Ask a Career Advisor: How Do I Address COVID-related Unemployment During My Job Search?

Ask a Career Advisor: How Do I Address COVID-related Unemployment During My Job Search?

by: Alexia Hasbrouck
January 15, 2021

Navigating how to disclose that you were laid off – no matter the reason – can be challenging. But if you unexpectedly lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be asking yourself, "Where do I even begin?"  

Amongst refreshing your resume, updating your cover letter, and getting comfortable explaining unemployment during interviews, getting back into the workforce after a lay off has its hurdles. Throw in today's rapidly changing world and uncertain job market, and finding a new gig can seem like a real uphill battle. All that being said, it can be tempting to leave out the gap in employment on your resume or cover letter. However, there are far more effective ways to handle this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime scenario.  

We spoke with iHire Career Advisor Lori Cole and asked: "How do I address COVID-related unemployment during my job search?" As it turns out, unemployment gaps due to COVID-19 are not as big of a deal as you may think. Follow these tips, and you'll be starting your job search off on the right foot.  

 

1) Strategize about how you will address the gap on your resume. 

It's no secret that if someone has been out of work for an extended period, it's typically a red flag to hiring managers. But when it comes to unemployment due to COVID-19, this is seldom the case. Finding a company that wouldn't understand this situation is to find the company that's not worth working for. 

The key here is to just quickly address the gap and move on. By making brevity your best friend and following other best practices for building a functional resume after a gap in employment, this obstacle should be an easy one to overcome.   

 

2) Be honest and don't feel the need to overelaborate. 

In most cases, you'll want to disclose that you were laid off during your job search. Be sure to tackle the subject upfront so hiring managers can't come to their own conclusions about why you have been out of work. Since the start of the pandemic, employers have faced laying people off, restructuring their teams, and some have even been forced to close their doors indefinitely. In other words, they get it.   

When you explain the cause of unemployment, you should try to keep it to one sentence or less. It's acceptable to write something as simple as "laid off due to COVID-19" on your resume or briefly address it in your cover letter. Spend less time and energy explaining why you have been out of work, and focus on the experience, soft skills, and qualifications that make you the best fit for the position.   

 

3) Show initiative by making the most of your unexpected time off. 

Even though hiring managers will likely understand unemployment due to COVID, they may wonder – or even ask you – what you've been doing with your time off. Have you taken any virtual classes or volunteered? Have you been homeschooling your children or caring for a family member? Set yourself up to be able to talk about some of the personal goals that you've set (and hopefully achieved) during your unexpected time off.

People volunteering at a food bank during pandemic

This will have a positive impact on the way you discuss the experience when talking with potential employers. This brings us to our next (and potentially the most crucial) tip... 

  

4) Be prepared to talk about the topic during an interview.  

Whether you choose to follow any of the advice mentioned earlier or not, we highly encourage you to pay attention to this one. Chances are that the topic will be brought up no matter what. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by not being ready to discuss or explain any gaps in your employment history (typically just within the past 15 to 20 years).   

Don't let this scare you! They probably won't question you about it too much. This will especially be true for the harder-hit industries like hospitality, restaurants, or transportation.   

 

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5) Network, network, network. 

Reach out and start spreading the word that you're ready for work! Just because you've been isolated at home doesn't mean you can't reach out and mingle with old colleagues on Facebook or meet new people through LinkedIn.  

There are tons of social media groups to join, online discussion boards to follow, and even virtual meeting rooms you can jump in to meet with people. These practices will also help sustain your professional communication and interaction skills. When it comes time for an interview, you won't skip a beat.

Networking and video conferencing online

  

6) Keep a positive frame of mind. 

Try your best to relax and stay patient. Easier said than done, right?  Remember, you are not alone! Millions of people have been laid off due to no fault of their own. It's essential to keep in mind that – at least in this case – the layoff didn't have anything to do with your job performance or personal attributes.

Stay confident during your job search after a Coronavirus layoff, knowing that most employers will be sensitive to your unexpected position. You can also feel good about addressing it head-on. Don't let negative thoughts interfere with any hopes for your future or hurt how you interview. The chance to create something positive out of this situation relies on making quick adjustments, being honest, and keeping an open mind. Your new job is within reach, you just have to feel confident about how to approach it.

For more advice on explaining gaps in your employment, check out this helpful article in our Career Advice Library.


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