How Long Before Unemployment Is Career-Threatening?

A survey suggests the growing acceptance of a 36-week job hunt.

The longer the job search, the bigger the need for antidepressants. But that may be less true if you are higher up the corporate ladder.


Last month Robert Half Management Resources (RHMR) released an interesting survey, suggesting that senior-level managers can be out of work for nine months before it has adverse affects on their careers.

The research was based on a telephone survey of 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

“Extended [job] searches aren’t unusual,” Paul McDonald, RHMR’s executive director, said in a press release. “Most hiring managers recognize the economy has sidelined many outstanding people.”  

But the economy has sidelined many others who might not classify themselves as “senior managers” or be calm about a 36-week job hunt. For them, the question may be less a matter of “how long” but “how you handle it” in a resume or interview.

Here are some tips for making sure a lengthy period of unemployment doesn’t hurt your hiring chances, no matter what your career level.

Don’t hide it.  You don’t necessarily have to address a long post-layoff period on a resume, but be prepared to discuss it in an interview.  Even if it’s a simple statement like, “With today’s struggling economy, finding the right job fit for me is taking a bit longer this time.”


Focus on relevant pursuits or skills during time off.  Did you volunteer for a charity during your time off?  Help out with a professional organization or a community group? Learn a new software program? These experiences may yield skills or show character qualities you’ll want to highlight in a cover letter or interview. (This applies beyond layoff periods, as in stay-at-home parents returning to the workforce.)

Stay positive. Set your expectations with the knowledge that it will take longer to find work, and rejection is a normal part of the job-search process. Do what you can to stay confident with a positive outlook, as those are key to a winning self-presentation.

For more good tips on the subject, check out “Addressing ‘Skeletons’ in the Interview” and “Addressing a Dud in Your Work History.”