Use the Cover Letter to Handle Sticky Situations

Nancy Anderson
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If you want to make it to the next step of the hiring process, you need to write a compelling cover letter that convinces recruiters that you deserve additional consideration. One way to impress recruiters is to use your cover letter to address situations that might otherwise raise some red flags about your work history. Follow these tips to overcome sticky situations and improve your chances of landing a new job.

Applying for jobs in other cities or states is tricky, because recruiters might wonder why an out-of-town candidate would apply for such a job. If you plan to relocate, let the recruiter know by mentioning it in your cover letter. Tell the recruiter when you plan to move, and provide details about your availability during the hiring process. If you aren't moving right away, try asking the recruiter for a telephone interview.

If your previous employer let you go during a layoff, it is important to say so in your cover letter, especially if you only spent a few months working for the company. Write one or two sentences about the layoff, but don't say anything negative about your former employer or its employees. Letting the recruiter know about the layoff ahead of time helps ease concerns about your job history.

You shouldn't disclose medical information to a potential employer, but you can use your cover letter to address an employment gap caused by your need to receive medical treatment or recuperate from a lengthy illness. Tell the recruiter you were on medical leave, but be sure to mention that you have recovered and are eager to re-enter the workforce. If you took classes or earned a certification during your leave, list them in the cover letter. This shows that you are dedicated to growing your career and improving your job skills.

A long employment gap is a red flag for many recruiters, but you can use your cover letter to overcome potential objections. Make sure your cover letter answers the question of why you have not held a job in several months or years. Tell the recruiter about everything you have done to develop new skills or enhance your industry knowledge while you were looking for work. If you obtained a degree, completed a certification program or used your professional skills to volunteer for a nonprofit organization, make sure the recruiter knows about it.

If you are ready for a career change, you need to address it in your cover letter. Otherwise, the recruiter might wonder why someone with so much experience in one field is applying for a job in another field. Explain how your skills and knowledge would benefit the company and help you excel if you are hired for the position.

Many applicants worry about addressing employment gaps or other sticky situations with potential employers. Fortunately, your cover letter is the perfect place to explain these situations and show the recruiter you are dedicated to building a successful career.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jessica one way you might up your chances is to narrow down the area where you want to work and then try networking. You can use LinkedIn or some other form of networking to reach out to others working where you want to work. A lot of times, if you can connect with someone in the company, they will submit your resume for you. Always better if it comes from within. Have you tried any of the urgent care facilities that are popping up all over the place? Do you have friends that are MAs who can submit your resume for you? Just a few ideas. Don't limit your search just to job boards but search out company websites and look for employment there. We wish you all the best.

  • Jessica Hamelly
    Jessica Hamelly

    Hi Nancy I am a medical Assistant .I have a associates degree and I also have certificate for cna. I have took care of my dad,mom and aunt in between doing my medical assistant classes and cna course. i worked for a nursing home for almost 3 months I got hurt on the job . They let me go. I also have done home health in people homes before that. I am really wanting to work as a medical assistant how can I better my chances?

  • samya kelly
    samya kelly


  • Lynn Clark
    Lynn Clark

    Thank you this was very helpful regarding employment gaps. With a 3 year gap and age it's going to be a challenge aquiring employment, but with the cover letter, it may remove some of the challenge.

  • lorretta h.
    lorretta h.

    Thank you for acknowledging utilizing the ''Cover Letter'' to elaborate on gaps in the work history. I had a tragedy in my life over 14 years ago that continues to hinder my returning to my passion; insurance claims processing in group/medical claims and auto insurance rater/CSR. However, I continued my education in Computer Tech & Customer Service with good grades and worked part time , voluntarily to keep my skills updated and to learn additional skills. I will try cover letter as my next attempt. Thank you.

  • Nancy A.
    Nancy A.

    Thanks for that @Rudolph. It is so very true. That is why I always try to tell job seekers not to limit themselves to one particular industry or even to one particular job title. Companies are more creative with job titles now and there could a posting with a completely different title but the job could be perfect. It's always good to stretch yourself and see where it might lead.

  • Rudolph B.
    Rudolph B.

    All very good suggestions and it's important to investigate each option. It's very competitive and one path you might think won't work may be the one that gets you a job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Brenda so sorry that you had to go through this. It is unfortunate that some companies are so bad that you are forced to resign. But this was three years ago. It's time to let go of that and move on. Since you gave a letter of resignation, you should have a copy of it, should you ever need it. Since it's been 3 years, more than likely an employer is not going to contact the company. Why? Because it's likely that most, if not all, of the people involved in forcing you out three years ago are no longer there. Suggestion for you would be to contact some temp agencies and get into some temp work - even if P/T. As for family care of a loved one, I do believe that there is a program that offers a small stipend to you for caring for your Mom at home instead of placing her in long-term care. You might want to check with social services about that. Also, since you are currently unemployed, it is a good time to think about your career. Do you want to continue working in the same field? Maybe now is a good time to try to take some refresher courses in your field or even look at something completely different. Maybe all you would need is to get a certification that will lead you to different industries. So many options for you. Don't let the pain and anger from your last employer keep you from moving on. Let it go. We have all been there Brenda. The sooner you let go of that hurt and anger, the sooner you will be able to find a new job - maybe even in a new field. Best of luck to you.

  • Brenda A.
    Brenda A.

    What do you do when you are forced to leave,I gave a letter of resignation, then later found out that the letter and the awards and accommodations are also missing out of the employee file.? I have not been employed for 3 years. Doing unpaid family care for my mother with dementia.

  • Angela Leal
    Angela Leal

    This was very helpful. Thank you.

  • Ivonne V  MICHEL
    Ivonne V MICHEL

    This info was very informative. I have the gaps and the sticky situations. Thank you

  • Terry H.
    Terry H.

    It would suit well to create this Cover letter, as you've implied; where most assoc. would have a fee unemployment I'm not collecting, and remaining funds are tight...;Thank you, unless your asst. is free....

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