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Why unemployment isn't a résumé buster

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(Read caption) In this April file photo, Donna Boulanger, right, of Randolph, Mass. looks over her resume as she waits to speak with Colleen Kingsbury of Travizon during a job fair in Boston. According to Ballenger, employers these days are far more understanding when it comes to employment gaps on a job applicant's resume.

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If you’ve ever been unemployed or underemployed – working for lower pay at less responsibility just to make ends meet – you already know what it’s like to be perceived as damaged goods…

Your friends and family are supportive but uncomfortable around you. You apply for jobs and don’t get called back, even though you’re qualified. And you wonder if you’ll ever find meaningful work again.

Well, there’s finally some good news, and it’s not just Friday’s big announcement that the jobless rate dropped in January from a year earlier in most metropolitan areas. Two days earlier, a new study was quietly released that shows employers have wised up to reality – they’re no longer holding your bad luck against you.

“The vast majority of employers – 85 percent – reported that they are more understanding of employment gaps post-recession,” jobs site CareerBuilder announced Wednesday. In a poll of more than 3,000 hiring managers, “Nine-in-ten (94 percent) said they wouldn’t think less of a candidate who took a position during the recession that was at a lower level than the one he/she previously held.”

That should help some of the 5.4 million people the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says have been out of work for at least six months. But the survey also offered advice from those employers on what to do to improve your odds of catching their eye. Here’s how they suggested you improve marketability if you’re currently unemployed or underemployed…

CareerBuilder itself had some tips – including the novel idea to search-optimize your résumé. “Most employers use electronic scanning devices to screen and rank candidates,” CareerBuilder says. “Make sure to pepper in words from the job posting into your résumé as it relates to your experience, so your résumé comes up higher in employer searches.”

But once they find your résumé, you have to get them to look at it – a task employers spend an average of six seconds on, according to a study released last Thursday. So make sure your résumé is well-organized and uncluttered. Check out 3 Tips to Build a Better Résumé.

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CareerBuilder also emphasized networking to find leads, bringing fresh ideas to the interview, and following up with a thank-you note afterward. We’ve got more advice in Job Interviewing: 8 Things to Do and 8 Things to Avoid.

– Brandon Ballenger is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.

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