4 Tips For Successfully Reentering the Workforce

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, coming back is going to feel like a big adjustment. The business world and the technology we use to navigate it changes rapidly, so if you’ve been away caring for a sick relative, or dealing with a personal illness, the transition back may feel a little intense at first.

This article will give you the tips you need to successfully reenter the workforce, no matter the length of absence or the type of job you’re seeking.

Tips for Work Reentry

The first step is to connect with a trustworthy recruiter who will have your back as you search, interview, and finally, land the next big thing. Top Stack can help with this. But there are other tips for work reentry you should consider, including the following:

  • Update your skills list before you even start looking for work. We recommend a resume refurbish based on keywords (see our prior blog post), as well as some padding to fill gaps in employment. Do you know the saying that it’s always easier to find a job if you have a job? That’s actually true, so if you haven’t worked in a while, try volunteering for a worthy cause a few months before you even put your credentials out there. This will pad the resume a bit to help employers understand you’ve still been out there in the world.
  • Try building a functional over a chronological resume. A resume that heavily emphasizes the dates of employment will only make it really easy for employers to see where the gap in working was. Try rewriting the resume to focus on experience and not length of stay. You can create headings such as “Programming Experience” (inserting the right keyword for the job you’re searching for) and then listing the highlights of what you’ve accomplished and learned.
  • Get out there. We know this is a difficult step, but it is the most important. Get your resume on free job boards like Indeed or Monster and then talk with a few recruiters to find the one you most want to work with. Most job boards and the applicant tracking system recruiters use leverage very precise algorithms that will aid you in your job search. Use these tools. You may also want to try your hand at networking at MeetUps or other events to improve your chances in the job market.
  • Ask for help. Even if you’ve been out of work for a while, here’s what you need to understand. The unemployment market today favors the job candidate, particularly in those high-demand jobs like programming, engineering or healthcare. But even though the odds are in your favor, it’s important to use resources that are standing by to help. All you have to do is ask. In the case of the job seeker, one of your best resources is a recruiter who can be your advocate.

If it’s time to start your own job search, start a conversation with the team at Top Stack. We are your best resource for reentering the job market, and have jobs standing by that will get you back in the saddle. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

How a Recruiter Will Help You Prepare for an Interview

When it comes to an interview, a recruiter can be your best friend. There’s no one better when it comes to helping you prepare for that very first employer impression. Even if you feel like you don’t interview well (in fact, especially if this is the case), consider working hands-on with your recruiter to put your best foot forward. Here’s how a recruiter can help you interview well and land your next job.

Tips and Takeaways From Recruiters

Recruiters can help candidates learn how to stress their strengths and de-emphasize their weaknesses in effective ways. The recruiter you’re working with may ask you to write down four or five strengths and weaknesses, along with a one-paragraph example of how you’ve exhibited your strengths on the job and overcome your weaknesses. The recruiter may even have you talk about these skills, practicing the actual interview process. If they don’t, why not ask them for help? Recruiters are expert interviewers and see countless resumes every day. They’re a resource that wants you to land a job as much as you do.

Recruiters may help you practice the universally accepted correct interview answers. Each answer should be about two minutes long. There’s a concept many recruiters know and teach their candidates called “Say a Few Words” (SAFW). This means:

  • S stands for the opening statement on each question answered.
  • A is amplify, which is a clarifying statement to push the point home.
  • F is to remind you to provide a few examples that illustrate your point.
  • W is the reminder to “wrap it up.”

SAFW leaves the interviewer, whether it’s on the phone or in person, with a concise but effective way to get to know a candidate. It backs a statement up with a short behavioral example illustrating your point. Then it closes the deal, wrapping each question up in a nice package.

Another tip is that recruiters may ask you to write-up two of your most important accomplishments to date. This can include your work on a team as well as an individual goal met. What did you learn? How does it illustrate the job skills the employer is seeking?

The goal is writing up this document is that many times the person being interviewed can get nervous, which may make them forgetful. Taking time to write this down may help you retain the information, even when an employer puts you on the spot. (Especially when the employer puts you on the spot!)

