Writing a good resume is always a challenge. A good resume can make or break your job hunt. Writing a resume is an extra challenge for people with special cases. For example, if you have been out of work for a while, have gaps in your job history, or are a recent graduate, then you need a different approach to resume writing.
Resume Writing for the Unemployed
Unfortunately, it's easier to find a job when you already have one. Here are some things you can do to strengthen your resume if you are out of work.
Include certification and continuing education
If you have achieved certification or licensure in your field—for example, a CompTIA or Microsoft certification if you are in IT—be sure to highlight this on your resume. Other things to mention are continuing education classes, including courses taken at a community college or any online classes for which you have a completion certificate. Some good courses can be completed in under a month, so if you haven't taken any yet it isn't too late to start. Even if you are out of work, you can still demonstrate to a potential employer that you are focused on your career.
Point to your past successes
Show how you helped former employers. Just because you are out of work now, you shouldn’t downplay the fact that you did great things for employers in the past. Make sure you include specific ways that work helped your former employers and the successes you attained in your former jobs. Be specific!
Resume Writing For People with Gaps in Their Job History
Having a gap in your past job history is a more difficult challenge than being out of work, especially if you have multiple gaps over a period of years. Consider these options when writing your resume:
Note your experience outside of work
Volunteering, getting on the board of the PTA, and organizing retreats at your church are all examples of experience that might be relevant, depending on the type of job you are applying for. If you were involved in some worthy causes or undertook some professional courses, you can highlight those on your resume, as well.
Focus on your skills
Demonstrate that you have the skills the company you are applying to needs, and make sure they know you have kept up your skills. For example, if you are a salesman and have gaps in your work history, you can emphasize your experience out of work. For example, "Led the church's fundraising team to acquire $200,000 for borehole construction projects in Peru".
Emphasize job longevity
If you have worked three jobs, with long gaps between each one, that doesn't look good. But if you have spent five or more years on each job, make sure that is clear on your application. This shows the employer they can rely on you to stick around.
Explain the gaps
If you voluntarily took some time away from work, it's better to tell an employer you chose to take a year away from work to help a sick parent, focus on your children, or write your first novel. Otherwise they will assume you have gaps because you couldn't find employment.
Resume Writing for Recent Graduates
You just graduated, your only “professional” experience was the part time job you held to help pay your way through, and you need to write a resume. What do you do?
Start with your educational experience
As a new grad, your educational experience is your first asset. Be sure to expand on it, detailing any academic achievements such as research that gained commendation or contributions to a professor's work. You might even mention academic honors, awards, and scholarships. If you had a magna cum laude distinction or a high GPA, don't hesitate to include it. Job seekers with advanced degrees should also include the title of their dissertation or thesis.
Emphasize relevant skills
Resume writing for a new graduate is a trade off; you don't have the professional experience an employer is looking for, but your skills and knowledge are up-to-the-minute. So emphasize those skills. Include a section in your resume that lists specific skills, and, if you have the space, mention where you learned those skills. For example, some students and recent grads include a list of relevant coursework on their resume.
Don't forget to include volunteer and leadership experiece
Were you the treasurer for your school's sci-fi club? Did you manage a volunteer improv troupe? These are things you can include in your resume.
Internships are experience
What many new graduates forget when writing a resume is that any internships they participated in count as professional experience. Make sure you include them if you are a recent graduate. Not having a “standard” job history can be an extra challenge to a job search, but doesn't have to be an insurmountable one. By emphasizing your strengths and the non-standard experience and knowledge you bring to the workplace, you can make your application stand out and shine.