If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom or dad and out of the workforce for a while, your resume probably needs an update. With time away from a paying position and a gap since your last job title, how can you make sure hiring managers don’t flip past your resume? What can you put on your resume so that you’re taken seriously as a qualified candidate?
Fortunately, there are strategies that can make your experience look current. With a little preparation and creativity, you can highlight the skills you’ve developed during your time away from the office, and develop an interview-winning resume — without ever once referring to yourself as the “Chief Home Officer.”
Consider Alternative Resume Formats
Ask someone to write a resume from scratch, and chances are they’ll start listing their experience in reverse chronological order, with their most recent position at the top of the page. That’s advantageous on a traditional career trajectory, where each position involves more responsibility and pay, as well as a better title. But for a stay-at-home mom, a chronological resume can serve to emphasize the gap in time since her last formal position.
Fortunately, there are many ways a resume can be formatted besides chronologically. Choose instead to create a functional or combination format resume. That way, the emphasis is on your skills, rather than your recent work history.
As well as selecting an advantageous resume format, you can also include optional resume sections like an objective or summary statement to highlight your qualifications for the job.
Worried that choosing this format identifies you as a stay-at-home mom rejoining the workforce? Never fear. Plenty of job seekers use non-chronological resume formats these days. Sometimes, it’s because they have gaps in their resume, or because they wish to highlight skills over experience for other reasons, such as making a parallel move to a slightly different job.
The fact is, hiring managers are busy. They’re likely to spend mere seconds looking at resumes, regardless of their format. Putting your abilities in the spotlight increases the chances that they’ll see what you can do and sort your resume into the “yes” pile.
Add Volunteer Roles
During your time as a stay-at-home parent, you may have devoted a lot of time to volunteer responsibilities. While these positions may have been unpaid, it still is a way to show off your skills.
Describe any volunteer work using the same action words as you’d use for paid work. Showcase accomplishments (e.g., “Raised twice as much money in the school’s silent auction as the previous year” or “Balanced the school’s PTA budget, tracking thousands of dollars in expenditures and donations”) with the same direct language as you use in bullets describing past positions.
Don’t pull your punches, just because the work is unpaid. Look for chances to describe your work with action words that show your impact on the project and the mission.
Look at Older Jobs
Have some of your oldest positions fallen off your resume as you’ve updated it? Now that you’re redoing it as a non-chronological version, you may find that some of that experience that felt dated can be phrased in a relevant way.
Just be careful to avoid changing job titles. During a reference check, hiring managers may ask for your exact job title at the organization. If you stretch the truth, you’ll look like you’re dishonest and remove yourself from contention.
If your job title is dated, e.g. webmaster, it may be better to leave it off your resume, or to include the knowledge and experience you gained under your skills section without referencing the job title.
Add Freelance Work
For some stay-at-home moms, being at home with the kids meant a break in full-time, salaried work, but did not mean a break in paid work. If you’ve worked on a contract, temp, or freelance basis, that’s absolutely relevant information, and should be included on your resume.
Including Your SAHM Experience?
This is a divisive question: some parents and human resources professionals argue that there is no reason not to include this experience on your resume. That being said, most hiring managers recommend against including stay-at-home mom experience on your resume as a job title.
It’s easy to be cutesy, giving yourself the title of “Chief Home Officer” and describing responsibilities in work-like terms. However, this approach likely makes the most sense if you’re applying for a position where your skills are directly transferable, such as working with young children.
As with many more personal details, the cover letter is likely a more appropriate place to mention and explain your employment gap.