What to do about cover letters and references if you haven't worked in years



By Vivian Steir Rabin

“I’ve been out of the workforce for several years,” a reader e-mailed me. "Should I address the gap on my resume in a cover letter? What about salary requirements? And what do I do about the fact that all my references are from 10+ years ago, besides the PTA president. (I’ve already told my 12 year old that I’m not going to use her, even though she’s teaching me power point!)"

Here’s how I responded:

If you haven’t explained the gap on your resume, then by all means explain it in a cover letter. In fact, even if you have a line on your resume about your career break, address the issue in your cover letter as well. Do it briefly and unapologetically. (See the sample below.) Do not go on and on about why you stayed home.

The key is to address the gap (so prospective
employers don’t think you were in jail or conjure up other unseemly
excuses for your absence from the workforce) and make it clear that
you’re ready to return to work now. Employers are less concerned about the gap per se
and more concerned about whether you’re logistically and
psychologically ready to work and whether you have the skills, despite
your absence, to perform on the job.

Your goal, in your cover letter, is to reassure them, briefly, that you are ready, willing and able to return to work.

Do not mention salary requirements at all in a cover letter, nor during the first few interviews. Wait until the employer brings it up.

As far as references go, you do not need to mention them in the cover letter or resume. But
you should try to line up 2-3 references, even if they’re from years
ago. (One of the three could be from your recent volunteer work, like
the PTA president). E-mail or call your old bosses, tell
them you’re seeking to return to the workforce, and ask them if they’re
willing to serve as a reference. Assure them that you’ll only give their name and phone number to those who are seriously interested in hiring you. Thank them profusely. Although you haven’t spoken in years, if you did good work, they should be willing to vouch for you. And, who knows, maybe they’ll even have a job lead!

Sample Relauncher Cover Letter:

Dear :

I am very interested in the A opportunity at Company B, and believe my skills and experience make me a strong candidate. As you can see from the attached resume, I spent X years doing very similar work as a Y at Z Company. In addition, I developed C skills in my D years at E Company. Although
I have focused on my family for the last G years and have not worked
for pay, I have kept up with developments in the field by reading Most
Important Trade Magazines 1 and 2 and attending H conferences. I’ve also updated my computer skills so I’m ready to hit the ground running. Finally, my involvement with I Volunteer Organization has honed my organizational and interpersonal skills.

I am very eager to return to the workforce and believe my pent-up
enthusiasm for work, combined with my relevant educational and
professional credentials, will help me contribute meaningfully to the

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my potential fit for this position by phone or in person at your convenience.

Thank you.

Sincerely,Jane Realdough

Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin are the co-authors of the acclaimed career reentry book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, and the co-founders of iRelaunch,
a company providing career reentry programming, events, and information
to employers, universities, organizations and to mid-career
professionals in all stages of career break.

For more information on Relaunching, see iRelaunch and check out Back on the Career Track. Carol and Vivian can be reached at info@iRelaunch.com.


Carol Fishman Cohen Vivian Steir Rabin

Photo Credit: home.cc.umanitoba.ca/.../ WomanThinking.JPG

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from living

by SheKnows Shop | in 3 hours
by Sara Lindberg | 4 days ago
by SheKnows Shop | 4 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 5 days ago
by Ashley Papa | 7 days ago
by Jessica Drake | 7 days ago
by Kristen Fischer | 12 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 14 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 20 days ago
by Kristen Bousquet | 22 days ago
by Kristen Bousquet | 23 days ago
by Hannah Hickok | 24 days ago