Overcoming the “Under-Qualified” Stigma

Investment Banking Analyst, Chicago, IL
Marketing & PR Internship, Miami, FL
Vice President, Philadelphia, PA
Sr. Consultant, Boston, MA
Quantitative Analyst Intern, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

It’s happened to everyone: you come across a job description for a position that’s right up your alley. The job is interesting and looks like something that you are completely capable of and excited to do. And then your eyes wander to the “Qualifications” section… You don’t have a Masters degree, 5+ years of experience, or a Series 7 license. So what do you do? Scrap it and move on? If you’re lacking many of the key qualifications that appear mandatory, then indeed you’re probably better off allocating your time and effort applying elsewhere. But if you’re only a few qualifications away from that ideal candidate description, you might be selling yourself short if you give up before even trying. Read on for a list of tips on overcoming the “under-qualified candidate” stigma.

Emphasize Your Skills

Ok, so maybe you don’t hit every bullet point with your qualifications. But don’t give up hope just yet. For many positions, the “Qualifications” section is merely a list of attributes of the ideal candidate. This doesn’t mean that they’re unwilling to consider someone who meets only some of the requirements. So instead of dwelling on what you haven’t done, focus on what you’re great at. Many skills that you acquire throughout school, volunteer work, or another job are transferable to other positions, and can be used to replace any prerequisites that you might not meet. Highlight these skills or experiences in your cover letter, and explain how they will help you excel in that specific job. One important caveat: don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you’re completely unqualified for – for example, if you’re looking at a position for an Associate Attorney at a top law firm, you better have a law degree.

Go the Extra Mile

If you come up short on knowledge or experience, emphasize to an employer that you are willing to work harder than any other candidate to brush up on your skills and become well versed in the subject matter. Don’t underestimate the value that hiring managers place on a strong work ethic. Include in your resume and cover letter examples of your ability to learn quickly. If you possess many of the other qualities of the ideal candidate, you may find that your enthusiasm to learn and contribute may very well land you the position.


Networking is a great way to gain introductions into a company. Networking can also help you establish someone on the inside as an individual who can vouch for you. When you come across that tricky job description, mention to your contact that you’re planning on applying, and explain why. Be honest, and address any points that might weaken your application. Companies want to hire individuals they can trust. If someone with a good history at the company is able to put in a good word for you, it will further bolster that company’s confidence in bringing you on.

Volunteer or Intern

If you find that no matter how you try to spin it, you just can’t land the position you want based on your qualifications, offer to volunteer your services for free. This isn’t to say that you should ever allow a company or an individual to take advantage of you. But if you volunteer or intern for a company, you’ll gain valuable experience that you can parlay into a future opportunity at the company. Get in, work hard, and show them that they need you. Even if doing so doesn’t lead to another prospect within that company, you’ll gain important knowledge and skills that will qualify you for a position similar to the job you had hoped for at the outset.

It’s easy to look at a job description, think, “There’s someone out there who’s better,” and quickly abandon the effort. But have a little faith in yourself – play to your strengths and commit to working even harder than the next guy, and you may find yourself more qualified than you think. So take a chance – you’ve got nothing to lose – and you may find yourself one step closer to your dream job!

All the best,
The Doostang Team

The Best Way to Answer “YES” to “Have You Ever Been Fired?”

Investment Banking Analyst, New York, NY
Marketing Internship, San Francisco, CA
Investment Analyst, Boston, MA
Marketing Strategy Analyst, Shanghai, China
Jr. Trader, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

For some, the question “Have you ever been fired?” can inspire a pit in the stomach when the answer to that question is “Yes”.  You may be among an unfortunate bunch who had a horrific experience at a company (or with a certain coworker or boss), ending in a not so ideal ending.  And whether your termination was your fault or not, it can continue to haunt you in your search for future prospects.  So what is the best way to field this tough issue?

Be Honest

First things first:  don’t lie.  It may be tempting to dismiss the topic altogether, hoping that the company you’re interviewing with never finds out – but what happens if they do?  If they find out during the interview process, you’re certain not to get the job.  And if they find out a few years down the line, no matter how great an employee you are, they may still decide to let you go.  A second termination is not what you want on your record, so do yourself a favor and be upfront and honest from the get go.  It’s much safer, and you’ll stress about if far less in the long run.

