- Using eye-tracking technology, a 2018 survey revealed hiring managers spent an average of 7.4 seconds scanning a resume.
- Don’t hide or lie about taking a career pause to stay at home with your children; in your cover letter or a brief statement on your resume, describe how you spent that time and the skills you gained while caring for your children that transfer to the job you’re seeking.
- Remember, resumes are designed to get you an interview, not the job.
- This article is for stay-at-home parents who are planning to reenter the workforce.
Writing a resume 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., an eye-tracking study released in 2018 revealed that the average time hiring managers spent skimming a resume 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 resume 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 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 than 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.
So, when you’re creating a new resume after taking time out to care for your children, how should you account for being a stay-at-home parent under the Experience section of your resume? Should you even include it on your resume?
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 resume, he said. Instead, mention that you took time away from work to care for your family, and explain the amazing things you did to keep your skills relevant in 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 of 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, explains the applicant’s personal experience and how it aligns with the company.
“Personalize your letter to the organization, tell them what attracted you to this company, and explain what you did during your time away,” White said. “Describe how the skills or learning you gained during your career pause are transferable to the work environment.”
Once you’ve penned the cover letter, you’ll need to select a format for your work-history description.
1. Decide between functional and chronological style.
Before writing your resume as a stay-at-home mom or dad, you need to choose which format best showcases your work history and career breaks. According to Monster, a chronological resume is the most popular today. This format has a career summary or objective statement at the top, followed by a list of your positions and employers in chronological order (starting with the most recent). 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 resume that only lists their past job responsibilities, accomplishments, and skills, but leaves out actual employment dates,” Chancey said. “Doing this actually screams that you are trying to hide something, and this is a sure way to get your resume overlooked both by the applicant-tracking system and by an actual recruiter.”
The best type of resume to 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 reenter the workforce after a career break. If you worked in a single industry for most of your career and want to continue working in that same type of business, then the chronological resume works best.
“There are certain industries … 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,” Kakati-Shah said.
If you’ve been employed in various industries, she said, opt for the functional format. In either format, though, you need to catch the readers’ attention with your summary at the top.
2. Write a compelling summary.
Right below your name, address, and other contact information, Chancey recommends including an executive summary. He said this serves as an elevator pitch that ties together your career history and professional experience. Use this paragraph to summarize what you offer to a company. Include a brief description of your career background, core competencies and skills.
Based on her experience, White said she believes recruiters are more likely to read an executive summary than other parts of a resume. “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.”
Whether you call it an “executive summary” or “core competencies,” Kakati-Shah suggests including a few eye-catching bullet points, usually only one or two words each, at the top of your resume. For example, you might go with “areas of expertise” and list these skills:
- Strategic planning
- Project leadership
- Contract negotiation
You may notice that the above expertise applies to many different jobs, including homemaking.
3. Add your transferable skills.
As any parent would tell you, if you can negotiate with a 3-year-old, you’ll be golden in the boardroom. But how do you express that on a resume in a way that moves you on to the interview phase of the job search?
Kakati-Shah shared with us some actual stay-at-home parent resume examples, written by women who utilized Uma resources. Note the job titles and talents they listed 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 these job titles might be 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.
4. Include your volunteer projects.
Whatever you stepped forward to do – PTA, dog rescue, speaking engagements, taking the lead for an auction – this should absolutely be on your resume, Kakati-Shah said. “If you move along in the process, the hiring manager will most likely ask more about it.”
Chancey suggests listing volunteer work as jobs on your resume. 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.” Describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in these roles.
This should give you a good idea of how to create a resume that shines a positive light on your career interruption. White recommends being honest and not trying to hide your career hiatus. You can explain further when you get an interview.