returning to work 10 FAQ

Going Back To Work – 10 Frequently Asked Questions

Are you thinking of going back to work? I know many women who are now contemplating going back to work or are looking for some way to update their skills after many years being at home full time. One of the reasons I started blogging was to learn a new skill set, as I had been out of the paid work force for seven years. This has had such a positive effect on my self confidence and sense of self.

Today’s post comes from Kate at Priorities. Priorities was the first recruitment and training organisation to specialise solely in part-time and flexible job creation in Melbourne. Their services include recruitment (part time and flexible vacancies), consulting to businesses on how to cater for part time and flexible work practices and training for candidates on work readiness and computer skills. They even have a job board which you can register for. You can check it our here. It regularly lists those dream jobs for mums of school kids – work hours between 10am – 3pm!

Kate has kindly put together a collection of frequently asked questions about going back to work. It is a lengthy post, full of fantastic information and tips for anyone considering a going back to work.

1. What should a job application contain? Should I include a cover letter?
An application has two parts, your resume and the cover letter. This is where you can really show a potential employer your unique skills and attributes. Each cover letter and resume should be tailored to suit each different role that you are apply for. Both need to be easy to read; with no spelling or grammatical errors. If possible include key words from the advertisement or the employer’s website that relate to the role, some recruiters have software that sorts resumes and cover letters by keyword and if you use their terminology this will help to make sure that your resume is not rejected on a technicality, for example if the ad asks for an admin/payroll officer use this term, not administration clerk.

It is important to make sure that each cover letter that you send is specific to individual roles, particularly if a recruiter is involved. Recruiters dislike seeing generic cover letters that could be in reference to any job and if a candidate sends me a letter addressed to Mr Jones regarding “the role in your organisation” I will (almost certainly) send the application straight to the “no” pile.

2. How do I know my application has arrived? Should I call the recruiter to make sure?
Most recruiters hate it when candidates call to ask if their resume has arrived. Unless you are really uncertain please don’t pick up that phone! If you haven’t heard anything back after a day or so then ring with a sensible question concerning information not covered in the advertisement. Be prepared for any eventuality, if you get on like a house on fire you might find yourself undergoing a telephone screening interview right then and there or even be asked to come in for a face to face interview. Have your resume and a copy of the ad beside you when you call and make notes for later reference. If you are at all worried about how you will cope with a telephone interview you are safer sending a brief email question with a read receipt request.

3. Should I try to re-skill before I start applying for jobs? There seems to be plenty of incentives at the moment. I have been home on maternity leave for a few years and know that I have a few areas that I need to brush up on.
Ensuring your skills are up to date is always sensible but you can waste lots of time and money on courses that are not relevant. Make sure that you know what sorts of roles you are interested in and what skills you would need to perform them well Any office based role these days requires that you are skilled in the Microsoft Suite, at least Word and Outlook and possibly Excel. Even if you are seeking a retail role, most outlets these days use some form of “Windows” based software and it will help you to learn if you at least familiar with the use of a mouse!

4. If I have been at home for more than 1 year (Mat. Leave) what should I be including in the “gap” time on my CV?
Saying that you have taken a career break for family and children is absolutely fine. Use words like “Career break”, “caring for family” or “maternity leave”. Avoid using made up expressions like “domestic engineer” or leaving a gap. People might assume you have been in jail! Come to think of it, if you were in jail say “Career Break” or “Sabbatical” – unless the role involves caring for others and needs a police check you don’t need to tell anyone and they shouldn’t ask. The same goes for if you have children, a partner, how old you are and if you are planning any more children. Some employers will ask about these factors during the interview process and although you have the right to refuse an answer, think carefully about if you want to work for an employer who is prejudiced or not family friendly.

