It continues to get rougher for the out of work job seeker. Employers are becoming more visible with their hiring biases and one of them is that you have been out of work for too long.

One assumption is that if you were one of the first people to hit the employment line in the last two years, you were a poor performer. While that may be true for some people, it is not the case for everyone.

For example, when a company restructures and eliminates a position across an organization, everyone in that position loses their job – regardless of their performance record. If a company closes a division, everyone hits the unemployment line. Companies are missing out on some remarkable talent when they bypass these job hunters.

Some employers state the requirement in ads, “unemployed candidates will not be considered” or the more positive requirement of “must be currently employed.” Other employers may not put it in writing but are screening your resume out as soon as it hits the desk.

What can you do about it?

First, if your resume has a big unemployment or activity gap in it, you have to do something to close it. The reason hiring companies do not want to consider you is they think you are stale. If you are not using your talents and skills, it stands to reason you are slowing down and are become increasingly uncompetitive.

Avoid the fatalist attitude that you are too busy looking for a job to do anything else because it won’t solve your problem.

There are several approaches you can take which will show you are still working or are improving your skills – that is important because it can move your resume to the top of the heap.

  1. Volunteer for an organization in a clearly defined role. There are many not-for-profits who seek out people to assist on high level short term projects. Plug those positions into your resume and show how your experience and contribution made a difference. A resume is not limited to paid positions.
  2. Continue working on a degree or certificate program to expand your areas of expertise. Learn what technology or trends are forecasted for future growth in your profession. Employees who invest in the cutting edge technologies or process and take risks get ahead. List your position as an “Educational Sabbatical” and highlight your new skills.
  3. Write a book or commission a ghost writer and get it published. Identify yourself as a “Published Author” and establish yourself as an expert. What company doesn’t want a subject matter expert on their staff?
  4. Offer to speak at associations – both in your field and other areas. Add “Professional Speaker” to your list of qualifications. Provide handouts to the group participants with your contact information. Who knows where that handout might land – possibly in your future boss’s hands!
  5. Demonstrate leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. Start a special interest group. Market it. Grow it. Develop it. Showcase it on your resume. Along the way you may help someone else out.
  6. Identify the work you have done with fraternal or professional associations especially as a leadership or committee member. Describe the duties and results from your efforts.

When making a decision about your future, invest time and money where you think it will help you to move ahead. Keeping stagnant in a time of long unemployment erodes your chances of being noticed by a future employer. There are employers who appreciate perseverance despite facing a few hurdles. Ultimately, that’s the kind of employee great employers want and the employer you want to work for.