I know of two persons who have been struggling for several months after situations involving personal medical conditions which contributed to the loss of former employment, yet in spite of having current medical releases to return to work seem to continue to have challenges in re-entry to similar type or lesser status employment roles. Both of the two persons I have described have some education beyond associate degrees. From a hiring person’s perspective, what are the issues, and how are these persons viewed. What are effective strategies to help these persons attempt at regaining career success?
Great question. In fact, I’m asked it quite often and from all different aspects. Sometimes it is Mother’s returning to work after having a baby or after leaving the workforce to raise their children. Sometimes it is from someone who left the workforce to pursue more education and is now ready to return. The point I want to make is that getting back into the workforce is somewhat of a challenge for anyone who has been out for any length of time. As an employer and someone who works with a lot of other employer’s, people with medical conditions are not viewed any differently than anyone else. What the employer is looking for and evaluating is that the person can do the job. If someone has medical restrictions then they need to make sure that they are applying for jobs that make sense within the restrictions they have.
When applying for a job there are a few things that need to be covered. If there are gaps in dates on the resume then those need to be explained. The best way to explain them is through a cover letter. There does not need to be heavy or technical detail, just cover the basics and if more detail is asked for, you can cover it at a later date. Have your skills gone stale? With technology changing and moving as fast as it does nowadays, keeping your skills up to par is critical. If your skill set is out of date then it is time to enroll in a local community college or seek free training from your local Workforce Development Department, or Manpower office. Showing a prospective employer that your skills are fresh and that you can interact with the software that they are using will help set you apart from other candidates.
From here I want to cover the basics of the resume and the interview because mastering these are the keys to gaining employment.
When writing a resume, keep your resume straight forward and do not write in paragraphs. Instead use bullet points with specific details about your accomplishments and achievements. Sell yourself in your resume but make sure to be honest. Never list anything that if an employer questions you about it, you can’t answer in detail. The biggest tip with your resume is to proofread, proofread, and proofread again – even have a friend you trust proofread it at least once. Your resume is the ultimate expression of who you are to the employer. It must be articulate, well thought out, and represent you well. The fastest way to kill a good resume impression is through bad grammar and misspellings. When a recruiter is looking at a resume they are scanning it fast and looking not only for reasons to consider you, but also for reasons to disqualify you.
Interviewing today is much different than it was a few years ago and it continues to change all the time. As of today, the most popular form of interviewing being used is behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing means that during the interview you are going to be asked open ended questions that will draw out your behavior traits in certain work conditions. For example, a behavioral interview question you could be asked is, “Tell me about a time you and a supervisor did not get along. What did you do in order to have a good working relationship?” How you answer that question and many others just like it give the interviewer insight into how you will “behave” on the job.
A great technique to keep in mind for answering these questions is call C.A.R. Developing good C.A.R. stories will help you be better prepared to answer and engage your interviewer.
C.A.R. stands for Challenge, Action, and Result.
C. Challenge or problem that you encountered.
A. Action that you took to resolve the problem or situation.
R. Result that was achieved for you or the company. (Be specific and use measurable examples whenever possible).
See if you can break it down into a five or six sentence “story” describing the challenge, action, and result.
Listening is also key. Make sure you understand the question asked and answer it in full. I can’t count the number of people I have had to disqualify from positions because they would ramble on and never answer the question. You also need to pay attention to the type of question being asked. Is it a positive question, negative question, or neutral question? These are the types of questions you will be asked if the interviewer is not doing a behavioral interview. An example of these questions is below:
Positive question: Why have you been successful?
Negative question: What didn’t you like about your last position?
Neutral question: Why are you interested in this position?
You must listen to whether a question will prompt an automatic positive or negative response. Turn the negative and neutral questions into positive examples. Give specific, positive examples describing your experiences and attributes. Remember: Challenge, Action, Result.
Another important factor in all of this is that if you are not working then your full time job is to find a full time job. Use all of the resources you can find including recruiters and friends. Networking is the number one way people find new employment – only 6-7% of jobs available are filled by recruiters according to Mckenzie Scott. And according to the University of Santa Barbara, it takes on average between three to six months to find a job. Those numbers change dramatically based on the type of job you are applying for and the level within a company that job would fall. The higher the level the longer it is going to take for the company to not only make a decision but to even begin the interview process. If you are looking for a job in a very niche bio-scientific field it could be well over a year, and if you are not willing to relocate it could take two years.
A Positive attitude, consistent action, and a well thought out plan, will make job searching the one job you will be happy to leave behind.