When applying for a new job, it can sometimes be difficult to explain a huge gap in employment, or lack of relevant employment, when all you have is your resume to do the talking. This is why it is recommended that you include a cover letter with your resume.
But what can a cover letter do for you? It can give the prospective employer insight into who you are as a person, as well as why you want to work for their company. And it can also give you the opportunity to turn what may look like weaknesses on your resume into strengths. Let's look at a few ways this can be accomplished.
Focus on Your Special Skills
If you don't have a lot of jobs to list on your resume, but you do have relevant skills that you've acquired over the years, you can use your cover letter to explain what looks to be a lack of experience. A great way to get started is by creating a list of skills you've developed that match the company's job posting, mission and culture. Next you can use the cover letter to explain how those skills can enhance the company.
For example, you may be an expert typist capable of accurately typing 80 WPM, which is perfect for the data entry position you're interested in. The only drawback is that you didn't gain your expertise from your last 20 years as a housewife and part-time babysitter. Instead, you picked it up while volunteering as your church's secretary over the past decade. In this case, you can use your cover letter to highlight this skill and turn around what might be perceived as a lack of job experience.
Hobbies Are Not Off-Limits
Many people have hobbies that they spend a lot of time focusing on and eventually want to turn into careers. For example, you may love to work on computers and have expertise with both hardware and software applications, which has nothing to do with your string of jobs working in factories.
You decide that you are interested in applying for a position with a small start-up company that needs an entry-level IT technician. You know you're perfect for it but don't know how to prove it. That is, until you remember that you keep up with all of the technology, have taken some classes at a local college, and have years of experience fixing computers in your community. By explaining all of this in your cover letter, you have a chance to showcase the experience you've gained.
Keep Your Explanations Simple
While you want to use your cover letter to fill in gaps in your job history, you don't want the employer to spend too much time thinking about the possibility of you being a weak candidate. So instead of spending a lot of time explaining why your skills and hobbies are stellar, it is a good idea to instead keep this part as brief as you would in any other cover letter.
Having gaps in your work history doesn't have to define your capabilities as an employee. So try using your cover letter to highlight your special skills. You might be surprised by the success that follows.
Written by Heather Eagar is a former professional resume writer and owner of ResumeLines.com who is now dedicated to providing job seekers with resources and products that promote job search success from beginning to end. Posted at College Recruiter.com