The recruiter may have you practice the universal question: I read the job description and your company’s website, but could you tell me in your own words what you think the job entails? This allows the candidate to take control of the conversation and get the employer or hiring manager talking about what’s important to them. Then the interviewee can zip back in with their SAFW set of job qualifications that sell them for the position.

Recruiters, Not Diamonds, Are a Girl’s (and Boy’s) Best Friend

The Top Stack team is different. Our job is to provide you with the coaching you need to land your dream job. That’s why we partner with our employer-clients to understand exactly what they’re looking for. We can help you prepare for your next big move. Contact us today to start the conversation.

The Importance of Using Keywords in Your Resume

The old days of just creating a resume are gone. Today, the majority of recruiters or hiring managers simply won’t notice a resume without searchable keywords. Let’s look at the types of keywords and how they can help improve your resume to land your next job.

Understanding Keywords

Keywords are a short phrase or individual words on a resume that tie into a particular job posting. They can include credentials, skills, qualities and abilities of a candidate. They could include technical expertise or other requirements hiring managers are looking for in a role they’re trying to fill.

Keywords are important for tracking purposes. Most companies now use applicant tracking systems (ATS). This technology is widely used to track resumes and screen candidates for jobs. The software has a query system so hiring teams can search for candidates by job skills. The ATS software can eliminate candidate resumes that don’t have keywords matching the particular job description. That’s exactly why it’s important to add keywords into both your resume and your cover letter.

What Kinds of Resume Keywords Are There?

The job of keywords is to get the attention of hiring managers because it matches the job description. Given that most recruiters and hiring teams simply scan resumes for relevant experience, having keywords makes your resume stand out against all other candidates. Here are some examples.

For an employee benefits manager role, use keywords such as:

  • Employee;
  • Benefits;
  • healthcare benefits; and
  • benefits policy.

For a customer service manager position, try to use keywords like:

  • customer service;
  • computer skills;
  • order entry; and
  • phone skills.

For a logistics manager:

  • supply chain;
  • warehouse;
  • operations; and
  • logistics manager.

How do you figure out how to use these keywords? Look at the ad. It should have keywords throughout it you can incorporate into your resume. Try searching for similar job listings to find out what top words seem to be used in most of them. Especially look at the responsibilities/qualifications sections of the job description.

You may want to also look at the company website for keywords. Look at the section called “About Us” to determine what the company thinks is important. For example, if the company uses the word “creative,” clone that adjective and pop it in your resume. Make sure the language of your resume is the one spoken by the company — use keywords whenever possible.

Yes, you should do this for each job application. We know it’s labor intensive, but it will increase your chances of landing a job. Salt these keywords throughout the resume and mix up both hard and soft skills. A variety of keywords in several different places will show the diversity of your experience. Since the company’s ATS may be queued to find particular characteristics, try using multiple versions of keywords and phrases. For example, programmer and developer or nurse and clinician are interchangeable job titles that can mean the same thing.

Finally, consider using some of the same keywords in your cover letter, in case the employer is also scanning these types of documents. An easy way to do this is to list your keyword-heavy job skills in a summary at the beginning of the letter in a bulleted format.

Contact the Top Stack team for more career advice and, when you’re ready, we have the best jobs to fit your skills.

Different Types of Interviews and How to Prepare for Them

When looking for your next job, there are many different types of interview styles. There are behavioral interviews, where you’re asked to share your experiences in solving specific problems. There’s the lunch interview, which tests your relational skills in a whole new environment. You may be invited to a Skype interview, which for the uninitiated can be a bit nerve-wracking.

It’s important to know how to be prepared for each of these types of interviews. Here are a few examples of interviews the next hiring manager may throw at you and how to prepare for each one.

#1 The Standard Interview

If you’re lucky, the employer won’t throw anything too radical at you in this scenario. However, it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t prepare. Take time before this process to research the company you’re visiting as well as practicing some of the most common types of interview questions, like “What’s your biggest weakness.” Find out from your recruiter in advance who you’re meeting with and even try to find out more about them so you can feel a little more comfortable with the new faces at the interview table.

