover Letter Tips for Unemployed Job Seekers

It's an unfortunate truth that employed job seekers have a little bit more leverage and face slightly better odds as they strike out in search of a new position. This is partly a matter of cultural perception and bias on the part of employers, but it's also an issue of simple mathematics; no matter how miserable they may be in their current positions, employed job seekers are still collecting a paycheck, so they can afford to be a little more discriminating. Unemployed applicants, on the other hand, need to pay the bills. So they aren't holding very many cards, and they need to work a little harder to gain attention and approval.

To that end, if you're looking for work and you don't currently have any form of income coming your way, these application tips can help you gain and edge and strengthen your position at the negotiating table.

1. Don't mention your unemployment directly.

Your employment status is your own business. And though some cynical employers may hold this detail against you or assume there's something wrong with you because you aren't currently working, don't invite this attitude by becoming defensive or apologetic. Don't try to explain your status in your letter or discuss the reasons why you left your last position. In fact, don't bring up the subject at all. If your reviewers want to ask you about it, they can do so during your interview. (If this happens, try to keep your explanation short and positive, then redirect the conversation back to your credentials and skill sets.)

2. Add volunteering positions and non-profit leadership roles to your profile.

If you aren't working at a full time job right now, that's fine. But you aren't sitting on the couch all day either (if you are, change that). Stay busy by volunteering or taking on leadership roles in community and industry related groups. Consider PTAs, homeowners associations, alumni groups, local government, business networking groups, professional societies, or non-profit organizations that make the world a better place. Participate, then include your roles and your accomplishments on your resume.

3. Keep your education section fresh.

Just like your work history, your education section should have a few recent or current listings. Don't let your most recent bullet point become the bachelor's degree you earned in 1985. You don't have to commit to the time and expense of a full graduate degree, but consider enrolling in night class, a community college course, a certification program, or a training program in anything from network management to CPR. You can list this course in your resume even if you haven't finished it—Just state your expected completion dates clearly.

4. Don't lie or hide the truth.

You don't have to directly discuss your current employment status, but don't hide, spin, or lie about it either. Never alter or exaggerate your employment dates for previous jobs. Doing this turns a small problem into a big one. Most employers aren't concerned about current job status, but they are skeptical of a candidate who can't be trusted.


Don't Let Small Obstacles Hold You Back

Visit My Perfect Resume for more on how to downplay your current unemployment and present yourself as a confident and competent addition to the team.


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