July 10, 2012

Resume Writing Tips for Individuals with a Not-So-Shining History

There are few things more daunting than composing a professional resume. For the most part, we're a species of niceties—we don't talk about ourselves or tout our every accomplishment. We've been told time and time again that endlessly speaking highly of ourselves and listing all of our awards are telltale signs of egotism and arrogance. But, when you enter the professional world, those schoolyard lessons are thrown out the window. This is why resume writing is so uncomfortable—we're not used to so openly talking positively about ourselves. But, you must. Your resume should sell your traits, experience, and education to an employer.

In many ways your resume acts as a preliminary or mini background check for your employer. Employers will use the information provided on a resume to briefly check your credentials. Creating a resume that you feel best sells yourself can feel very difficult if there are gaps in your employment history, if you were let go from a position, or if you have an incomplete educational history. Use these resume writing tips to tackle these tough topics and create a document that employers will really respond to.

Spotty Employment History

Gaps in employment are things that potential employers look at closely. When composing your resume with work experience, don't lie about dates. Put in the dates that you worked places and consider filling in the gaps with the other things you did during your unemployment. Include any volunteering, interning, or education you completed during your unemployment. These activities demonstrate a lot of positive things to an employer and can be as "resume-boosting" as a paid position. Only include these types of employment fillers when they are truly relevant. Employers don't want know about things outside of professional work you have done unless they are pertinent to the position at hand.

Getting Laid Off

One of the most difficult things to deal with during a job hunt can be communicating that you were laid off. Of course, this topic doesn't always have to come up, but it's important that you know how to handle it if it does. In a world today where job security isn't quite as secure as we would hope, many employers are very understanding about layoffs. Explain that your former company was downsizing or restructuring and that you were unable to remain with them. If that employer is still available as a professional reference, then your case alongside theirs should be great. If you were let go for reasons other than "downsizing", you should be up front with a potential employer. You can use this opportunity to communicate that it was a learning experience for you and you have worked to fix things.

Incomplete Educational History

For entry level positions, potential employers will take a very close look at your educational history. Many individuals attend one school for college and then stop for a period of time and finish their degree elsewhere at a later date. If this is the case, be clear about what degree level and useful courses were completed overall at any institutions you attended. For the most part, potential employers are not going to penalize your for having gaps in your educational history or an elongated history. Use your interview or cover letter as an opportunity to address those gaps if you feel it is necessary.
Author: Familiar with personal information screenings and online background checks, Jane Smith regularly writes about these topics in her blogs. Feel free to send her comments at janesmith161@gmail.com.