Unemployed? Don't Let That Stop You From Becoming the Candidate of Choice
For a variety of reasons, employers are reluctant to hire people who’ve been out of work for years and in some cases even just a few months.
“There is some truth to the idea that the longer a person has been out, the harder it is,” says Elizabeth Lions, author of Recession Proof Yourself. “When a hiring professional looks at a resume, they don't want to see gaps. They also don't want to see someone take a step backward in their career.”
Many human resource professionals, career coaches and hiring professionals say successfully breaking out of long-term employment requires a good strategy and altering some habits.
Randy Mitchelson, an entrepreneur and veteran of the financial services industry, says he’s found four common traits among the long-term unemployed: depression, too much isolation, little focus in the job search and little understanding about how to find a job other than applying online.
Here are some strategies for breaking out of long-term unemployment.
Write a game plan and stick to it
“You need to create your own plan – keeping in mind where you’re headed,” says Nancy Michaels, a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and speaker on business issues. “Finding a job is hard work in today’s highly competitive job market.”
Michaels says at the core of the plan should be basic details such as the kind of company you want to work for (including location, products created or services offered) and the kind of environment you’re seeking, such as creative, structured, teams or solo projects.
“Know what your strengths are and seek out positions and companies who will appreciate your talents and offerings,” she says.
Get out of the house
“Keep a real tight schedule,” says Ben Nettleton, social media and affiliate director of Global Health Living who once experienced a long bout of unemployment. “Don't get into a routine of waking up at 10 a.m. Don't avoid showers until 1:30 p.m. Don't watch daytime TV while you look for a job. If it's a Tuesday and it's 4:30 p.m., and you still haven't accomplished anything, you're setting yourself up for huge problems.”
Re-think your job hunt strategy
“If candidates have been unemployed for some time, they need to take a critical look at what they’ve been doing in their current job hunt,” says Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire. “Are they papering the town with their resume without tailoring it? Are they applying for multiple unrelated jobs at the same company? There are plenty of things job seekers do which can easily label them as desperate in the eyes of employers.”
Be a candidate, not an applicant
“How you get yourself in front of a decision maker is often more important than simply having the right answers,” says Paul Hill, a career and job search coach and author of The Panic Free Job Search. "Most long-term unemployed have been playing the ‘online job application lottery’ for too long. Being referred to a decision maker through networking raises the trust factor in the eyes of the decision maker. The bottom line is you get hired when a decision maker feels he can trust you and gaining that trust is the key to coming out on top. By networking and subsequently being referred by an internal employee or a colleague the decision maker knows and trusts, you are elevated to the level of a candidate right from the start, and often that is the tipping point that closes the deal.”