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Are you starting to think about returning to work? Maybe you took some time off after having a baby or maybe you have stayed home with the kids for a few years. Either way, you are returning to work. Here are my tips on resumes, interviewing and how to look for a job. Really, anyone looking for a job could benefit from this advice.
I have been in recruiting for 14+ years and have reviewed thousands of resumes. Currently, I am a Talent Acquisition Manager for a University in California. I am the first step in determining whether someone will come in for an interview or not.
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There are a lot of variables in play here such as how long you have been out of the workforce, what you were doing before you left, what you have done while off work and more. I am going to base this off someone that had about 5-15 years of work experience before the break and has been off for more than a year.
First and foremost you need to get your resume ready. Your resume is a snapshot of who you are and is often the only way a hiring manager will be able to get to know you before an interview. If you don’t feel confident about building your own, there are definitely services (like ResumesPlanet) that can help you build one. I have attached here a very basic but good sample resume that lets you use the format and input your own information.
Your resume needs to look professional and be able to represent who you are and what you have done. Here are some tips when building your resume.
- Do not put your picture on your resume! (Unless you are trying to get an acting position).
- Use a cover letter to explain what your resume doesn’t say. Use this to explain gaps in your resume, whether you are wanting to switch careers, relocate, just looking for part-time, etc.
- Keep the format consistent throughout the resume. Don’t change fonts.
- Only include your city and state for your address because you don’t need your personal address everywhere. You do need employers to know where you will be commuting from though. If you are wanting to relocate you can say the city and state you are planning to move to.
- Make sure you have a professional email listed. Ideally, something with your name in it. I once saw an email on a resume that started with TableDancer69!
- Start with your most recent experience and then work backward.
- Make it clear whether you have completed a degree or just taken college classes.
More tips on Resumes
- Resumes should be honest but there are ways to make things look better without being dishonest.
- If you have been laid off multiple times you might want to include a parenthesis after your industry with your reasons for leaving jobs so that it does not look like you are job hopping.
- If you have had a bunch of temporary positions, lump them together and put total dates and “temporary positions”.
- When you have had multiple positions at one company, put the total dates on the first line with the company name. Then, indent the job titles and include dates at each of those titles so the hiring manager can have a clearer picture of your experience and how you were promoted.
- If you have been out of work for a while but have done other things like consulting, taking a class or volunteer work, include that. Employers want to know what you have been up to especially if it includes keeping up with relevant skills.
- Skills are something you learn, not characteristics. A language, computer program, or a skill like welding would work. Do not put things down like strong communication or multi-tasker.
Congrats on getting an interview! This is a big first step to landing a job and returning to work. Make sure you have childcare lined up so you will be available to go on interviews. For tips on how to find a babysitter, see my post here. If it is too complicated to schedule you for an interview, it is going to put a bad taste in an employer’s mouth. Try to be as available as possible without sounding desperate.
An interview is a chance for you to decide if this is a place that YOU want to work just as much as it is an opportunity for employers to decide whether you are a good fit for them. Even if you are desperate to get a job for financial reasons, you want to make sure it is going to be a good fit. You will more than likely be putting this company on your resume and telling your family and friends where you are working.
Here are some tips on interviewing:
- Research the company to learn more before an interview. Companies like it when you at least have some basic knowledge on them before an interview. This is also an opportunity for you to make sure it is somewhere you would want to work.
- Dress up for an interview. Even if the standard attire for employees is very casual, dress up one or two levels more. If it’s business casual then slacks or a skirt plus a blouse would be good. If they are more business attire, make sure to come dressed in a full suit. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Be clean and smell good without strong perfume/cologne. Just because you love a scent, doesn’t mean everyone will and subconsciously, an unpleasant scent can be enough for someone not to have a good feeling about you.
- Bring multiple copies of your resume with you. Ideally in a portfolio to keep them nice and not wrinkled.
