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Answering Common Questions about Career Reentry Resumes

Answering Common Questions about Career Reentry Resumes

Have you taken a career hiatus? Are you planning your reentry to the workforce? Recently I was asked these questions about writing a resume following an extended career break. If you are planning a reentry, some of these tactics may help you write your new resume. Also, check out the video, “Resumes for Reentry,” located in the Podcast area of our website.

Do you mention your career break on a resume or try to fill the gap?

Every situation is unique. The following are three basic strategies. Your goal and history are unique. Therefore, you may use a variation or combination of these.

Break Statement:

Write a brief one or two-line career break statement when applying for a re-entry program. This calls attention to your break, which is one of the qualifications for such programs. Also, include a break statement when you do not have significant experience to fill your gap.

Filling the Gap:

Fill the gap when applying for a job (not part of a re-entry program) and when you have substantial, relevant experience. This experience could be a paid or unpaid position. It could be part or full time. Examples include: leadership roles at non-profit, part-time work, consulting, business venture, academic program, and more.

Limiting the Impact of the Gap:

Add relevant, substantial academic, volunteer, part-time, freelance, entrepreneurial, or other experience to bolster your candidacy. If it is not substantial enough to warrant filling the gap in the experience section of your resume, you can create special categories, such as “Community Leadership,” “Entrepreneurial Experience,” or “Additional Experience.”

How much experience (history) should be included on your resume?

The amount of history you show will vary by person. For some, it might be ten years. For others it might be 15 or 20 years.

How do you write your resume when your most relevant experience is 20+ years ago and your most recent is not as relevant to your goal? Or, what if your break has been 15 years and the relevant experience precedes the break?

Each situation is unique. Below are two examples of how one might handle a situation in which the relevant history is very early in the career and possibly 20+ years ago an at the bottom of the resume or excluded from the resume. If the most relevant part of your experience is at the beginning of our career, you can all out aspects of that history in the early part of your resume.

> Consider mentioning your early role in the resume profile, such as “Former U.S. Attorney” or “Co-Founder of Pied Piper.”

> Add a career highlights section beneath your opening profile section. Include 3 to 5 top accomplishments from any time in your career.

Is it necessary to show starting/ending dates for all jobs listed on the resume? What about graduation dates?

Yes, include starting and ending years for every job (2016 to 2018 for example). You do not have to include months. It’s alright to show years only. You can omit dates for graduation if your graduation date is long ago and if you have a gap of time between your grad date and earliest job on your resume. The standard today is to only show a graduation date if you are a recent graduate and the date helps to explain why you have little experience.

What have been the biggest changes in resumes over the last dozen years?

> Resumes are more customized. It’s wise to customize your resume for each submission.

> Your LinkedIn profile is equally important as a resume.

> ATS (Applicant tracking software is more prevalent.)

Does volunteer work go in the main body of the resume or in a volunteer section?

If the volunteer experience is substantial or highly relevant to your current career goal, you can include that in the experience section of your resume to fill your career break. If it is somewhat relevant but not as significant in duration or level of responsibility, it might be best to include it in a community leadership or volunteer experience section.

How do you write a resume when you have two career goals? How does it work if I have two resumes but one LinkedIn profile?

It is always wise to customize your resume for each career goal/target job type. Take advantage of the profile section of the resume and the areas of strength (AKA core competencies, areas of expertise) section of your resume to show how you are an excellent candidate for the target job. In other words, you are matching your skills and accomplishments with the requirements of the target employer.

However, LinkedIn should be more comprehensive so that it covers the skills/accomplishments for both (or more) goals. On LinkedIn emphasize the skills/accomplishments common to both goals. In the LinkedIn summary section, write it in such a way that you show a common thread between both goals. This could be through common skills, supporting accomplishments, or expertise. Also take advantage of the 50 spaces available on LinkedIn to insert your relevant skills.

Should I lead with recent coursework or put it at the end?

