Some job seekers have been told that being unemployed will land their application in the trash. While a significant gap in your résumé may raise some questions from potential employers, it doesn't always mean an automatic "no."
"Most companies today want to hire people with the right skills and right cultural fit, regardless of their current employment situation," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group staffing company. "This means they have the technical proficiency and level of experience, as well as the personality and work style, to fit in with the culture of the team and company."
If you're unemployed and looking for a job, here are five ways to make yourself stand out and impress hiring managers. [6 Job Interview Tips for 2014]
Stay busy to fill in gaps
Being unemployed should not mean that you're doing nothing during the time you would normally be at a job.
"It's important to keep busy, both for your own sanity and to be able to explain [to hiring managers] that you are keeping active," said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business.
Look for freelance or volunteer work, in or out of your industry, that can add value to your résumé in some way. You can also fine-tune your skills or enhance your education by taking classes at local schools, Trnka said.
Treat your job search as a job
While freelancing, volunteering and other résumé-boosting activities may occupy a great deal of your time, don't forget that your top priority is finding a job. Christa Shapiro, regional vice president of Adecco Staffing, recommended spending part of every day job hunting.
"Your employment search needs to be a job," she said. "Devote specific time to searching job boards, LinkedIn and other websites."
Other job search activities include editing your résumé, researching and attending industry events, and reaching out to employers and/or professional contacts.
Continue to network
You may already have a strong professional network of industry connections from previous jobs, but it's a good idea to double down on your networking efforts to boost your chances of finding employment.
"Exhaust every avenue, from networking online and joining professional groups to targeting companies of interest and contacting them directly," Domeyer told Business News Daily. "Utilize social media and your network to make introductions or even request informational interviews. Even if you haven't seen a specific job opening, tell everyone you know that you are in the market and the type of position you seek."
Domeyer also recommended contacting recruiters who specialize in your industry, since they can help identify positions you may not be aware of.
Help fellow job seekers
Throughout your job search, one of the most beneficial things you can do is stay professional and positive. This includes reaching out to and helping fellow job seekers during your time of transition.
"View this time as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and others," Trnka said. "Networking and finding a job is not one-way. The more you engage with others and assist them — whether it's emotional support, being a reference, or making a connection — the more you will feel empowered in your search, gain credibility, and receive assistance in return."
Always follow up
If you go on an interview, be sure to follow up with the hiring manager right away with a thank-you note, and then again if you don't hear back within the time frame he or she indicated. You don't want to flood the employer with daily emails about the position, but being proactive will demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in the job.
"The more aggressive you are, the more likely you are to get a job," Shapiro said. "[As an employer] I would want someone with tenacity in my organization."