- Arrive 20 minutes early to the interview location and check-in 5-15 minutes before your scheduled time. Even if you arrive 30 minutes- 1 hour early do NOT check-in that early. When an employer is notified that the candidate has arrived they will not want to keep them waiting even if it is a bit early so don’t be an inconvenience.
- Make sure you confirm details before the interview and look up the location on the map so you are more familiar. If you have the time you could even drive over a few days before so you know where you are going on the day of the interview.
- If you are running late for any reason, call or send an email to let the hiring manager know.
More tips on Interviewing
- When you are asked the salary range you are looking for you can ask if there is a range for the position. In CA the employer is now required to give the range if asked if someone has completed an interview. They are also not legally allowed to ask you how much you were making.
- It is good to do some research to see the average salary range for the types of positions you are looking for. You should also make sure you have looked at your finances and know what your absolute minimum is ahead of time.
- Practice interviewing with a friend or spouse. Have them ask you tough questions like “Tell me about a mistake you have made at work and how you handled it”. Another good one to practice would be “Why do you want to work here?” Or “What is your greatest weakness and strength?”
- Use good eye contact without staring at people. Good eye contact shows confidence.
- Be clear and concise with your answers. If you were laid off from a job don’t say you were “let go” because that means you got fired.
- Use a firm handshake and eye contact when meeting the hiring manager.
- Send a thank-you email after the interview (ideally that evening).
Here are some recommendations for interviewing clothes in case you need some suggestions. The necklace is one I own and get tons of compliments on all the time. You can also check out Express for some more trendy but still classic looks for interviewing and work attire. This link will let you get 20% off at Express if you sign up for their email.
Searching for a job
Job hunting can be very daunting and overwhelming. The best way to get a job is through someone you know. Start with updating (or creating) your LinkedIn profile. You will want to connect with anyone you know professionally. Search for your past companies to find old co-workers. Request recommendations from them so you have references that can be seen. Make sure to have a clear and professional picture on your profile. You also want to make sure your job history is consistent with what you have on your resume. Turn on the feature that alerts recruiters that you are open to opportunities.
The great thing about looking for positions on LinkedIn is that the job postings will tell you if you might know someone there. Having that connection is a good way to get in, instead of just being another one of the hundreds of resumes.
My favorite place to job search is Indeed.com. It is a job aggregator so it pulls jobs from MANY sites and puts them all in one place. You can filter your search to narrow down options. The best feature is setting up the job search subscription. You can set it up with certain criteria and then you will be emailed when there are new jobs that match it. Applying quickly to new jobs can often be a make it or break it situation. Make sure to search for variations on job titles because companies often use different titles. A Sales position could also be an Account Executive or Account Manager.
Job Searching Tips
- Upload your resume on Indeed and LinkedIn.
- Keep a log (Excel is good for this) of all the jobs you have applied for and any pertinent details so you can refer back.
- If your experience is at least close to the requirements, go ahead and apply. Sometimes hiring managers are more flexible than it may seem. Don’t waste your time or the hiring manager’s time if you do not come close to the requirements though.
- Make sure to read job descriptions before applying. Sometimes there are details that might be deal-breakers for you like traveling, no benefits, only part-time hours, etc.
- Reach out to some reputable staffing firms. Even if you are only wanting permanent, full-time positions, staffing firms can be a great resource because they can speak to hiring managers directly. Ajilon and Ultimate Staffing are two that I have worked with personally.
- If you are able to take temporary work, it’s a great way to return to work and bridge your gap. Sometimes it could even turn into a permanent position.
Don’t expect to get the first job you apply for. Also, don’t expect to hear back right away if at all. Be open to feedback from employers. Graciously accept decline emails and don’t respond offensively. You will never know the full story behind any job, so don’t be offended if you were not chosen for a job. If you feel like you are getting burned out, take a break. The right job is out there. Make sure you let friends and family know you are looking so they can help keep an eye out for you.
Once you get the job here are some steps to take to prepare for returning to work after maternity leave.
Here are some excellent tips for choosing childcare.