#2 The Skype Interview

If you’ve never done a video interview, this one will take a bit of time to get used to. First, test your laptop, desktop or another digital device to determine the software works. Then find an appropriate room for the visit, keeping in mind what the employer will see in the background behind you. Next, make sure the camera is portraying you in the most attractive way, by shooting you head-on and not panning up into your chin. If you’re uncertain about any of these tips, there are dozens of articles online to prepare you.

#3 The Case Study Interview

For programmers, many companies give you a coding problem to solve. Sales roles often have a series of behavioral tests. Writers usually have to give an article sample or take a writing test. Either way, companies are increasingly seeking new ways to have you prove your skills before coming on board.

#4 The Behavioral Interview

These interviews seek to quantify your skills in concrete ways by asking a series of questions that start with, “Tell me about a time that you…” The goal of these questions is to test how fast on your feet you are as well as trying to determine your future behaviors on the job by looking at what you did in the past. The best way to prepare is to look up samples of these types of questions and practice a few concise examples of your on-the-job skills.

#5 The Lunch Interview

If you get nervous eating around new people, this can be a tough interview. However, you should assume the potential employer must like you; they wouldn’t invite you to lunch if they didn’t. A lunch interview gets a prospective employee out of the artificial environment of the interview room and gives you an opportunity to get to know the employer in a more relaxed setting, even if, in truth, you won’t be relaxed at all. If you know the restaurant in advance, check the menu and pick out a few options that are: A) not too expensive; and B) easy to eat. Bring along a small notebook (that could fit beside your plate) with conversation prompts and questions.

For more top tips, talk to the talent team at Top Stack.       


Tips for Staying Productive While Unemployed

If you’ve experienced unemployment, particularly after working for years, you may know the weird feeling of dislocation that can come from having too much free time on your hands. While it’s a good idea to update your resume and write great cover letters when unemployed, there are a few other things you can do to make the most of your time. This includes volunteering, learning a new skill, catching up with your network – or building new connections. Here’s how to stay productive while looking for your next career path.


Employers today are interested in your efforts to improve the world around you, so volunteering for a worthy cause while you’re laid off is a great way to use your time. Not only will it make you feel good about yourself, but it also adds skills to your resume. It can even connect you with a new social network that could lead to a new job. It will illustrate to employers that you kept your skills sharp during your time away from the work world. One important tip is you should give some thought to where you’ll be volunteering. How does the organization connect to your job market? Can the activity give you some valuable resume skills you could highlight during an interview?

Increase your industry visibility

This might be a good time to get active in an industry-related association. Most cities have a variety of events going on that can increase your skills and help you network with employers and employees. Many of these events are also free or low cost. When you find the industry-specific organization that’s right for you, why not use your free time to help them with meetings or events? Make sure you’re connecting with everyone you meet on LinkedIn.

Reach out to your existing network

A social network is only as good as the connections you manage. Think about your network as a living web of people you can help – and that can help you. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile recently, now is the time. Then work on reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. Relationships atrophy over time, so make sure you email a one-on-one communication with “your people” on a regular basis. You can also ask colleagues you’ve worked with to give you a reference on the platform.

Learn new skills

Remember when you were working and you thought, “If only I had more time, I’d learn X.” If you’re unemployed, there is no better time than to brush up on old skills or create new ones. There are all kinds of free online classes, including those from Harvard and MIT found on the edX website. For programmer wannabe’s there are classes at freeCodeCamp that can retrain you for a job in the digital field.

Call Top Stack

If you’re unemployed, make calling Top Stack a priority. We have a variety of positions available right now you may already be qualified for. What are you waiting for? Start the conversation.

Are You Familiar With the Three “R’s” of Resume Writing?

Resumes still matter even in our digital society where your social media profile is often the first impression in the job market. Hiring managers still lead with the request, “Let’s see a resume,” so taking the time to craft a good document that adequately represents you may just get your foot in the door.

Here are three important tips for honing your resume by following the rule of the three “R’s.”

