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How to Create a Professional Return to Workforce Resume

by Ellie Williams, studioD

If you’re returning to the workforce after an absence, employers may see your outdated skills or the gaps in your resume before they notice your accomplishments. You need to modify your resume so that it highlights not only your work history but also your life experience, skills and talents.

Tailor Your Qualifications

Take inventory of all of your skills and accomplishments, including academic experience, part-time or freelance work and volunteer experience. Then research the industry to identify what employers are looking for. If you have been away from the workforce for several years, your skills and knowledge may be outdated. Including this information only draws attention to how long you have been out of the game. Compare your qualifications to the current industry standard and omit anything not regularly used in the kind of position you are applying for.

Downplay Your Absence

Deflect attention away from the gaps on your resume by using a functional or skills-based format. Begin your resume with a skills summary, where you showcase three or four skills crucial to the job you are applying for. List several examples illustrating how you used those skills at previous jobs. Do not include specific employers in this section. Either omit references to the employer or use generic descriptions such as multinational corporation or software development company. List your prior jobs after your skills summary, including only job titles, name and location of employers and dates of employment. Do not include job duties for each position.

Describe Your Activities

If you held several part-time, temporary or freelance jobs during your absence, create a section to highlight talents such as temporary contractor or freelance consultant. For example, include a section called “Freelance Writer and Editor.” Summarize the kinds of writing and editing projects you specialize in and include a few or your most noteworthy clients or publishing credits. Use the same approach for volunteer work by creating a “Volunteer Experience” section. List positions held, such as treasurer of the parent teacher association or vice president of the local arts council, followed by your job duties. Also mention any relevant classes you took or workshops or seminars you attended, even if they weren’t for college credit.


Don’t directly address your absence on your resume. If you have successfully directed attention toward your qualifications and described how you stayed busy during your time away, they may not notice your unemployment. However, if you point it out, they may see your break as a red flag and you won’t have the opportunity to explain. If you want to address your resume gaps, it is best to do so during the interview, when you can discuss any concerns the employer has.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

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