Everyone has heard that employers like to hire the currently employed and there is a stigma attached to gaps in work history: generally, the longer the gap, the larger the stigma. This is a stigma potentially affecting 5.9 million people (or 42.4 percent of all the unemployed) who are defined as “long-term unemployed,” according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, unemployed job seekers can follow a few rules to overcome any potential negative association with their work history. The rules aren’t simple and job seekers need to practice, but the effort can make all the difference.
Rule No. 1: “Regardless of the reason for the gap in employment, be honest,” says Jessica Renard, career services director at South University. As career services director she coaches recent graduates every day on career development and job searching skills. “If you were part of a reduction in force, say so but without making any disparaging remarks about that employer. For example: ‘Unfortunately, my industry was directly impacted by the downturn in real estate, causing my employer to reduce the workforce by 40 percent. However, since that time I have been keeping my skills fresh by ... .”
Rule No. 2: Be positive, even when you have good reasons not to be. “Don’t ever complain about a former employer during an interview,” Renard advises. “Even if you disagree with circumstances that led to your termination or you think you were treated unfairly, the interview is not a place to discuss it.”
Rule No. 3: While Renard discourages anyone to list reasons for unemployment gaps on their resumes, the cover letter is a good place to be proactive. “Get ahead of the question before the interview,” she suggests.