How to Get a Job After Long-Term Unemployment Evaluate your real professional opportunities Use all sources for getting a job after a long period of unemployment Prepare a resume and a cover letter Get ready for an interview Expert tips for restarting a career after a long break Conclusion: make the career gap be on your side
How to Get a Job After Long-Term Unemployment Evaluate your real professional opportunities Use all sources for getting a job after a long period of unemployment Prepare a resume and a cover letter Get ready for an interview Expert tips for restarting a career after a long break Conclusion: make the career gap be on your side
Updated 03/10/2020

How to Get a Job After Long-Term Unemployment

Want to relaunch your career after a long break? Get tips on how to enhance your job search results, explain a career gap correctly to employers, and increase your chances to win the job of your dream.

Want to relaunch your career after a long break? Get tips on how to enhance your job search results, explain a career gap correctly to employers, and increase your chances to win the job of your dream.

Having a gap in a career makes people think that it will be difficult to return to work. Mahatma Gandhi said,

“The future depends on what you do today.”

Every step you make towards your goal brings you closer to reaching it.

A recent ManpowerGroup report states that 84% of millennials foresee taking career breaks, and now ‘career waves’ are replacing the outdated concept of the ‘career ladder.’ It is now considered a way to re-evaluate your professional vision, develop new skills, and try attractive personal development opportunities. But it is still challenging. So if you are wondering how to find a job after being unemployed for a long time, here are clear instructions for you to follow.


Evaluate your real professional opportunities

The labor market is very dynamic. It reacts to social, political, economic, and natural change, both locally and globally. For example, if you are looking to get a job after being unemployed for two years, you cannot even be sure that your profession is still prevalent. Evaluate today’s circumstances and your true capabilities for a new start. It is important to have a clear vision of what you want from future job opportunities. This will help to direct all your efforts into successful applications. Take the following steps:

  • Think about which jobs appeal to you.
  • Analyze which popular professions meet your experience, skills, and expectations.
  • Find relevant job posts from hiring companies that interest you.
  • Research information about the hiring companies you chose: their requirements, ethics, corporate culture, and feedback from employees.


Use all sources for getting a job after a long period of unemployment

When you finally decide what kind of jobs you wish to get, it’s time to search for relevant offers. There are many sources for looking for jobs for the long term unemployed. Traditionally, people start looking for employment online, through specialized job portals, applying to open postings. However, a lot of companies never post their openings, preferring to find candidates more privately.

A Jobvite's 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey reports that while many people find their jobs on online job boards or employer career websites, 50% of survey respondents found their future job from a friend or colleague. Another 37% found information through professional networks, and 35% discovered job postings in social media.

To use all available opportunities, you need to actively develop your connections. Lots of companies prefer to find new candidates using current employee referrals. They rely on recommendations from current workers more than on random applicants flowing in from online job postings.

Here are some tips on how to be recommended for a job that was not posted online:

  1. Update your professional and social network profiles with relevant information about your plans to find employment, your most vital skills, and mindset.
  2. Develop your connections among employees of the companies you’d like to join.
  3. Stay active online by participating in professional discussions and build a positive online image.
  4. Join professional communities to track the desired industry news and share your thoughts and insights to become noticed in the target community.
  5. Volunteer at events arranged by the companies in which you’d like to work. It will help to build connections and improve skills for the future job.

The best way to get back into work after long-term unemployment is to use both open and hidden labor markets to search. Develop a professional network of connections through all relevant means and get noticed in professional communities.

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Prepare a resume and a cover letter

Usually, the application process starts with sending a resume and a short cover letter containing relevant information about your skills, work experience, motivation to apply for a job, and professional goals. According to studies, 53% of employees admit that resumes with cover letters are preferred over resumes without cover letters. So you need both.

Create an informative resume that speaks for your qualifications

The hiring funnel is tough: on average, each job opening gets about 250 resumes, and only 4-6 candidates are sorted out for the interview. That’s why your resume must stand out from the rest. A good eye-catching resume is:

  • Informative yet compact: express the maximum amount of information in a minimum text;
  • Clear and easy to read: use professional words, but don’t be tortuous;
  • Relevant to the job post in terms of skills, prior experience, and education (preferably);
  • Well-designed: a stylish template that pleases the eyes of the reader.