Degrees belong in the education section of the resume, which follows experience for an established candidate. Only a recent graduate would show education near the top (following the profile and area of strength sections. Also, you may have a section for industry certifications, or a section for professional development. If the education, certification, or recent coursework is highly relevant to your goal, mention it in the profile in addition to the education section.

What is the appropriate strategy for a technical candidate? Should they list technical skills on the resume?

If a candidate is a hands-on user of a technology, such as a programming language or database, they should create a technical skills inventory to house the skills that are relevant to their target job. Remove all antiquated technologies or technologies not useful in the target job. If you find that you have gaps in skills, update your skills and add them to your resume to bolster your candidacy.

Each person’s situation is unique so the strategy for the resume will be unique. Assess your history, activities during your career break, and your goal to make decisions. There is not a single answer to fit every candidate.

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Qualify Executive Resume and Job Search Advice Carefully

Be selective of the job search and resume advice you heed.

It’s commonly said: “ask 10 people for advice on resumes or job search and get 20 different opinions”. Beware opinions over expert advice.

Opinions center around personal preference and although these are often shared with good intention they can inadvertently include misinformed ideas or misdirection. Expert advice centers around success strategies and comes from a person who is highly skilled in the subject.

Sometimes it can be challenging to decipher the difference between opinion and expert advice. Taking the time to carefully consider the idea, information, and source can help.

For example:

❓❗️Is your family member a hiring expert or do they just *think* calling the HR department daily will help your search?  Can they share examples of multiple people who have been successful with this technique?

❓❗️Why does your mom *think* you must keep your resume to just 1 page? When was the last time she wrote or screened a modern resume?

❓❗️Does your friend mean well when they tell you to apply to ‘any and all positions’ to increase your chances of landing a job…or do they just *think* this strategy might be successful?

❓❗️When your co-worker tells you to add or remove something in your resume, is it because they *think* they know best (and like their own idea) or are they drawing from sound advice?You get the idea.Qualify advice carefully, especially when it comes to something as critical as your job search and resume.


Finally, even if you choose not to apply select advice, thank people for their time and ideas. Be gracious for all feedback or offerings during your search, but remember: what works for one person may not work for another so carefully consider options or ideas and apply what seems best for you.

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How To Write A Cover Letter In 2021

A person writing a cover letter

You might have often heard about the importance of attaching a cover letter to your job application. A cover letter can increase your chances of getting the position you’re applying for or at least receiving a callback. However, writing a cover letter is an art that you must master, and it requires time to develop the skills to write cover letters that impress employers.

If you’ve just graduated, you might not know what cover letters are and what they entail. Likewise, if you’ve never submitted a cover letter in your career before, you might find them perplexing. Therefore, before you can write a captivating cover letter, you’ll need to learn everything you can about them.

What is a Cover Letter?

Before we proceed any further, let’s get one thing clear. Cover letters aren’t mandatory unless stated otherwise. However, many employers do prefer them. According to a survey by Resume Labs, 83 percent of human resource professionals consider cover letters to be essential. Moreover, these hiring executives also state that an excellent cover letter can compensate for a substandard resume and help you get an interview 83 percent of the time. Therefore, you can’t deny the importance of writing a killer cover letter.

Now, you might be wondering, what’s a cover letter? A cover letter is a one-page document that supplements the contents of your resume. Typically, candidates use cover letters to provide employers an overview of their job history and skills. In addition, you’ll also want to use your cover letter to demonstrate your interest in the position. Moreover, a well-written cover letter can help provide a glimpse of your personality to prospective employers. It’s also an opportunity to showcase why you would be a suitable fit for the company.

Considering unemployment soared in 2020, it’s more important than ever to attach a cover letter with your resume to stand out among a sea of candidates. According to the Resume Labs survey, 74 percent of hiring executives prefer receiving applications with cover letters than without one. If you want to increase your chances of receiving a job interview, consider drafting a cover letter.

A Professional Penning A Cover Letter
How to Write a Cover Letter in 2021: A Comprehensive Guide 4

What Should a Cover Letter Contain?

