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Best Practices to Address Being Laid Off in Your Resume

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Keeping your resume up to date is important – you never know when a new job opportunity might pop up! However, if you’ve been laid off, figuring out how to identify this in your resume can be challenging.

If you’re worried about listing a job you’ve been laid off from in your resume, here are some best practices to quickly address the situation without impacting your chances of landing a new job.

Writing Your Resume: What to Include and Exclude When You’re Laid Off

Before getting started on your resume, it’s important to understand what you should include and what to leave out when noting a layoff. Each industry has its own resume expectations and might not need you to present your jobs linearly.

What you will need to demonstrate, however, is your work experience. This section will play a large role in determining if you’re the right candidate for the job. This might feel overwhelming if you’re trying to decide how to list a job you’ve been laid off from.

If you’ve recently been laid off or experienced being let go in the past, you might be worried about how to address the gap in work experience on your resume.

A few important tips include:

  • Don’t lie. The worst thing you can do in your resume is to lie or mislead the interviewer. Your potential employers may call your references and previous jobs to confirm you worked there. Lying about how long you worked for a company or where you worked can easily be discovered, disqualifying you from the job.

    This also includes overstating your role in a particular job or embellishing the number of employees you managed. Lies like this can make it harder to find a new job.
  • Don’t list everything. While you don’t want to put any untrue information on your resume, it doesn’t mean you need to list everything on one piece of paper. For instance, you do not need to list why you left every particular job, including jobs you were laid off for. Your resume is more about capturing your relevant work history and experience. There will be time to explain any gaps or discuss reasons for leaving particular companies during the interview process.

    Lastly, you also don’t have to list every job you ever worked. Side hustles that aren’t relevant can be left off, and your first job as a cashier at Burger King doesn’t have to make the cut when editing your experience section.
  • Consider how you list dates. When constructing a resume, many people use the month and date to show when they started and when they left a particular job. While this format is used often, many others only list their years of employment.

    For instance, let’s assume you were hired by a company in 2016 and laid off in 2019. Later in 2019, you started a new job at another company. Instead of listing the month and year that you left the first company, you can instead just list “2016–2019.”
    It’s become more common to note your years working for a company, rather than months and years.

Keep in mind that if you’re applying for a more creative or talent-driven or project-based position, such as a designer, copywriter, or videographer, you won’t have to worry so much about listing a layoff. Instead, you’ll link your resume to online portfolios and craft it to highlight relevant projects or published work. You can also list companies you’ve worked for at the bottom of your resume, but listing dates and reasons for leaving aren’t usually required.

Addressing a Recent Layoff in Your Resume or Cover Letter

If your last job was the one to lay you off, and you haven’t found new employment yet, you might be worried about explaining these circumstances during your current job search.

Here are a few tips for addressing a recent layoff on your resume

  • Note the year you were laid off. If you were laid off from Company X earlier this year, note your years at the company accordingly, with an end date of 2020, rather than writing “present.” While this will indicate that you no longer work for this company, it doesn’t necessarily look jarring.

    People leave jobs for a number of reasons, and the company likely won’t ask you about this part of your resume until the interview.

  • Keep it simple. If you want to explain why you’re not currently working, keep it simple. On your resume, you can note in parentheses if your layoff was a companywide layoff by stating “mass corporate layoff.”

    Likewise, if you were recently laid off due to COVID-19 impacting your company, you can state, “COVID-19-related layoff.” Don’t go into more detail – the time to do so will be face-to-face.

  • Don’t use up valuable real estate on your cover letter. While you have more space to explain a potential layoff on your cover letter, you don’t have to address the issue here.

    Cover letters should be used to showcase your accomplishments and explain why you’re the perfect fit for a particular position. Discussing a layoff here can feel out of place and prevent you from writing more about your relevant experience or the reasons Company Y should hire you.

    If you do decide to discuss your layoff in a cover letter, keep it brief, citing “My department was cut from the company” or “25% of my department was laid off.” If only your position was eliminated, you could note that by saying, “My position was eliminated as a result of COVID-19” or “Budgetary cuts led to my position being eliminated.”

    Don’t dwell on the topic, move on, and discuss how you helped grow your department or generated more revenue for that company instead.

  • Include volunteer or training experience. If you were recently laid off due to COVID-19 or other reasons and had been brushing up on new skills or volunteering to fill your time, be sure to mention that on your resume and cover letter.

    Since volunteer information will be listed on your resume, you can be more creative on your cover letter, writing “My recent COVID-19 furlough from Company X afforded me time to give back to my community by volunteering at …” or “My layoff from Company Y allowed me to go back to school and gain my certificate/degree in X subject.”

    You can spin a negative experience into a positive one by showing that you were focused on developing your skills or doing volunteer work while you were unemployed.

Final Tips to Consider When Addressing a Layoff

Addressing a layoff is never fun, but it’s a relatively common experience. In 2018, 21.9 million people were laid off, and millions more have been laid off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed about addressing a layoff – it happens to many people across the country each year.

It’s also important to know that while you may think the HR manager or interviewer will be hung up on that detail, they may not even bring it up. While you should discuss your layoff if prompted, you’re under no obligation to mention it if it does not come up during an interview.

Just be sure your resume is honest and focuses on your work experience!

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