Resume Tips and the Rule of Three R’s

To ensure your resume leaves a great impression on everyone who reads it, be sure to follow the three R’s of resume writing: Relevance, Results and Realism. These three categories will help you craft a marketing document that leaves employers with a great first impression. For example, create a resume that is:

  • Relevant to the job you’re seeking. If you’re wondering about having a few versions of your resume lying around to highlight different skills, our best advice is to just do it. When creating these documents, consider the job you’re applying for. What will hiring managers want to see on your resume for the particular job they’re advertising? For example, if you’re applying for an entry-level accounting role, will the employer care about your time waiting tables at a local restaurant?Keeping your resume relevant means discarding the parts that won’t give you a leg up in the job. Given that hiring teams scan resumes for information, having a few keywords related to the job you’re applying for will make your resume stand out.
  • Results oriented, listing your major accomplishments at each job. It will give an employer a good sense of what you’ve done in the past and help them quantify what you bring to the table. Rely heavily on action verbs like:
  • Facilitated
  • Grew
  • Created
  • Achieved
  • Won
  • Managed
  • Handled
  • Coordinated
  • Planned
  • Produced
  • Realistic resumes are the ones you can back up with facts later on in an interview. While your resume is a marketing document, always stick to the truth so you don’t appear to hyper-inflate your skills at your next job interview. If you mentored new employees but didn’t manage them, don’t imply supervisory skills you don’t yet have. Many hiring teams will smell the over-inflation simply because they’ve seen it all before. Think of it this way, even if the resume nets you a job you’re underqualified for, what will your first few weeks on the job actually prove to your employer?

Making your resume more appealing to hiring managers’ means you have the specific skills and experiences they’re looking for at that time. That’s why you want someone looking at your resume to be able to discern quickly what you bring to the organization and where you’re interested in adding value.

Talk with the talent team at Top Stack about your goals for the future. We can help you hone your resume to highlight your skills and move into the position you’ve been waiting for.


How Can You Differentiate Yourself From Other Candidates?

Standing out in a good way during the job interview process is exactly what will help you make the next round of discussions – or snag an offer. How can you show employers you have the top skills? When you’re competing against a candidate with the same or similar skills, what can give you the competitive edge?

The answer is soft skills.

Soft Skills to Make You Stand Out

There are certain soft skills that can differentiate you from other candidates including leadership, respect, enthusiasm, confidence and work ethic. Soft skills are the less-quantifiable characteristics that often cannot even be taught, but are a part of how you interact with others in the workplace. As such, these traits are just as important as software skills or professional certifications. In fact, some hiring managers would argue that these skills are more important because hard skills can be taught. With collaboration increasingly important in the workplace, soft skills mark you as a candidate that is more highly desirable than one that might not play well with others.

Here are some soft skills that the employer may look for:

  • Enthusiasm and energy
    Your passion for the job could help you stand out in an employer’s eyes. With employee engagement at an all-time low, sharing your excitement over the role isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An enthusiastic employee is one that typically is the helper on the team, reaching out to others to support their work. That energy is also infectious and can earmark you as the one to pick to reinvigorate a team that is demotivated.
  • Quiet confidence
    Your confidence can be compelling. Employers look for confidence over bragging, competence over a bluff. The confidant interviewee is the candidate that believes in his or her own skills and abilities to do the job. This characteristic can help employers trust you, which is an important part of the hiring process.
  • Work ethic
    Employee productivity is still one of the most important benchmarks of a company’s success. Sharing stories of how hard you worked and what you accomplished during the interview process will impress employers on the fence about your hard skills. Work ethic implies you will do what it takes to succeed. Stories about how you worked a job while in school or the extra time you put after work in to receive your Scrum certification, will impress interviewers and potentially help you land the job.
  • Leadership
    Everyone likes a natural leader, so try to highlight times when you lead teams or when your troubleshooting skills kept a stalled project moving forward. Employees exhibit leadership all the time even if they don’t officially manage a team. Your resume should subtly highlight these areas in your work history and you should reinforce them during the interview process.

It’s important to recognize the power of soft skills to complement those that are more quantifiable. To get more tips on what skills to emphasize with future employers, why not make a connection with the Top Stack recruiting team? Our hard skills are the experience we have with hiring managers, and our soft skills include the ability to create a more human-centered hiring process. Call us to find out why we’re different.