Learn how to use your cover letter to explain your employment gaps.

How to Address Employment Gaps in Your Cover Letter

By Giana / July 28, 2016

[caption id="attachment_1061" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] Learn how to use your cover letter to explain your employment gaps.[/caption]   Use your cover letter to explain the employment gaps in your work history and allay any concerns your potential employers may have about your readiness for the job. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, chances are you’ve probably experienced at least one employment gap in your work history. Legitimate events may have kept you out of the workforce for some time. You may have been laid off, experienced an illness, taken care of a family member, traveled, or changed careers. If you have gaps in your employment history, your potential employers might have some questions about these gaps. Their skepticism is reasonable. Most employers would rather avoid candidates who seem to be "job hoppers" or who have a history of job loss due to poor performance. If you’ve spent some time on the sidelines, they’ll want to know why. Use your cover letter to address the employment gaps that may show up in your resume. Here’s how.

Express your employment dates in years.

In your “work experience” section of your resume, list the start and end years only, not the months or days. This will spark fewer concerns that you’ll need to explain away.

Mention non-family-related gaps directly.

In your cover letter, directly address that gaps that you’re comfortable discussing. For example, if you left your job to start a business, but it never got off the ground, share this proudly. A bold move like this showcases your willingness to take risks and try new things. The same applies to overseas volunteering, artistic endeavors, and other career side-trips that might showcase your strengths as an employee.

Keep family-related gaps to yourself.

While you may openly address your professional gaps in employment, it’s best to keep your personal gaps to yourself. For example, if you left the workforce to raise your children, you don’t have to share this with anyone. In fact, the law protects you from employers who ask during an interview. In cases such as these, keep the conversation focused on your qualifications and skill sets.

Highlight your mid-life career shifts.

If your employment gaps took place when you decided to switch career paths, build your cover letter around this narrative. Explain the reasons behind your decision. Outline the details of your journey from one field to the next. If your new career involved any kind of study or training that took the place of full-time work, state this clearly. Again, be proud of the risks you’ve taken and the accomplishments you achieved by leaving the workplace for a while.

If you really were fired, be careful.

If you did leave the workforce for a while due to performance or unreliability, tread carefully. In this case, it’s best to refrain from mentioning your employment gap in your letter (and in your interview) until you’re directly asked about it. When that happens, be ready to shed a positive, diplomatic light on the incident and explain what you learned during the process. For more on how to explain your work history to potential employers, rely on the resume building tools and guidelines from LiveCareer.

8 Skills That Will Help You Land the Job

By Giana / January 25, 2017

You found a job post that suits you perfectly. You can check off each of the required credentials, the location is perfect, and you recognize and respect the company and its brand. You’re ready to apply, but do you have the skills you need to land the job? If current technical skills match up to the daily tasks and responsibilities of this role, how do you convey that message clearly to set yourself apart from your competition? If you possess the following eight skills in addition to your professional experience, your odds of landing the job will increase exponentially. 1. Take Action Some people see something they want and go for it, while others waste time procrastinating or overthinking next steps until they are overwhelmed. Don’t be that person. When it’s time to act, act. Pay attention to the details, but don’t sweat the details to the point of paralysis. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; be afraid of inaction, missed deadlines, and missed opportunities. 2. Employ Empathy Empathy is the special skill that allows us to see the world from another person’s point of view. During a job search, empathy can be a very powerful tool. Read between the lines of the job post and apply your empathy. What are the employer’s needs? What kind of cultural match are they looking for? Having the ability to see the position through the eyes of the recruiter – and write your resume and cover letter to address their needs – is a special skill that will get you far. 3. Work on Your Writing Skills Before you meet your potential employers in person during an interview, you’ll first need to get their attention using your written words. You may not be a brilliant poet or world-changing speech writer, but can still make a concise and compelling case for yourself by answering two questions: What are the skills you possess that will allow you to handle this job? And what can you offer the employer that no other candidate can offer? Clearly state these responses in your resume and cover letter. Edit your work and have a friend proofread the final result for clarity and typos. 4. Perfect Your Phone Skills Can you bring employers over to your side during a ten-minute phone chat? You certainly can if you can perfect the art of the telephone interview. Prepare and practice your elevator pitch. Keep your voice measured and calm, but also engaged and energetic. Stand up while you speak, and smile. Both of these things can be heard in your voice. 5. Hone Your Listening Skills Don’t make your employer share the same details and information multiple times. To avoid asking the same questions over and over, write it down all relevant information. This includes the proper names of the people you interview with, names of clients, and all company divisions. 6. Market Yourself During a job search, you are the product and products need to be marketed in order to sell. Do you know how to pitch your accomplishments and abilities in a way that’s truthful, but not boastful? Do you now how to form a personal connection with your audience, which in this case is the hiring manager? Do you know how to grab attention in a positive way, and embed yourself in your employer’s memory after your interaction ends? Your marketing skills are important during your job search so don’t be shy. 7. Dress for Success Your interview outfit should demonstrate your respect for the opportunity so never arrive looking sloppy or disheveled. It should be clear that you considered your audience and your venue when choosing your outfit. Your clothes should be appropriate for the office culture. If you are unsure of how to dress, read company reviews online or ask the hiring manager. 8. Don’t Forget the Follow Up When you start something, finish it. After your interview, call or send a message within a day to thank the interviewers for their time. A well-written thank you note is a great way to reiterate your interest and engagement and leave a good impression with the hiring manager. During your job search process, check in with LiveCareer and use the tools on the site to keep your search—and the growth of your long-term career—on track.
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How to Ace Your Retail Interview

By Giana / November 28, 2016

You have what it takes to succeed in the people-focused world of retail. But are you ready to make this clear during your interview?

