Dear J.T. & Dale: In June of 2010, my company notified me that I was being laid off. We wanted to move cross-country, so I decided not to look for another job. Instead, I decided to do some volunteer work at the local VA hospital. I did this until we moved. Since moving, I have applied for more than 100 positions online and have not had one interview. I hired a resume-writing company, and the gentleman said that it is not a good idea to include my volunteer service on my resume. But I would rather employers see that I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing than see that I’ve been out of work since 06/2010. Should I remove my volunteer work? – Denise
DALE: Let’s back up and consider why being unemployed for a year would be a detriment to getting interviews. After all, someone who’s been unemployed would be especially enthused about landing a new job while being flexible as to salary and benefits.
So, why is it a negative? Is it because employers will assume that you are lazy (“sitting around doing nothing”)? That would be bad, indeed. However, the other assumption might be worse. That other assumption is that you’ve been industriously looking for work and have applied to hundreds of places.
Rather than try to figure out why all those people passed on you, a hiring manager will just move on to the next applicant.
J.T.: That’s a disheartening way of saying that you and your resume writer both are right: Neither option is a great way to start a resume.
However, there’s another option. You could strike the word “volunteer” and instead create a job title for the work you were doing. Then, in the bullet points where you list your accomplishments for this nonprofit, you can mention that the work was done on a volunteer basis.
DALE: That would help if the work is relevant to the jobs you’re applying for, which seems highly unlikely. However, even if the volunteering is relevant, that won’t answer the bigger question: Why are you merely sitting at home shooting out online applications?
J.T.: It’s true that most blind applications never get seen. At your level of experience, Denise, the expectation is that you would get referred in for jobs by speaking with peers and asking them to walk in your resume. So, it’s not that your resume isn’t working, it’s that you haven’t used it in a way that will succeed.
DALE: It isn’t working because you aren’t working it. The best resume is the one that’s read while you’re sitting across the desk.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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