Job hunting while you’re unemployed comes with a particular set of challenges. You might be concerned that prospective employers will be wary of the fact you are not currently working. You also might be struggling to know what to write – particularly if you’ve been out of work for some time. Here we look at some of your concerns and questions in more detail.
Q: Is being unemployed a bad thing, from an employer’s perspective?
It depends on the reason you’re unemployed.
- If you’re still hunting for your first job, employers will understand that there are more candidates than job openings, and they won’t hold this against you.
- If you’ve been made redundant, they will completely understand that in today’s tough economic climate, companies sometimes have to make cuts – and it can take a while to find another position.
- A desire to change careers is also a perfectly acceptable reason for leaving a previous role – plenty of people find they want to move on to something new at some point during their career.
The main thing is to briefly explain to prospective employers on your CV why you left your previous role. Don’t leave it until the interview as you might not get an interview. Without an explanation, your prospective employer may suspect something is amiss and discard your CV in favour of someone who doesn’t have a question mark over their employment record.
Where there is a reasonable explanation for being unemployed, this can be a positive for an employer. It means you can start working for them straight away. It also means that if they’re not 100% sure about you, they can hire you to complete a trial, without any concern that you’ll be leaving another role. If you’re not suitable, they can simply let you go, and you’ll be in the same position as you were before.
Q: What can I do while I’m unemployed?
There’s an age old adage that it’s easier to get a job while you have a job – generally employers like to know you’re working and employable. So if you’re not doing anything right now, we strongly suggest that you start doing something. Here are some ideas:
- Volunteer: An easy way to stay working while you’re unemployed is to volunteer, preferably in a related sector.
- Freelance: You can also freelance, using sites such as People Per Hour to gain work. This adds to your work experience and shows you aren’t just sitting around watching TV.
- Train: Training is another great way to fill your time and gives you something extra to put on your CV.
- Temp: Okay, you might be struggling to find a full time role – but there are always temp openings for good workers. Temping not only adds to your work experience (you can of course put it on your CV) but in our experience, it’s a great foot in the door with new employers. We’ve seen many an employer hire a temp after they’ve worked with them for a few weeks or months – because they know they have a reliable worker who is good at their job.
Each of these things sends a clear message to prospective employers that you aren’t just sitting around waiting for things to happen – you’re out there doing something with yourself, you’re developing your skills every day and you most certainly ARE employable. Be sure to mark any temp experience on your CV as temporary – otherwise your employer will see you moving from one job to another with no explanation, which will usually be viewed as a negative.
How should I fill in my CV?
You should include the following sections:
- Contact information: Name, Address, Phone, Email
- Summary: You don’t need to state explicitly that you’re unemployed here. Use it to say who you are, your key strengths and what you want. Keep in mind how quickly employers scan over CVs – don’t make this wordy or include any fluffy statements such as ‘I am a hard worker’.
- Work experience: Include your past work experience in chronological order – most recent first. Include a reason for leaving your most recent role, e.g. ‘I was made redundant from ABC Company in January 2016’.
- Education: Include your main education. If you have a degree, you don’t need to go into too much detail about lower qualifications such as GCSEs or A levels as it is obvious you will have these as well. Some people offer a summary – e.g. ‘9 GCSEs, all grade C and above’. If you didn’t do too well in your GCSEs but you have grade C and above in maths/English, highlight this as these two subjects are the most important ones for practically every employer. For example, ‘9 GCSEs with Maths Grade C and English Grade B’.
- Skills: The skills section is a good place to highlight skills that are crucial to the role. For example, an administrator might highlight that he or she is proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel. However, use a little judgement here – some skills are complementary to a role. For example, a lawyer might mention they are also proficient in web design or writing legal articles, which would be very useful to law firms who need help with their website.
- Interests: This is an optional section but it does give your prospective employer some idea of the kind of person you are. Try and include interests that would be viewed favourably by your employer. ‘Socialising’, ‘drinking’ and ‘partying’ don’t bode well for Monday morning. Most sporting activities will be viewed favourably – as will fitness activities – as they suggest you might have few sick days. Risky activities such as base jumping could be a concern.
- References: If you decide to give reference contact information, you should ideally give your last employer and one personal reference. The personal reference should not be a family member ideally, and should be someone who can speak for your honest character. An academic reference, such as a tutor or lecturer, is ideal. If you’re not sure who will be your references yet, just write ‘References are available on request’.
- Your date of birth unless it is particularly relevant to the job
- Your race / ethnic origin
- Your marital status
- The fact that you have children
…. or anything else that gives your employer the potential to discriminate against you before you’ve even been offered an interview.
Once you’ve completed your CV, run a spell check then get a few friends to look over it for you. They may be able to spot errors or any areas that could raise questions for prospective employers.
How do I show that I’m not just after any old job?
The answer to this is simple – show an interest in THEIR company. Research the company. Tailor your covering letter and CV to both the Company and job role.
If you get an interview, make sure you know what they do and what their unique selling points are, inside out. Consider what you could bring to the Company to improve their offering. Think of fresh ideas that they could use, but be careful about telling them how to do their job. They have the experience of working at the Company which you don’t yet have. If you have an idea, present it in a subtle way such as – “I was reading your website over the weekend and noticed you hadn’t put up any information about XYZ subject – would that be useful to your customer base at all?”
What if I don’t have a lot of work experience?
If you haven’t got much work experience, focus on transferable skills from your education and hobbies. Give examples that show how you fit what they are looking for. These examples can be taken from when you were studying, or from activities that you do outside of the work environment.
Volunteering and temping are also great ways to build up your work experience while you are temping.
Check out our school leaver’s CV template for more examples of how to use alternative experience on your CV.
Click here to choose a free CV template to help you with your job application.
Other articles that may be useful to you:
- Voluntary work for work experience
- Building your work experience
- How to get a job
- How to write a winning cover letter
- Hard skills you can include in your CV