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Combating Long Term Unemployment

The unemployment compensation system was designed to provide temporary financial support to unemployed workers. Help!However, as the economic downturn continues, it has become the sole source of income for many.

If you have been unemployed for longer than 27 weeks, you are considered to be among the long term unemployed. According to the April 2010 unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS), that describes 45.9% of unemployed workers.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is this is an employer’s market. Even the most qualified and diligent job seeker is having a difficult time finding work. While jobs do exist, employers are now more selective because they have a larger pool of applicants to choose from. This has caused some workers to become so discouraged they have stopped looking for work.   BLS estimated the number of discouraged workers at 1.2 million in April 2010 – 7.8% of the unemployed.

If you are among the long term unemployed, it is time to take a fresh look at your approach to job searching. It is no longer enough to update your resume and apply to job postings online. You have to do everything you can to help your resume and experience to stand out.

Following are some strategies to help you jumpstart your job search.

Deal with the overqualified label.

Are there jobs you would be willing to do but the recruiter or potential employer thinks you are overqualified? You may be thinking “I am willing to do the work, so what’s the big deal?”

Think about this from an employer’s perspective.  It is not cheap to hire employees. The Business Advisor estimates it costs between 1.5 and 2.5 times a person’s annual salary to recruit and train them. If you are overqualified for the job, it is natural for an employer to be concerned you will leave the minute the economy turns around.

To combat the overqualified label, you need to maintain multiple versions of your resume.  Remember, a potential employer will not know exactly what you did in your previous job unless you tell them. So keep at least one version of your resume which downplays your experience.

You can use the modified version to apply for jobs which require less experience. For instance, if the job only requires a high school diploma, you can omit your Master’s degree. If the job requires someone who can lead a small team, you do not need to let the employer know you ran a whole department.

Keywords are your friend.

When you submit your resume online, it is placed in an applicant database.  The total number of applicants and the recruiter’s choice of keywords will determine if your submission is ever viewed.  If there are a limited number of applicants, the recruiter can view each resume. However, if hundreds of resumes are submitted, keyword searches are used.

To ensure your resume is included in the recruiter’s keyword searches, include required skills.  Begin by looking at the job description for your target job.  If you see a skill is required, make a note of it.   These required skills will be among the minimum criteria used for interview selection.  If you have demonstrated the required skill, add it to your resume.

You can also add a keyword section to your resume. The keyword section should include skills related to your target job, industry or career. Both approaches will increase your chances of selection in an applicant search.

Toot your own horn. Take a few minutes to think about each of your previous jobs. Was there something you did to improve efficiency, save money, increase sales, or positively impact productivity? Did you receive an award for your commitment to excellence or customer service? Each of these accomplishments can help to set you apart from your competition.

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