Category Archives: Careers

Making Every Second Count: Explaining Away Unemployment History

By Jenny Holt

According to a study conducted by online job-matching service, The Ladders, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume. During this short-time, eye-tracking software determined that 80 percent of these six seconds are spent looking at your name, education, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, and previous position start and end dates. This means that recruiters spend a lot of time on your recent employment history. But what if you’ve been out of the game for a while? A gap in unemployment to a recruiter may come off as a candidate that may have a problem keeping a job, or a candidate that is hiding something. Your resume should gain the recruiters trust in six seconds and therefore these gaps must be addressed.  Here’s how to explain away any recent unemployment history, and make your resume a six-second success.

  • Be Honest.Many people will tell you to mask unemployment periods by faking dates. However, it is important that you don’t lie on your resume. This information can easily be verified and will automatically disqualify you from a job. Instead, be straight-forward, confident, and positive through your resume. This will show the recruiter you have two characteristics every employer searches for: integrity and confidence.
  • Find Value in Your Unemployment History: You can always find value in any time off from work. If you have been out of the job force for a while prior to applying to a position, it is important that you write what you have been doing instead. Maybe you were doing relevant volunteer work or harnessing your skills through a certificate program or graduate courses. Either way, how does the time you spent unemployedcontribute to this job opportunity? Even if you took time off to take care of your kids, write “Full-time parent” as your role and write any skills you obtained that may be relevant to your job, like managing schedules or event planning. Since recruiters are looking at your most recent job almost immediately, it is important to explain away any period of unemployment and supplement it with any relevant activities. Make sure to write how this shaped the relevant skills you need for the current job. You can do any additional explaining during your interview.
  • Add a Cover Letter: When you have gaps in employment it might be useful to include a cover letter to explain your situation. However, make sure you keep it positive. Be honest in the letter, but don’t overshare unimportant details and refrain from making any apologies. Unemployment happens to all of us, and you simply just need to put a positive spin on it. Focus on your strengths and don’t let the gap distract the entire cover letter.
  • Include an Opening Statement:Your resume should be a story, and just like any book, it should start with a thrilling hook. An opening statement can be used in the beginning of the resume to help recruiters target skills you may have acquired in roles prior to your most recent role. Once they read this, they will be more likely to look through the rest of your resume to find these skills. It is used to direct the recruiter to other roles that may lie past the unemployment gap in your resume. This statement should be powerful and tailored specifically to the job you’re applying for. It should provide your objectives as well as communicate an overview of who you are, what you can do, and why they should hire you. This is your elevator pitch that makes the recruiter want to read for more than six seconds.

Expert Advice for Assessment Centers

Employers want to know as much about their potential candidates as possible so they can feel confident making the right hire. When you’re applying for a job, companies may invite you to an assessment centre as part of the hiring process. This is typically the case for roles in technical fields (such as engineering) or when applying for positions at large, competitive companies. Rather than a single interview, assessment centres can take several days and are used to see how prospects react to simulated scenarios and perform in aptitude tests.

The biggest difference compared to standard interviews is that assessment centers will deal with groups of candidates throughout the day, rather than everything being one-on-one. Working with other people who are also looking to be hired for the same role can seem daunting, but group scenarios are used so employers can see how well you cope with unfamiliar situations. You should take a balanced approach to your assessment centre performance – speaking up when you have a good idea without dominating at every opportunity. Employers want to see diplomacy and communication, as well as leadership skills and decision-making.

Attending an assessment centre can be a stressful experience as everything you say and do will contribute towards your chances of success – sometimes even how you spend your breaks! A strong performance shows employers how well you’ll integrate yourself in their company, so check out the infographic below to learn what to expect, how to physically and mentally prepare yourself, and how to make sure you stand out from the other prospects.


interview skills

Infographic courtesy of Viking

Improving Your Business Writing Skills in the Workplace

Guest post by Sophia Anderson

With all the wonders of technology, most of us have forgotten what our handwriting used to look like. The problem is: we have also stopped trying to write strong, meaningful sentences with no shortcuts and grammatical errors. We are under the impression that, in the world of the Internet, writing skills no longer matter. Let other people write; we will read only what we need to read.

That impression that writing skills don’t matter changes as soon as our boss asks us to write a report or take part in a social media campaign. Even if you’re only writing emails to workplace peers, they should be really good. Eventually you come to realize that you can write your way to the top.

Why Business Writing Skills Are Important for Career Progress

It’s strange to see how much convincing some people need before they start working on improving their writing skills. You need reasons? No problem! Here are a few of them:

  • Proper business writing skills help you land a job. Start out with a great LinkedIn profile and an outstanding resume. You’ll also have to write personalized cover letters for each position you apply for. You’ll need to present yourself as an authoritative online persona; one way you can do this is through blogging and related social media updates.
  • When you know how to communicate properly in written form, you leave a good first impression on potential employers and business partners.  You only have one chance at making a good first impression.
  • How can you convince someone to become your customer? Through an effective marketing message, which you need to write. Every ambitious person in business needs to learn persuasive writing skills.
  • Once you acheive success, people will expect you to share your wisdom through a book. Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Eric Ries… all these names mean something in the world of business. Their books only cement their authority as experts.

