- Using eye-tracking technology, a 2018 survey revealed hiring managers spent an average of 7.4 seconds scanning a résumé.
- Résumés are designed to get you an interview, not the job.
- Don't hide or lie about taking a career pause to become a stay-at-home mom; include in your cover letter or as a brief statement on your résumé how you spent that time.
- Describe the skills you gained while caring for your children that transfer to the job you're seeking.
Writing a résumé can be a chore, but it's your ticket to a job interview. Besides detailing your work experience, you need to capture readers' attention and give them a reason to want to meet you. And you need to do this very quickly.
According to the job search site Ladders Inc., the Eye Tracking Study released in 2018 revealed that the average time spent skimming a résumé was only 7.4 seconds. Readers polled said they scanned the left side of the document for titles and looked at any supplementary information that caught their eye.
That means you need to make your résumé easy to read, not jam in lots of information and bold the job titles and subheads. In the same study, Ladders recommends, "When discussing accomplishments, short declarative statements are easier to process – and therefore [are] likely to be more memorable – than paragraph-length descriptions." Action words also make a resume easier to read.
Unfortunately, some studies show that parents who stayed home to care for family had a harder time getting hired compared to job seekers who experienced unemployment because of job loss. Although you may be starting at a disadvantage, a good, solid resume can get you an interview.
When you're creating a new résumé after taking time out to care for your children, how should account for being a "stay-at-home parent" under the Experience section of your resume? Is it something you should include on your résumé?
What to include in a stay-at-home parent cover letter
The cover letter is the perfect place to explain your career pause, said Chris Chancey, a professional recruiter and owner of Amplio Recruiting. Don't make housekeeping and family responsibilities the focus of your résumé, he said. Instead, mention that you took time away from work to care for your child or children and explain the amazing things you did to keep yourself relevant for the ever-changing job market.
Chancey offers this example of what to include in your cover letter: "I took a break from January 2018 to May 2019 to care for my first child, but during that time, I honed my communication skills, contributed to several well-known publications, gained coding skills, kept abreast with trends in the online marketing world and volunteered to teach social media marketing to local small business owners. As such, I believe I can be an asset to your marketing agency."
A stay-at-home parent cover letter that gets the attention of Laurie White, vice president of talent acquisition at ADP, a payroll and human resources company, explains your personal experience and how it aligns to the organization you're targeting.
"Personalize your letter to the organization, tell them what attracted you to this company, and explain what you did during your time away. Describe how the skills or learning you gained during your career pause are transferrable to the work environment," said White.
Once you've penned the cover letter, next you'll need to select a format for your work-history document.
Decide between functional or chronological style
Before writing stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad résumé, you need to choose which format best showcases your work history and career breaks. According to Monster.com, a chronological resume is the most popular today; it lists a career summary or objective statement at the top followed by a list of your positions and employers in chronological order from your most recent employer to past companies you've worked for. A functional resume highlights your abilities and skills with a smaller section at the bottom of your resume that lists your work history, including dates.
"One mistake I see people make is using a functional résumé that only lists their past job responsibilities, accomplishments and skills, but leaves out actual employment dates," says Chancey. "Doing this actually screams that you are trying to hide something, and this is a sure way to get your résumé overlooked both by the applicant tracking system and by an actual recruiter."
Which type of résumé you use depends on your background and the industry you're attempting to enter, said Rita Kakati Shah, founder of Uma, an international platform that empowers women looking to re-enter the workforce after a career break. If someone has worked in a single industry and wants to continue working in that same type of business, then the chronological resume works best, she says. However, if you've been employed in different industries, opt for the functional format.
"There are certain industries, however, where a one-page chronological format is the norm, such as finance and law, so in these cases, other previous relevant experience would be highlighted in the accompanying cover letter," said Kakati Shah.
With either format, catch the readers' attention with what you have to say at the top.
Include a brief summary
After your name, address and other contact information, Chancey recommends including an executive summary below that. He says this serves as an elevator pitch that ties together your career history and professional experience. Use this paragraph to summarize who you are. As part of your summary, include a brief description of your career background, core competencies, skills and what you do best.
Although statistics weren't available on how often recruiters read cover letters, White believes they are more likely to read an executive summary.
"With the increased prevalence of smartphones and the ability to easily apply to a job remotely, executive summaries are replacing the cover letter as a (very) brief overview of the candidate with a spotlight on the most important points," White said.
Whether you call it an "executive summary" or "core competencies," Kakati Shah suggested including a few eye-catching bullet points, usually one or two words, at the top of your résumé. For example, you might go with "areas of expertise" and include strategic planning, budgeting, project leadership, and contract negotiation.
You may notice that the above expertise applies to many different jobs including that of stay at home mom or stay at home dad.
Add your transferrable skills
Parents know that if you can negotiate with a 3-year-old, you'll be golden in the boardroom. But how do you express that on a stay-at-home dad résumé so that it moves you on to the interview phase of the job search?
Kakati Shah was kind enough to share some actual stay-at-home parent résumé examples written by women who utilized the resources offered by Uma. Note their job titles and the talents gained in their descriptions.
Job Title: Project Manager, Private Family Office
Description: Successfully managed the risk portfolio of a household and oversaw design and implementation of an extensive 12-month gut renovation, all while raising two children under the age of 2.
Job Title: Parenting Expert
Description: With 10+ years' experience as a marketing manager, I can now proudly add parenting a highly energized 3-year-old girl to my repertoire. Skills gained include working under intense pressure as well as superior efficiency of managing tasks within constantly changing and unforgiving timelines.
Job Title: Career Break
Description: Took a career hiatus to raise my twins who are now in school full time, allowing me to refocus on my career. Maintained my link with the industry by completing a refresher course in digital marketing, as well as an executive MBA module with a specific focus on marketing strategy."
Job Title: Head of Budgeting
Description: During a four-year career break, I finessed my finance and budget management skills as acting treasurer at a prestigious Manhattan private school.
Although some of the above job titles might seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, every one of the women behind them was hired using this wording. The last one chose to showcase her volunteer work and how that prepared her for work outside the home.
Volunteering counts, too
Whatever you stepped forward to do – PTA, dog rescue, speaking engagements, taking the lead for an auction – this should absolutely be on your résumé, says Kakati Shah.
"If you move along in the process, the hiring manager will most likely ask more about it," Kakati Shah notes.
Chancey suggests listing volunteer work as jobs on your résumé. If you gave a talk, acted as a mentor, served on a board or participated in any volunteer or community work, you should include them as "jobs." In the description describe your responsibilities and accomplishments, he says.
This should give you a good idea of how to create a résumé that shines a positive light on your career interruption. White suggests being honest and not trying to hide or leave out dates of employment. When you get an interview, you can explain more.