There are a few lucky people out there who have perfect job histories. No gaps in employment. No job hopping. No downsizing at their firms. No career transitions.
Most of us, however, have something in our past that we fear will hurt our future chances. So, what do you do to turn a negative into a positive?
Accentuate the Positives in Your Background
First of all, look at yourself as a product you want to sell to the company with your resume and cover letter as the advertisements. With that in mind, try to minimize the negatives. For example, when you see a soft drink commercial, there’s no mention about sugar adding empty calories, harming teeth and contributing to ill health. The entire focus is on taste and sharing a soda with friends.
Keeping that in mind, never begin your cover letter with a statement like – “I know I don’t have any experience in this field, however…” No one will get past the no experience part. Or “I was laid off and haven’t had a job for two years, but…” Again, few will get past the ‘laid off’ and ‘no job’ for several years.
Instead, dovetail what you do know or what you’ve learned through recent retraining to open your cover letter and your resume. The first paragraph of your cover letter might read something like this:
“With comprehensive experience in accounting, including serving as the liaison with the IRS at XYZ firm, I can minimize company tax burdens. While at XYZ firm, I saved the company $1.5 million in tax liabilities.”
Nowhere in that paragraph does it say that the candidate is currently unemployed, nor should it. Instead, it begins with a positive – how s/he can save the company money through tax negotiations.
Maximize Your Strengths in Your Opening Summary
On the resume, the same concept is used in the opening summary. Start strong with one, preferably two recent/relevant/quantified accomplishments that will translate well to the job you’re seeking. In an endless sea of resumes and applicants, hiring managers notice this kind of data.
As to not having experience. If you’ve never worked in an industry and have no training in it, then don’t apply. Simple as that, because you’re wasting your time. However, if you’ve been trained in the field, play that up, not the fact that you have no experience. In the first paragraph of your cover letter, you might write something like this:
“In response to your posting for a dental assistant, I have worked with (then name the tools you used at school, the techniques, everything you trained in.) Be detailed. Don’t apologize for not having experience, present your skills and what expertise you do have.
Getting an interview isn’t easy, especially in our current economy. Even so, many individuals with less-than-perfect backgrounds do it every day. Their secret is simply presenting themselves in the best possible light in their cover letters and resumes.