Writing a Business Document Is Easier than You Think

Each business document or important official letter goes through three stages:

  1. Business writing skillsDefining the purpose and audience:  Exactly who are you writing for? What goal are you trying to acheive? You need to ask yourself those two questions before generating any content. It’s important to address the right people and convey a clear message to your intended audience.
  2. Achieving proper structure and style:  It’s important to write in clean sentences using simple words. No reader will use a dictionary to understand what you’re trying to say! Your style will benefit from a personal touch, which presents you as a unique individual whose perspective is important.
  3. Editing and proofreading:  This is the stage most often neglected. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a business report, an official document, a presentation, or a simple email – your work always needs critique and proofreading.  Editing should always focus on the style and logical flow. If you notice any information gaps, make sure to cover them.  Eliminate useless words, sentences or paragraphs. Finally, you’ll need to proofread the draft to make sure there are no remaining grammatical and spelling errors.

If you doubt that you’ve achieved effective format, style and language, you can always get professional writing help that will improve the quality of the overall text.

Tips on Improving Your Business Writing Skills in the Workplace

Imagine a world where you’ve already graduated from college and you no longer have professors giving you assignments.  How do you work on your writing skills when you don’t have such guidance and control? We’ll give you a few tips to follow:

  1. Start with a plan:  Outline what you want to achieve with this message.  What main points do you need to cover? Your plan should help you maintain a clean writing structure.
  2. Always get straight to the point:  Next time you’re writing an email to someone important, start with “I am writing to…” right after the greeting. In business writing, it’s important to state the purpose right at the beginning. You can then elaborate on the main points from your outline.
  3. Take an online course:  If your employer doesn’t provide training, you can always gain skills through an online course. High-Impact Business Writing from Coursera is a nice place to start.
  4. Support everything with facts:  You’re not writing a personal essay. If you want to gain authority through your written messages, you have to provide proper support. Find up-to-date statistics, case studies, and other authoritative information to use as a reference when making your points.
  5. Get some feedback:  If you’re doing this all by yourself, you should notice some progress. There will be an improvement, but you never know how good your work is unless you get substantial feedback.
    Find a mentor who knows what great writing is all about; someone who understands your industry and the effect you want to achieve. Such a mentor could be your boss, a coworker, or an important contact from your industry. If you have an important business presentation to give, make sure to get key feedback before editing your work down to its publishing form.

Now you know: business writing skills are important and there are simple ways to improve them. With enough practice and feedback from the right people, you’ll begin to notice a huge difference in the way you express yourself in written form, and reap the financial rewards as well.

Sophia Anderson is an associate educator, a freelance writer and a blogger. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, business, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Get in touch on Facebook.


Handwriting Vs. Typing – Why the Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard

We live in an age where technology dominates our lives – at work, at home, at college and everywhere in between. Students are particularly immersed in using laptops for note taking in schools and colleges and less people are writing notes by hand.  In the United Kingdom alone, 1 in 3 people haven’t written anything in 6 months and haven’t put pen to paper in 41 days according to a study of 2000 people by Docmail.  According to the study, the younger generation, in particular, are at risk of losing their calligraphy skills due to increased use of digital devices, not only in college, but in many other areas of their life.

Why Handwritten Notes are Better

Even though it is often quicker to type notes, students often learn more by writing their notes by hand. This is partly because they have more time to take in the information if they write by hand, and even though they will only write at about half the speed that they type, more will stick in their memory.  In addition, handwriting notes vs. typing allows students to develop a better understanding of what they’re studying and many have experienced better performance on tests.

How to Take Notes Effectively

Learning how to take written notes effectively is not as hard as it may seem and students may start seeing results immediately just by following a few simple steps.  It all comes down to being prepared with the right supplies before going to class, paying attention by listening attentively to their teacher and developing a note taking method that works.

Check out the infographic below courtesy of Study Medicine Europe for more information on all the benefits of writing your notes by hand and step by step instructions on how to take written notes effectively.

Hand writing vs typing

5 Steps to Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes can help you get dressed quickly, save you money, closet space and even help boost your confidence. Capsule wardrobes are especially perfect for those who work in an office environment as the money you’ll save on business attire will be significant, yet how do you easily put one together?  The folks at Betabrand have come up with 5 simple steps, shown in their courtesy infographic below, for creating a capsule wardrobe that won’t sacrifice your style or your pocket book.

  1. Start with cleaning your closet by sorting your clothes into piles such as currently love or wear, seasonal and other.  Betabrand recommends donating or selling the “other” pile as the goal of a capsule wardrobe is to limit yourself to a small number of essential pieces that can be combined together to create many outfits
  2. So how do you decide what essential pieces to keep?  Using the checklist in the infographic below, Betabrand suggests keeping just two to three items from each category such as tops, bottoms, shoes, accessories and other items such as dresses and jackets.  Of course, some experimentation with colors and accessories will be required and most experts recommend starting with at least one neutral color such as black and working from there.  Some great ideas on how to mix and match your favorite separates, especially those that work for the office, can be found here.
  3. Easier said than done?  Then allow yourself to splurge slightly on one of your favorite clothing categories.  It’s all about compromise but only do it once, Betabrand suggests.
  4. Did you know that just 27 pieces can build 100 outfits?  Give it a try or do a trial run to see how you get along with the capsule wardrobe.
  5. Lastly reassess and rotate.  It’s a good idea to set a reassess schedule to refine, edit or rotate your wardrobe.

Capsule Wardrobe