Traditionally, a resume is one page. It’s not necessary to give every detail of your work experience for two reasons. First, respect the recruiter’s time. And second, the way you express information about yourself shows how well you can prioritize information and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Compose a cover letter: your elevator pitch to a potential employer

While a resume lists basic information about your professional profile, a cover letter has a more informal style. Here you can express your personality and convince an employer that you’re a perfect fit for the open position. A cover letter for the long-term unemployed is a good chance to counter concerns about your career break. Make sure it contains the following:

  • Start with a hook for making sure the recipient reads it from start to end by expressing your interest in the position.
  • Convince the employer that you can succeed based on your knowledge and experience.
  • Reveal your motivation to get the job, not material-only, share higher goals you pursue.
  • Show how you can add to the company’s value through your future work.
  • Make a short explanation of your temporary unemployment, revealing a reasonable cause.
  • Encourage the employer to invite you to an interview.

Be confident, but not pushy. Ground your confidence by facts and reasonable logic. Our guide, How to Format a Cover Letter, will help you build a correct structure combined with decent business etiquette and personal charisma to make your cover letter stand out.

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Explain your career gap correctly

Having a career gap may affect getting a job, if not explained rationally. Some applicants prefer not listing any explanations, hoping that they will not be asked about this during the interview. That’s a bad strategy. According to an SHRM report, having a 1-year break, or longer, in a career lowers the chances of receiving an invitation to an interview up to 45%. However, applicants who describe a reason for the work gap receive 60% more interviews than those who didn’t.

Here are some meaningful examples of how to explain a work gap in your cover letter:

  • You took a break to support your family due to medical problems or other circumstances.
  • There were health issues that led to a break.
  • You decided to get an education in a new or related area to improve your skills and extend your professional capabilities.
  • You took a break to raise children.
  • You relocated to a new country, and it took time to arrange your life in the new conditions.

There can be other reasons, of course. The main thing is not to let employers make conclusions about what made you stop working for a long time.

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Get ready for an interview

You will definitely be asked why you have a gap in your career, even if the reason was stated in your cover letter. Here’s how to respond when you get this question:

  1. Don’t feel sorry: there is no reason to apologize for the life events that made you take a break.
  2. Explain why you took a break, and what you did for your future career while being off work (if you had such an opportunity).
  3. Don’t get into too much detail when describing your life situation. The main purpose of such a question is to see how reasonable your decision was, so be brief.

For example, you may say: “I took a break to take care of my son until he went to kindergarten. During this time, I completed a few online training courses to keep myself up-to-date, and now I’m ready to renew my career”.

“I was working as a project manager at Global IT Corp, and the deeper I was involved in my projects, the more I wanted to do programming myself. That is why I took a few months to learn to program on Python, and now I am ready for a career as a web developer.”

“Unfortunately, my former employer had to close my position due to restructuring, and finding a new job coincided with the start of the pandemic. I worked some as a freelancer until I found your job opening and decided to apply.”

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Expert tips for restarting a career after a long break

Carol Fishman Cohen, a career relaunch expert, has shared her own experience of continuing a career after 11 years in numerous jobs and interviews. Cohen wrote a book dedicated to this topic called “Back on the Career Track.” She also founded iRelaunch to help people with getting a job after long-term unemployment. Here are some of her insights shared at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

1. Overcome the employer’s hesitations

It’s natural for employers to hesitate when hiring a person after a long break. “In that situation, you’re probably best off asking for some kind of a project or short-term role,” Cohen says. This way, you will be able to prove your skills in practice.

2. How to transit to another profession?

Long breaks cause many people to change their career direction, which can be another problem when applying for new positions. To clear up all doubts about your new commitment, take a course or sign up for a volunteer position in the desired field. It will be proof of your serious attitude to the future transition and demonstrate your efforts in that direction.

3. Stay on track in your industry

If a person demonstrates up-to-date knowledge, neither age nor career break may affect the chances to get a job. Read the latest books, news, studies, and communicate in profession-oriented communities. Taking courses and sessions is a good thing too.

4. Be savvy in modern communication

You should be ready to present yourself on camera, as now many employers prefer to conduct online interviews. That’s why you should train to talk in front of a camera until you get completely comfortable with it and start to sound confident.


Conclusion: make the career gap be on your side

As Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Consider your career gap as a transitional phase to new professional achievements. Follow the recommendations above and become a great candidate among the other job-seekers. Strongly believe in your potential, and never hesitate to try all available opportunities.

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