Provide Some Context

Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

While it’s important to be forthcoming in your response to this question, you also don’t want to spend too much time addressing the matter.  Keep the focus of the interview on what makes you the ideal person to hire, and spend as little time as you can conveying what the interviewer needs to know about that particular incident.  People who feel the need to defend themselves tend to over-explain, and this can portray lack of confidence and lead you down the wrong road.  Certainly stray away from speaking ill of your former boss or company, remaining as objective and succinct as possible.

No one likes getting fired and everyone wants to find a new job.  Don’t let one obstacle in your past set the tone for the rest of your career.  Concentrate on what you need to do to land your next job and on the reasons you’re a perfect fit for it, and the rest will follow.

Have a wonderful day,

The Doostang Team

How to Handle Resume Gaps

Trading Assistant, New York, NY
Manager, Boulder, CO
Credit/Risk Analyst, Broomfield, CO
Strategy & Operations Extern, Chicago, IL
Analyst, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

Job seekers often assume that in order to score the perfect job, one has to be the perfect candidate.  That the right mix of education, titles, and skills is needed in order to land the career of their dreams.  So when faced with resume gaps, an individual may rightly feel disheartened.  But continuous employment is not the be-all, end-all to nabbing a great job, especially in these times.  It is important, however, to know how to treat employment gaps on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your interview.

The Functional Format

One way to gloss over gaps on your CV is to create a functional resume.  This focuses on your skills and achievements, rather than on specific dates.  There are certainly other advantages to formatting your resume this way as well, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly what it is that you bring to the table.  The trick here is to tailor it to the specific job that you are applying for.

List Your Achievements

Another way to downplay a gap in employment is to highlight your accomplishments on your resume.  While you may not have continuous experience, various honors will convey that you have quality experience, and that you have been recognized as having done an outstanding job.

Include Extracurricular Experience

Hiring mangers understand that qualified candidates may have gaps in employment.  What they want to avoid, however, is a candidate who is qualified but who lacks work ethic.  What did you do while you were out of a job?  Did you volunteer or become an active member of an organization?  Even though you weren’t necessarily paid for your extracurricular activities, it’s perfectly okay to list them.  Highlight your transferable skills here, and focus on how you can apply them to the position you are currently seeking.

Explain Your Reasons

It also works well to just come out and explain why you have a resume gap and what you did to fill your time.  Don’t be afraid to address the matter in a cover letter or an interview.  Hiring managers will respect your willingness to be forthright about periods of unemployment, and will be interested to learn about the creative, productive ways in which you were able to spend your time instead.

In a time where everyone’s looking for an edge, an employment  gap can seem like a major setback.  But if you know how to strategically position yourself and your experience, a hiring manager will be much more interested in what you have done, rather than what you haven’t.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Graduate School vs. Full-Time Career

Analyst, Richmond, VA
Marketing Research Associate, Chicago, IL
Investment Banking Analyst, Washington, DC
Consultant, Boston, MA
Associate, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

Many individuals who are finishing up their undergraduate degrees are faced with the dilemma of choosing between pursuing higher education or jumping into the real world and landing a full-time job.  There are certainly pros and cons to each path, but ultimately it comes down to the individual.  If you are facing this conundrum, here are some things you may want to consider:

Graduate School


Many people in favor of going to graduate school straight out of college argue that this creates a much smoother transition.  You are still in “school mode”, having spent the last 17 or so years of your life in the classroom, and you don’t have as many commitments in the real world that are holding you back.  Because you are fresh out of college, you don’t have a job that will be difficult to leave, and you likely don’t have a family of your own to think about when potentially moving across the country.  In short, you still have the flexibility that makes focusing on graduate school much easier.

People in favor of graduate school after college also argue that in this sort of economy, delaying the job search may be a good idea.  You don’t have to enter the fray quite yet, and in addition to waiting out an iffy job market, you are adding more credibility to your name by earning additional degrees and accolades.


The downside of entering graduate school is that if the institution you are attending does not sponsor your degree, you are getting yourself into further debt without the guarantee of a job immediately after graduation.  You may also lack the real world experience to determine what exactly you want to pursue, and whether or not your choice of study will be useful in the real world.

Full-Time Career


One of the biggest pros for waiting a few years before going back to school is that the real world experience you bring with you enriches your academic experience.  You have a better perspective on the practical use of your degree and know more thoroughly what you want to get out of it.  Waiting a few years before returning to your studies may also ensure that you end up pursuing an area that you’re actually interested in, instead of jumping into something right away just for the sake of staying in school.

