You’ve found it: the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, your current job is completely unrelated to the job you want to apply for. Perhaps you’re looking to return to an industry you once left, or maybe you took a career detour to try something new. Whatever the reason, it’s natural to panic when it comes time to submit your resume if your experience is a bit misaligned. Should you leave out your unrelated experience or just submit your resume as-is and hope for the best?
First, Determine Whether You Are Truly Right for the Job
Before applying, make sure that you are qualified for the job. There is no sense in wasting your or the hiring manager’s time. If older experience is truly relevant and you are passionate about the new job, it can be worthwhile to throw your hat into the ring; you just need to do some tweaking to your resume.
Rearrange Experience, Don’t Eliminate It
The best thing you can do when applying for a job that doesn’t quite align with your most recent experience is to rethink the order of your resume. If you leave a gap with no explanation, the hiring manager may simply think that you were not working for that period, which could raise red flags.
Instead, start your resume with a “Relevant Skills” section. Here, list your skills that align with the skills listed in the job description. Next, create a “Relevant Experience” section. Instead of listing your work experience chronologically, list your jobs from most relevant to least relevant. Include a summary of each job and list out responsibilities.
Quantify Your Achievements Whenever Possible
Your goal is to show your value and that you do have the experience relevant to the new job. Therefore, it is important to include your achievements in previous jobs, not just your job duties. Instead of saying that you “developed a process that improved accuracy,” make an impact by using verifiable numbers: “Created a reporting process that reduced accounting errors by 30%.”
Write a Killer Cover Letter
When applying for jobs, honesty is always the best policy. Explain your experience gap head-on in your cover letter. Hiring managers scan resumes quickly or rely on automated software, so if you are worried about irrelevant experience, focus your cover letter on all of your relevant experience and transferable skills. By focusing on your strengths and value, it will put the hiring manager in the right frame of mind as they review your resume.