The retail industry has been a mainstay of the national employment landscape for a long time, and during the fall and winter months, retail hiring typically spikes. This year, the spike is predicted to rise higher than it has in more than a decade. Which is to say, if you have the right skills for a retail position, managers may be rolling out a red carpet for you.

Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities available to you? Do you have your polished resume in hand, along with your winning attitude and customer-friendly smile? Most important, are you ready to ace your retail interview? Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on the payroll in no time.

Review your candidacy through the eyes of a busy retail manager.

Your interviewer will be looking for a candidate who can show up on time and quickly learn the ropes of the job. But mainly, she’ll be looking for someone who can appeal to her customers. So can you do that? Make sure you step into your session with your customer in mind, not just your interviewer. Be neat, approachable, confident, and interested in solving whatever problems your customer/interviewer might send your way.

Make things easy.

When you speak, keep your words and your message as clear as possible. Don’t confuse your interviewer. If you can only work on Wednesdays, say so upfront. If you know some things about the job already, but will need training in other areas, be clear about this. If you can work a register or POS system, say so. If you can’t, answer honestly when asked. This won’t necessarily be a deal breaker, but your manager will need to know what resources you already have and what resources you’re going to need.

Show interest and signs of life.

Of course you probably don’t have an abiding passion for selling things in a store and your work doesn’t define your entire personality. But when it comes to “passion”, meet your employer halfway and rise to the occasion. Show that you truly care about rolling up your sleeves, helping others the way you would want to be helped, and doing your part for the team. Sit up straight, speak with energy, and be fully present. Even the smallest signs of personal investment can go a long way.

Reliability matters.

Hiring is expensive and risky, especially on a very tight deadline (which the holidays represent). Mitigate this risk and reassure your employer that you have no intention of coming in late, leaving them in a lurch, walking away before your shift is over, or otherwise not showing up when and where you’re needed.

Be nice.

Recognize that your employer may be very busy. So if she asks you a question that you’ve already answered on your resume, or asks you the same question twice during your session, roll with it. Be graceful and patient. Again, demonstrate the demeanor that you’ll present to your customers. If you don’t understand a question, politely ask the employer to repeat it. If you hear something about the job that you don’t like, ask politely for confirmation.

For more on how to get what you need during your retail interview, while also impressing your potential employer, explore the job search resources at LiveCareer.

Don’t Get Spooked by the Interviewer!

By Giana / October 27, 2016

On Halloween, we celebrate scary things, but nothing is scarier than an awkward job interview! Well, maybe a few things… But job interviews are no joke! Here are a few tips that can take the terror out of five tricky interview questions.

Halloween is just around the corner, and while we take delight in scaring ourselves with fake spiders and creepy tales of horror, many of us are also feeling serious heebie-jeebies (or at least anxiety) based on something comparatively mundane: the job search process. Specifically, interviews. While supernatural ghosts and goblins haunt our dreams, our waking hours are often haunted by something much more grounded in reality, and therefore much scarier: the prospect of having an everyday conversation with a total stranger who holds power over our professional and financial destiny. Eep.

There’s no doubt that interviews can be frightening. But a few simple considerations can take the terror out of these five tricky questions and help nervous job seekers move forward with confidence.

Why should we hire you?

When you hear this question, your thoughts may move toward the things you want. For example, you may think you should be hired because you’ve worked hard to get where you are, or because you have bills to pay, or because this job can help you advance your career. These things may be true, but when you answer, focus on how your presence in the workplace can help your employers reach their goals and get the things THEY want. So…what do they want? Give this matter some thought before your interview session begins.

Why do you want to work here?

Note, this question is not asking “Why are you looking for work?” but is instead asking, “Why are you looking for work HERE?” In other words, what do you find appealing about this company or organization that you haven’t found anywhere else? How does this specific job or company match your personality, your training, your special skills, your long term goals, or your job search needs? When you answer this, think about all the ways your plans align with the company’s plans, and shine a light on these details.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Of course you don’t know what the future will hold; nobody does. But thankfully, this isn’t a pop quiz and you aren’t applying for the job of a fortune teller. You’re simply being asked to describe your long term goals and demonstrate that you have the capacity to plan, dream, and think ahead. You aren’t living from one day and one paycheck to the next, and you recognize a future that lies beyond this moment and this specific open position. Be honest about your vision.

Describe your greatest weakness.

Nobody likes to talk about their weaknesses and shortcomings during an interview (and this question carries a trick element that borders on rudeness; many interviewers avoid it for this reason). But if you’re faced with this curveball, don’t panic. Simply describe one area or skill set in which you’ve had to work hard and learn tough lessons. For example, if you don’t love public speaking, describe how you’ve practiced and grown in this area during recent years.

What’s the story with your current (or most recent) job?

If you have a current job, why are you leaving? If you aren’t currently working, what happened to your last gig? Did you leave voluntarily? If so, why? Tough questions about past (or present) work situations can throw interviewees off balance; after all, perfectly content and thriving workers aren’t usually beating the pavement for jobs. But if you keep your answers positive and short, you’ll move quickly past this question and present yourself as an ambitious person in search of new opportunities.

For more on how to get past your fears and anxieties and move on to the next stage of your job search, explore the resume resources available at LiveCareer.