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Get your pitch down.

"Long explanations can make you sound defensive, so distill how you want to sell yourself," Hewlett advises. On your résumé, record all contract, committee, and volunteer work, using strong action verbs that stress the skills you honed. Back those accomplishments with numbers if you can (how much money you raised as head of the soccer league's fund-raising drive, how many kids your church mentoring program tutored). In interviews, don't skirt why you opted out of the workforce. "Sell it for what it was—a well-thought-out, value-driven commitment," says Butler. "We're finding that companies are increasingly looking for people with reliable judgment and a sense of accountability."