Another plus to having some real world experience under your belt is that, upon graduation, you are more likely to land a great job. Companies often prefer real world experience in addition to a degree, as opposed to someone who has the same degree but no idea of what it’s like to be in a real working environment.  Also, there is the added benefit of already having the proper connections from your previous job to help get you back on your feet and working again, which you wouldn’t have had if you went straight into grad school.


The downside to putting off graduate school is that it may be difficult to get back into it.  You may find that you love your job and it’s difficult to leave.  You may have a family, in which case it could be hard to relocate to a place that otherwise would have been an ideal fit for you.  Or you may feel too distanced from academia itself to feel entirely comfortable heading back.

There are certainly drawbacks to each side of the debate, but people pursue both paths successfully all the time.  What it really comes down to is weighing all the pros and cons and deciding what is right for YOU.

All the best,

The Doostang Team

What to Include on Your Resume

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Many job seekers feel the need to present a broad view of skills in order to qualify for a variety of positions and want to add in everything but the kitchen sink!  Discerning what to include and what to exclude can be a difficult task.  Don’t despair — here are some points to help:

Don’t Try to Include Too Much Information

Most hiring managers currently aren’t interested in a resume that goes back more than 15 years. In fact, including a lot of significant accomplishments from early in your career could backfire by inadvertently emphasizing the lack of recent accolades. Start by paring down to the essentials.

Each section in a resume has to reinforce your strengths and serve multiple purposes because of limited space. Many readers will not continue because of the time required to sort through the resume.

Package the Resume with Effective Position Titles

Be as specific as possible and consider changing the title as needed to fit the current job search.  With a well-rounded resume you probably won’t need to create an entirely separate resume for each application.  In addition, the broad range of skills can also make you a more valuable candidate.

Compare these two opening titles:  Software Developer vs. IT Professional.

There are pros and cons to the use of each type of title. The more specific title of Software Developer may unintentionally limit your search. However, greater specificity can also give you a leg up on the competition because it helps the hiring manager see exactly what opening your qualifications fit.  The more general title of IT Professional may help you in being considered for a number of positions, although you may stand out less from the competition. If you are applying to a broad range of positions and feel you won’t be able to modify the title for each position, you may be better off using the more general title.

Do Include a Brief Company Description

A brief company description provides a context to help the reader understand your accomplishments and it saves valuable real estate on the resume since you only state it once. Look at the 2 examples below to see the difference between a traditional approach and a powerful one.

Logistics Manager 2010 – Present
ABC Successful Company, New York

Duties included planning daily schedules to achieve production goals. Supervised plant personnel in US and Mexico to maintain on-time delivery.  Balanced budget. Trained and supervised office, plant, and management positions. Responsible for P&L oversight, analysis, and reporting. Increased sales and reduced costs. Expanded business.

ABC SUCCESSFUL COMPANY, New York, New York – 2010 to Present
Global multi-million dollar sprocket manufacturer, applying lean manufacturing principles in 100 factories throughout North and South America.

Logistics Manager
Orchestrate all aspects of daily schedules, remotely managing 13 sites through direct supervision of plant managers. Analyze production to reach weekly targets and maintain budget and delivery schedules. Command full P&L oversight, analysis, and reporting. Utilize participative management techniques to facilitate communication and shared ownership, while developing staff to potential.

How you choose to package your experience and skills is just as critical as your talent and expertise. If a hiring manager is unable to get excited when reading the resume, you are unlikely to get called for the interview. You have a lot of control over how the reader will react to your resume. Make your achievements shine by effectively organizing your resume and you are likely to be preparing for an interview! Good luck and stay positive!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Leverage Education to Land a New Job

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Junior Analyst, New York, NY
Consultant, Boston, MA
Associate, Los Angeles, CA
Marketing Specialist, New York, NY
Investment Banking Analyst, Burlington, MA

More recent jobs you might like…

Getting additional training is a critical part of job preparation throughout your career. Packaging that information effectively in the resume is not always as clear-cut. Based on how much time and money you have invested, training experiences may be more important to you personally than they are critical to landing a job. You may need some assistance in objectively placing the training where it belongs on your resume. Consider these tips to effectively present education and training experiences in your resume.

Placement: Where do I put my education?

