Jobless Need Not Apply? 5 Tips For Pitching Your Talent, Not Your Unemployed Status
You are more employable when you are employed. It may seem unfair, but employers prefer to hire someone who has already been chosen and tested. Plus, with so many talented people competing for jobs, employers must find ways to quickly screen out lots of us, thus the rise of online applications, blind ads, and even postings that state "jobless candidates need not apply." It's frustrating and unfair, but here's my question: How does the employer know if we are jobless? The answer: We tell them!
Here are five tips for pitching your talent without making it immediately evident that you are currently unemployed.
1. Use time frames instead of dates on your resume.
Your resume is a marketing tool, not historical document. The goal is to get the interview; not take its place! Traditional, chronological resumes highlight work history, gaps and current unemployment. Instead of chronicling what you used to do for other companies, build your resume around your qualifications for the job that you want next and where you gained your talent. Downplay exactly when you gained your experience by using time frames instead of actual dates. For example: 1990 to 1999 becomes "9 years." These chunks show your expertise and experience without revealing current or past gaps. They can be pared-down so that you don't appear overqualified -- i.e., 9 years becomes "6-plus years" if the employer requires 5 or 6 years' experience. They can be grouped together under a single title to eliminate short stints and interpret how your experience adds up -- i.e., three less-than-two-year stints as a waitress, call center operator, and retail agent at different companies can become "Customer Service, 5-plus years." Also, these chunks can be re-ordered to present your experience in the most compelling way, regardless of when it was gained.
2. Tout your 'experience.'
Current employment gaps can be filled with volunteerism, family responsibilities, hobbies, life experience, education or other valuable activity. First, craft a resume focused on your qualifications for the job you want, even if they were gained in non-employment or unpaid settings. At the bottom, create an "Experience" section. "Experience," rather than something like employment history, work experience or professional background, allows you to use experience outside of work. Represent what you did, where you did it (without mentioning that the "experience" was personal, voluntary, etc.), and account for your time using time frames or years only. For example, I represented the experience of a 20-something job seeker who cared for her ailing grandmother while she finished school as 'Elder Care, Private Home, Los Angeles, CA, 4 years'. If you have experience doing what the job requires and proof you are good at it, use it, and be prepared to answer questions and market yourself with it!
3. Quit lining up at the front door.
No one hires a piece of paper. Applications and resumes are used to screen us out, and can only get us a call or an interview -- not a job offer. Employers hire people, so get out there and get connected to decision-makers who can actually choose to hire you. Currently, the "front door" to decision-makers is guarded and crowded, but you can find "side doors" that let you get to and impress decision-makers before you submit a resume or even make them aware that you are seeking work. Side doors include getting introductions in a social or business setting, attending industry or company events, volunteering, approaching them as a customer or expert, and more. When you make a connection, focus on establishing your value (interest in the field, respect for the company, relevant skills, powerful experience, common colleague, etc.) before expressing that you are interested in "being part of the team."
4. Watch your language!
Lead with your talent, interest and value! Remove terms like "unemployed, looking for work, job seeking" from your vocabulary, and replace them with "exploring a career change, interested in building a career in the industry, passionate about the company and becoming part of the team, looking to use my talent to make the company money," etc. Abandon questions such as "Are you hiring? Can I send you my resume? Are you accepting applications?" Instead offer a quick introduction, share one to three brief and relevant selling points, and ask "Are you looking for someone like me? Do I sound like someone you'd like to have on your team?" or "Could the company use someone with my talent?" Even if they are not currently hiring, you are more likely to get a positive response, an admission that they're always looking for good people, or a referral to someone who may need your talent (if you ask).
5. Fake it till you feel it -- OR -- don't act 'jobless.'
If we are more attractive to employers when we are already employed, acting as if you have already been chosen can go a long way to helping employers see your value. So ... fake it 'til you feel it! Your job search may be wearing you out, but there are times and places in your life at which you are confident, positive and hopeful -- perhaps in your past work life, or in your parenting, gardening, art, a hobby or somewhere else. Wherever it is, find it! Recall how you felt about yourself, and walked, talked, thought, responded to adversity and to the question "How are you?"Then mobilize that inner confidence and those behaviors -- from that place -- during your search. If you can play within the employer's rules and win, go for it. If by following the rules you are likely to get screened out, bend the rules! What have you got to lose?
Learn more in "The 6 Reasons You'll Get the Job" (foreword by Richard Bolles, author of 'What Color is Your Parachute?').
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