CVS / JUL. 27, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How To Write a Resume When You Have Been Unemployed for Years

In the United States, there are an estimated five million workers who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks, a figure that suggests the labor force is in a crisis today and the jobless situation will remain a key component of the economic downturn in the Land of the Free.

Last year, research found that companies refrain from hiring the long-term unemployed. A study by Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University issued 4,800 fake resumes for 600 employment opportunities and the conclusion was that hiring managers would call someone who had little relevant work experience but had been out of work for a few months rather than a job applicant who had a lot of relevant work experience but had been unemployed for longer than six months.

Essentially, individuals have been jobless for half a year will have a difficult plight to employment.

What is the rationale behind it? It’s difficult to assess: are companies discriminating against the perpetual unemployed or do they actually have good reasons to omit a person who has been unemployed for a long period of time? It really depends on who one asks.

“If we are reviewing a resume, managers look at the skills and if the skills match they would bring the person in,” said Karen Arena, a Xerox spokeswoman, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Some employers may be concerned that a worker who has been out of work for longer than six months may have outdated skills, while some employers may be concerned that they may seek employment for a short period of time and then leave for greener pastures. In any case, governments are looking at legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against those who have been unemployed for a while.

Rather than exiting the labor force perhaps writing a captivating, professional and relevant resume will land you a position. Here are seven tips to writing a resume when you have been unemployed for longer than six months, or worse, years.

Summary/Executive Statement

After six to 12 months of nothing, your summary (or objective or executive statement) will likely be a lot different. Since becoming unemployed, it’s likely that you have learned different things, you have a different career outlook and you have a different objective than before receiving a pink slip.

Relevance vs. Chronology

One trick that hiring managers incorporate into selecting the best of the bunch is to look for gaps in work experience. If they notice a gap of two years since the last job then they’ll put it into the “no” pile. A measure to incorporate to circumvent this obstacle is to modify your resume to showcase your work experience based on relevance rather than the conventional chronological method. This way human resources will be compelled to sift through your job experience instead of how long you have been working or not working.


Akin to relevance compared to chronology, job applicants should also remove the dates from their resume. If you have a tremendous amount of relevant work experience then months and years shouldn’t matter, right? If a hiring professional inquires about the dates during an interview then reveal this information.

Doing something

If you have been out of work for six months and the only thing you’ve done is binge watch your favorite television shows then this won’t make you attractive to employers. Instead, you should be focusing on freelancing, volunteering, updating your skills or going back to school, and this must be listed on a resume – a CareerBuilder survey found that two-quarters of HR professionals said this is a great start to getting closer to landing a job.


It’s important to keep your skills up to date and relevant. In fact, if your skills do match today’s industry standards then there’s a greater chance you’ll simply exit the labor force entirely. It’s crucial to maintain professional skills to make you appear marketable.


Whether you have been unemployed for a few weeks or a few months, you should always have a variety of resumes already produced. Let’s face it: when you’ve been out of work for a year you’ll attempt to broaden your employment options. Rather than having one type of resume for specific job titles or industries start creating resumes that can potentially land a position out of your comfort zone.

Cover letter

Now that you have written a brand new resume it’s time to update your cover letter in order to match the modified curriculum vitae. Simply create a new one and take a different approach instead of using old clichés, tired arguments and outdated terminology. It’s time to compose and integrate an innovative game plan.

Long-term unemployment is an enduring experience, something that most people don’t want to ever go through. By designing your resume to make you marketable, your jobless rut will come to an end.

What tips did you use for your resume when you were out of work for six months or more? Let us know in the comment section.


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