The current format for most resumes does not lead with education.  In fact, it is not wise for someone with a solid career — and who recently obtained a degree – to lead with his/her education. Doing so may give the mistaken impression that your education is your strongest asset, implying that your experience may not be as impressive, is sketchy, or falls short in some fashion.

Emphasis:  How much should I include about my education?

Similar questions about your work history may be raised in the reader’s mind when extensive training experiences are included.  In fact a lengthy list of training may obscure your talents, again giving the reader the impression that your training overshadows your work experience or is even meant to obfuscate actual details of your career. In other words, the question may form in the reader’s mind – what is she / he trying to cover up?

Education Dates:  Should I include graduation or training dates?

Unless you are a recent graduate, it is not necessary to include specific dates of graduation.  In fact, including dates on early degrees may actually make you vulnerable to ageism. Including dates of education and training also clutters the resume and takes up valuable space that could be used for outlining other strengths.

No Degree: How do I handle the lack of a degree?

Including extensive training experiences can also be an attempt to over-compensate for the lack of a completed degree. Of course, a degree is an important credential, but if you don’t have one or didn’t complete all the requirements, don’t attempt to hide that fact.  It will only “come back to bite you”.  An option for managing the lack of a degree is provided below.


Business Coursework (non-degree)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Annual Training: How do I decide what to include?

To manage extensive training or even annual certifications that you want to include, but don’t want to take up all the valuable real estate on the resume, group similar trainings together or indicate successive years for annual licensure or certifications, such as with first aid or safety training.

Professional Development / Certifications

First Aid Training (Annual Certifications 2005-2010)

Management by Proxy / Supervising Remotely

Future Education Plans:  How do I handle my intent to apply?

You may also be tempted to include additional training or education that is part of your future plan, but for which you have not been accepted.  Don’t succumb to the temptation.  Only include educational experiences you have actually completed or that are in process.  If you just began the program and feel self-conscious about stating that you won’t graduate for another 3 years simply include “in process” or the date of matriculation into the program.


Bachelor of Arts in Business Management (in process)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Bachelor of Arts in Business Management (matriculated into program 2010)

ABC University, Anywhere, USA

Time Off for Education: How do I handle work gaps for education?

You can also add an educational note in the midst of your work history to explain any gaps for school-related activities.  Place the note chronologically as if it were a position, exactly when it occurred.  This serves to explain the offending gap in your employment, answering the question in the reader’s mind before they have a chance to ask it, and highlights your commitment to continued professional development. That blend of education and experience is typically the strongest presentation for any job candidate.

Tailor your resume by including your most important attributes and experiences early in the resume.  Remember, placement of education later in the resume doesn’t diminish its importance.  The education then becomes the foundation, consistent with its place in your career progression.  Because of your personal and financial investment in the process, you may be over-valuing the importance of educational and training activities because they are important to you personally.  Try to be objective or ask a trusted colleague or professional service for feedback if you feel too invested in putting your education first on your resume!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Doostang News October 11: How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Real Estate Investment Analyst, Los Angeles, CA
Green Technology Associate, Philadelphia, PA
Investment Banking Analyst, Atlanta, GA
Search Marketing Analyst Intern, San Francisco, CA
Senior Associate, Boston, MA

More recent jobs you might like…

While many people leave their previous positions simply in search of another opportunity or for logistical reasons, such as moving or needing to cut back on hours, others leave for slightly more complicated reasons, such as an abrasive boss or an unfulfilled promise.  Whatever your reason, there are certain ways to talk about this aspect of your job history so that your experience helps, not hurts you.

Don’t Badmouth Your Employer

This seems obvious, but sometimes people are tempted to put down their previous employer in order to justify a move that seems less logical otherwise.  Some individuals feel that dealing with a bad employer is a character building experience, one that sets them up to succeed more in their next position.  While this may be true, the best candidate in an interviewer’s eyes is someone who can maintain their grace and composure in a less than perfect situation.  When you digress in your interview and start bringing up the bad blood that existed between you and your former boss, you might come across as irrational or vindictive, two qualities that raise red flags for a hiring manager.  Try to speak more diplomatically, focusing on how the company culture may not have been an ideal fit.  You might bring up how you had a different outlook than your boss, but this is still a bit risky – you don’t want to come off as obstreperous.  When you can, try to stick to more neutral points, such as the fact that you achieved all you could at your old job and now you are ready to move on to something new.