5. I was the chairperson of the fundraising committee for three years and we raised nearly $70 000 for the kids’ school, can I put that in?
Any volunteer activities during this time (for example, in school fundraising or classroom support) do put in your resume, it shows the employer that you have other skills and a good work ethic – even for unpaid jobs. Most people returning to work don’t realise how many skills they have gained during their time outside of the workforce and making the effort to put them into “business speak” is a very valuable exercise. “Co-ordinated a team of 25 in all fundraising and social activities for the local primary school, increasing the amounts raised by 200% on the previous year with an overall contribution to the school budget of $70 000” shows that you are capable of managing a large team and achieving significant goals.

6. How do I deal with relevant experience for a role gained 15+ (or even five) years ago? Do I include dates on my CV?
Most recruiters recommend not going back any more than 10 years on a job history, however if your 15 year old experience is relevant to the role, list it under a separate heading of “Skills and Attributes” in front of the chronological job history. A CV is all about bringing about your relevant experience, so modify the format to do so. Priorities has several proforma resume formats and we are very happy to email them out to you if you are interested. Feel free to email us at

7. How do I find a job that fits in with my children’s care and school hours? They seem to be very rare!
Use your network. This is people you know, your old employers or study mates, your local community, and, via these primary network contacts, all their networks too. These are your secondary network contacts. You will be surprised who knows who when you start talking about your desire to return to work and what sort of part time or flexible roles are out there. People are more than willing to help you in your journey by giving advice and introductions but will be put off by the process if you treat this as an impromptu interview opportunity.

Eighty percent of part time and flexible roles filled by mature candidates are filled by networking so you should spend a lot of time chatting to people you know and the people that they know, don’t spend all of your time on online job boards. You are much more likely to find that perfect work from home or part time role through your network than through responding to an advertisement.

8. What do you do if you find an ideal role via seek that fits your skill set but is advertised as full time, when you really want part time or work from home roles. Is it worth applying at all?
Sometimes an employer has not considered if a particular role is suitable as a part time or work from home possibility so it is worth making an enquiry. If they have advertised for full time but you think you are perfect for the role, ring the agency or employer and ask if there is any chance that the role could be performed in a different manner. Don’t however; make this your first question when you do call. Try and get the chance to promote yourself over the phone and then towards the end, ask the part time question.

Hopefully you will have impressed them so much that they will want to see you anyway and you now have the advantage that you have been honest in your approach. Even if part time is not possible for this role it may be perfect for the next and at least you will be on file. If you are certain that you do not want a full time role and the client is equally certain that part time will not work for them, you won’t be well regarded well by either employer or recruitment agency if you are shortlisted so honesty is the best policy.

9.What should I wear for an interview?
An interview is usually not the place to be cutting edge or super glamorous. If you are familiar with the industry and know what style is “the norm” by all means dress accordingly but neat and clean is always essential. If you own a suit wear it, better to be too formal during the interview process and then to down grade this to conform with what everyone else is wearing if you are successful in your interview and are offered the role. The same rules apply for your first few days of work, better to suit up and be a little too formal than to turn up in a sundress and sandals.

10.I am not sure what paid work I want to do… How do I go about finding the best work / job for me, let alone flexible working hours?
Phone Kate and the team at Priorities and they can assist you. You can also attend the popular career guidance course called “Can I still be a Popstar” run by Priorities where these topics are covered.

This course will help you to examine your strengths and experiences and put them into a resume format that will be attractive to potential employers and is “recruiter friendly” as well! Many people are daunted by the prospect of asking friends for advice (networking) and we will assist with increasing your confidence in this area. “Can I Still be a Popstar” is run every term in Box Hill.

Key features of the program include:

  • Class conducted during school hours
  • Comprehensive manual for future reference
  • The option of an on-going mentor to guide you through the employment process

Course Dates 2011:

  • 31 March 2011
  • 5 May 2011
  • 7 July 2011
  • 11 August 2011
  • 20 October 2011

Course materials: A comprehensive workbook is included.

If you have any other questions about returning to the work force feel free to email