Now that you know what a cover letter is, it’s time to learn about the contents of these letters. Although there’s no standard format for cover letters, most recruiters agree that a cover letter should follow some fundamental principles. For starters, you’ll want to include carefully curated career stories to provide a glimpse of your work experience and accomplishments. Moreover, you’ll also want to highlight the skills you bring to the table. In addition, you’ll want to combine these two to demonstrate how you can add value to the reader’s organization. Lastly, you’ll want to use a paragraph or two to showcase your knowledge about the employer’s work history and specify your interest in working for them.

A Hiring Manager Holding An Applicant’s Cover Letter And Resume
How to Write a Cover Letter in 2021: A Comprehensive Guide 5

Writing a Captivating Cover Letter

You’ll want to ensure that you follow a format when writing a cover letter. Here’s how to make sure your cover letter captivates the reader:

Use a Professional Header

You’ll want to make sure that you use a sleek header for your cover letter. Typically, it should include your name, address, contact information, and date. Moreover, it should also include the name and designation of the recruiter, the company’s name, and address. Therefore, it’s vital to research the necessary information before you start penning your cover letter. If you can’t find the recruiter’s name online, you can address them as Sir or Madam in your letter. However, if you do this, make sure to sign off by writing “Yours Faithfully.”

In addition, remember to keep your header professional. Avoid using email addresses that may come off as juvenile or unprofessional. If you don’t have a suitable email address, create a new one. You should also refrain from using your current work address when sending cover letters.

Write a Compelling Opening Paragraph

We can’t overstate the importance of a compelling opening paragraph. The truth is most hiring managers don’t have enough time to read every single cover letter religiously. Therefore, most recruiters will read through your cover letter’s opening few lines to decide whether it’s worth a read. A compelling opening paragraph ensures that you captivate the reader’s attention, preventing them from moving onto another cover letter abruptly.

There are several strategies you can employ to ensure your opening is compelling. You could share how you’ve been following the company’s progress over an extended period. Likewise, you could also detail aspects about the company that piqued your interest.

Detail Your Accomplishments and Experience in the Body

The body of your cover letter is a perfect opportunity for you to detail your work experience and accomplishments. You can insert career stories that showcase your best attributes more enjoyably. Remember that a cover letter differentiates from a resume. Your cover letter should be more flavorful rather than reading like a list of achievements. Highlight your areas of expertise and demonstrate how you would be the perfect candidate for the job. In addition, show how you can add value to the organization by bringing something new to the table. The body of your cover letter is your time to shine, so use it wisely. However, ensure that you don’t come as braggadocios. Instead, you want your employer to know how your past work experience can contribute to their plans.

Demonstrate Your Eagerness to Join

While highlighting work experience and past accomplishments is an excellent idea, you also want to demonstrate your eagerness to join the organization. Therefore, it would serve you well to include some aspects about the company that you like – whether that’s the organization culture, the work environment, or anything else. The hiring manager will appreciate your interest and the research you’ve done on the company’s history. One of the easiest ways to show your interest is by selecting a company fact and explaining why you find it captivating.

Finishing Strong

Once you’ve followed all the steps above, it’s time to cap off your cover letter. Utilize the final paragraph to provide your offer to your prospective employer. Consider telling the hiring manager that you’re looking forward to meeting them and discussing how you can help the organization meet its goals.

Furthermore, ensure that you finish your cover letter with the appropriate formal closing. You’ll want to refrain from ending the letter informally. Instead, opt for a more professional ending, like “Yours Sincerely” or “Regards.”

Recruiter Reading A Well-Crafted Cover Letter
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Gain an Edge with a Professionally Written Cover Letter

Writing cover letters can be challenging. Hence, you might want to consider utilizing a professional resume and cover letter service. We can help you draft an excellent cover letter that captivates the attention of the hiring manager.

Resume Professional Writers is a resume writing company. In addition to our professional resume writing services, we also offer LinkedIn profile writing services and CV writing services.

Visit our website for more information. Alternatively, you can also contact us to learn more about our services.