Don’t Talk About the Negative Aspects of Your Last Job

Try not to focus on how things weren’t going well at your last job.  Again, you don’t want the hiring manager to associate any negativity with you – it’s important to keep the tone of the interview as positive as possible.  It’s even advisable not to talk about how you weren’t feeling challenged enough, even though this implies that you are ready to tackle tougher projects.  That’s because you don’t want to convey that you won’t stick around when you get bored; there will be times when an employer will need you to complete a project that you may not be excited about.  Overall, try not to come across as someone who won’t be reliable if the job is less than perfect from time to time – you want to seem as flexible as possible.

Don’t Dwell on the Question

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time discussing why you left your old job, but rather, should focus on why you want to enter this new one.  The less time you devote to the matter, the less the hiring manager will think about it, and the smaller the odds that your answer will raise any eyebrows.  Simply explain how you are ready to start an exciting, new chapter in your life and that you’re very happy for the opportunity to consider a position like the one they are offering.

When it comes down to it, the main reason hiring managers ask why you left your last position is to figure out if there is anything that they should be wary of in your past.  If you don’t give them any reason to question your integrity or work ethic, but instead focus on how excited you are about the job at hand, this tricky question should have little bearing on your chances of getting the job!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Putting Your Education to Work on Your Resume

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Investment Banking Analyst, San Francisco, CA
Associate Consultant, Atlanta, GA
Investment Banking Analyst Intern, New York, NY
Research Analyst (Business Valuation), Irvine, CA
Associate – Hedge Fund of Funds Investment Team, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

You’ve spent lots of money on tuition and endless hours studying to earn those degrees. Now it’s time to put that time and money to work for you to land a lucrative new job. Finding the best way to showcase this information on your resume, ensuring you make the most of your credentials isn’t so easy.

Even the most brilliant and educated candidate can readily get confused by the conflicting information offered by career experts. Rather than banking on educated guesses, use this quick “study guide” to test whether you’re maximizing your education background on your resume:

Where to Place the Education Section on Your Resume

Before even trying to assemble this information on your resume, a key step is to determine what type of candidate you are.

If you are a job seeker remaining in the same field and have at least five years of experience, emphasize work experience. This means detailing your work history first, followed by your education information.  Employers greatly value contributions you’ve made to current and/or former employers, since they are the best indication of your potential in a workplace environment. Your studies, while important and often mandatory for consideration, are typically secondary to experience.

Entry-level candidates who recently finished college usually have little work experience. Employers are fully aware of this, so while they are interested in any related internships or experience, their primary interest lies in the candidate’s education. The best option for entry-level candidates, therefore, is listing the education section first.

Another type of candidate who would list education before work history would be a career changer who recently completed a degree or course relevant to the new professional path. For example, if a retail manager just completed an MBA in accounting, passed the CPA exam, and is now seeking an accounting position, the education section would be placed before work experience on the resume.

Listing Coursework

Entry-level candidates could expand upon some practical experience acquired in the course of their studies. Yet for more experienced job seekers, such details are not only unnecessary, but inadvisable. A more experienced job seeker offering specifics about coursework could inadvertently lend a lower-level feel to the overall resume presentation. There are exceptions, however. For instance, candidates seeking academic positions would list relevant coursework and publications.

Stating Year of Graduation

Only recent college graduates need to list the year of graduation since the candidate will want to account for lack of work history. It will make sense to an employer that the resume doesn’t go beyond 2008 if the candidate received a degree the same year.

Otherwise, it is not a good idea to include a year of graduation, as this will give employers a sneak peek of your age. Let your credentials speak for themselves and avoid any potential for age discrimination by omitting the year you completed a degree.

Using Designations

Some candidates include a representation of degrees and certifications earned following their names. This can be a great tool to convey a credential without taking up much room. Since one’s name appears first, at the top of a resume, it immediately highlights your professional qualifications, especially for industry-specific credentials.

However, there are some pitfalls you want to avoid. If too many designations follow a name, the overall impact is lost. It’s great if you have five professional certifications, but you don’t need to list all of them. Try to limit it to three for maximum impact.

Listing a very common degree could also turn off a reader. “John Doe, BA” really won’t impress the same way “John Doe, PhD” will.

Maximizing a Professional Summary

If there are facts you want to emphasize but you don’t want to risk an employer missing it in the education section, feel free to make a mention of it in the professional summary. As an example, you may need an MBA in order to apply for a particular position, so you want to make sure the employer sees right off the bat that you have one. If your extensive work history has pushed your education section to the bottom of page two, the perfect solution is to briefly mention your MBA in your professional summary.

The professional summary is also a great way to include a fact that really has no place in the education section. For example, if you went to an Ivy League school, you can easily incorporate that into your professional summary without sounding pretentious.

Of course, these are general guidelines. The best strategy to present your educational credentials is as individual as you are, so make sure you do your homework when it comes to preparing your resume.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

The Best Resume for a Bad Economy

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

M&A Analyst, New York, NY
Business Associate, Palo Alto, CA
Research & Trading Associate, Cambridge, MA
Business Development Director, Newark, NJ
Associate Analyst, Chicago, IL

More jobs we think you’ll like…

With unemployment at its highest level in more than 25 years, many professionals are out of work for the first time in their careers. Things may look bleak, but for those worrying they will have to go from earning six figures to minimum wage, take heart. Though no one wants to settle for a job that is far below one’s worth, there is good news.

There are some creative strategies a job seeker may consider that will not adversely impact his or her long-term career outlook. In fact, just a few small strategic changes to your resume can instantly increase your job-hunting prospects even in these rough economic times.

Broaden Your Scope

You may have spent your entire career in one industry, but it may be time to also look around for positions in related fields. If you not are willing to settle for anything less than your dream job, go for it — but be willing to wait. For most, especially those already out of work, finding a job as soon as possible is important. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must settle or take a step down. All that’s required is an open mind to consider a comprehensive range of lateral possibilities.

For example, a human resources professional who specializes in recruitment may now branch out into related functions such as employee relations, benefits administration or even generalist positions. A laid-off newspaper copy editor could move away from the struggling newspaper industry and apply his or her skills for technical writing or public relations roles. A real estate sales representative can look into sales positions for other industries by emphasizing his or her transferable skills.

To compete with others who may have had more direct experience, you can level the playing field by highlighting valuable transferable skills on your resume rather than focusing just on specialized experience.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Titles

Instead of seeking out positions based on job title, it may be time to adjust your strategy or you risk limiting your prospects. Concentrate on job descriptions rather than titles. This doesn’t only apply when looking through postings, but also when it comes to branding yourself correctly on a resume.

Rather than listing a very specific job title as your objective, indicate something more general. A more general objective will broaden your appeal to recruiters and hiring managers weeding through resumes.

Don’t Fall Into The Overqualified Pile

You may have far more experience for a position than required, but you still want to be considered for the role. Downplaying your achievements is never advisable, but if you are a job seeker with “too much” experience, simply avoid going back too far on your resume. After all, highlighting accomplishments from 1976 will usually not help you anyway since it is from so long ago. Employers are most interested in your recent experience.

As a bonus, you will avoid another pitfall in the process. Discrimination of any kind is, of course, illegal, but unfortunately, it does happen. As a general rule, there is usually no compelling reason to go beyond 20 years on your resume.

Don’t Agonize Over Employment Gaps

It wasn’t too long ago when a resume reflecting any gaps in employment was taboo. It was thought to raise glaring red flags, implying something amiss in your job history. In a robust economy, it’s understandable for an employer to question why a jobseeker didn’t work for a long stretch of time. But in times like these, an abundance of well-qualified people are out of work through no fault of their own. It is simply reflective of our times.

That’s why there’s really no reason to be overly concerned about gaps in a resume — within reason. If you haven’t worked for six months, it doesn’t really require an explanation these days. If you’ve been out of work three years, that’s a different story. In such cases, it’s usually best to tactfully indicate the reason right on the resume to prevent an employer from speculating.

Minimize “Job Hopping”

In tough economic times, many jobseekers accept temporary assignments or perform consulting work as they search for permanent positions. Such experience is valuable because it not only helps pay the bills, but also demonstrates a strong work ethic and shows you are keeping your skills sharp. However, listing a series of several jobs over a short period of time on your resume could project an inaccurate image of a job hopper to an employer who is just giving your resume a preliminary glance. The best way to present this on your resume is to group consulting work together so you showcase your contributions without giving it too much valuable space, adversely impacting your overall presentation.

There’s little we can do to change the economy, but with the right strategy, your resume can help show your true worth — even in today’s tough job market.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!