How to handle sticky situations in your cover letter
A few sentences in your cover letter can help explain a long gap in your work history. Check out these examples for help finding the right words.
Get inspiration for explaining your work history.
Are you wondering how to deal with a sticky work history issue? Whether you were laid off from your last position, took time off to raise children, or are looking to change careers, the cover letter is the perfect place to address potential red flags.
One caveat: Keep the explanation brief. Writing a cover letter is an exercise in selling yourself, so the tone should be upbeat and positive. Review these examples to get inspiration for explaining your sticky situation:
Last month, ABC Co. made the difficult decision to dissolve its operations, so I am available for immediate employment. I am eager to continue my ______ career and was very excited when I learned about your job opportunity -- it’s a perfect match to my qualifications and career goals.
Although I was a top producer for ABC Co., my position was eliminated during a major corporate restructuring. I have been searching for a position in the industry, but the economy has made positions in ______ very difficult to find. In the interim, I have been networking at industry events and keeping my skills fresh, but I am eager to resume my career in the ______ field.
(Note: Don’t disclose medical information that could jeopardize your chance of landing a job -- disclosure is your personal choice.)
After taking time off to undergo back surgery, I left ABC Co. (on excellent terms) to focus on my recovery. As I regained my strength, I went to school part-time and received certifications in ______ and ______. Now fully recovered, I have been given an “excellent” bill of health by my doctor, and am highly motivated to return to the full-time workforce.
Time off caring for an ill family member
In the last couple of years, I served as primary caregiver to my father, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. During this difficult period, I kept my work skills updated by independently studying ______ and actively participating in industry news groups. At this time, I am available to return to work, and am confident that I would be an asset to your team.
Time off raising children
After stepping away from the workforce to start a family, I am eager to resume my professional career now that my children are school-aged. I have kept my skills and connections current through active volunteer work, including leadership roles in school and charitable organizations.
I plan to relocate to ______ to be closer to family, and your opening presents an excellent opportunity. I am available immediately for a telephone interview and can arrange to meet in person on short notice.
Although successful in my ______ career, I have realized that the aspects of my work that I find the most rewarding are all in ______-related functions. I am currently pursuing a full-time position in this area, and am confident in my ability to excel in this field.
After building a successful small business (where I grew revenues from zero to six figures in two years), I recently closed the operation to pursue my passion for the ______ field. Your opening is an excellent opportunity, and I look forward to speaking with you about how I can help expand your operation.
Although I have changed jobs more than I would have liked in the past few years, I am searching for a position where I can make a long-term commitment. If you agree that my credentials are an excellent fit to your needs, please feel free to call or email me to arrange a meeting.
Most recently, I have contracted with ABC Agency and have completed a number of interesting assignments (detailed on the attached resume). While this work is rewarding, the short-term nature of temping does not let me provide the kind of enduring, value-added contributions I find to be most fulfilling as I could as a full-time team member.
Budget cuts required me to take a ______ position in order to remain employed, but I am confident in my ability to step back up to a management position and hit the ground running. I would welcome the chance for an interview to discuss your goals and outline ways I can help you achieve them.
Job search next steps
Now that you know how to handle a tricky job situation on your cover letter, it's time to get your resume in order. Want help making the most of your resume?Join Monster today today and get a free resume review from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. Our experts can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter, even with a tricky work gap.
Many job seekers ask “Should i leave a job off my resume if i was fired”?
For hard-working individuals, there are few things more frustrating than being laid off or fired. Some take the loss of a job as a personal attack on their self-worth. Others can become despondent, especially during times when the labor market is tight. There are almost as many varying responses to being let go from a job as there are possible reasons for those dismissals.
One thing that almost all those employees have in common, however, is the need to somehow explain that dismissal in their resumes, as they search for a new job opportunity. And since terminations often result in resume gaps, it’s important to know how to address a layoff on your resume. Here are some resume tips that can help when you’ve been laid off or fired.
Know the Difference Between “Laid Off” and “Fired”
First, it’s important that you recognize the difference between being laid off and getting fired. Employers use layoffs all the time. There are times when they need to cut their labor costs, so they eliminate certain workers from the payroll. There are companies that have laid off hundreds and even thousands of employees in a single day. In short, there are many good reasons for being laid off.
Employers who fire their workers typically have a more individualized reason for the termination. These reasons can vary from poor attendance or chronic tardiness to an inability to meet expectations or outright insubordination.
It’s important to note the distinction between those two types of terminations, since you will want to handle them in somewhat different ways when creating your resume.
How to Address a Layoff on Your Resume
Many job seekers ask, “How do I put laid off on a resume”. There are some different schools of thought when it comes to choosing how to explain getting fired or terminated on a resume. There are some who believe that it is important to be as upfront as possible, and thus suggest including information about the termination within the body of the resume itself.
Others believe that such explanations are typically best handled in the personal interview. Still others argue that you should put that information in your cover letter after being fired.
When it comes to figuring out how to put “laid off” on a resume, no one has yet come up with a foolproof solution that will ensure that you never need to answer questions about the termination. That makes it critical for you to learn know how to explain a termination on your resume. And to do that, you need to follow a few basic principles:
- If the termination caused a gap in your employment history, eliminate the months in your chronological list of employers. That can help to ensure that your resume demonstrates continuous employment.
- Be honest and direct. There is no need to provide exhaustive explanations about why your position was terminated, or the market conditions that resulted in layoffs at your previous company. Just address the matter briefly and move on to more positive territory.
- Always focus on your accomplishments. When it comes to layoffs, most employers will be more interested in learning what you achieved at your last job than in why your company restructured, automated your position, etc. Keep the focus on the positive achievements you’ve racked up rather than on the layoff.That, of course, brings us to that list of things that you shouldn’t do when you’ve been laid off.
What not to do when you were laid off:
- Do not speak poorly about the company that let you go. If you mention the layoff in your cover letter, be sure to include praise for that company. Your prospective employer doesn’t want to read even a single negative statement about other companies you’ve worked for in the past.
- Don’t be dishonest. That doesn’t mean that you need to go into detail about the layoff; just don’t write anything that’s false. Always assume that your new employer will somehow find out the truth.
- Don’t be ashamed of the layoff. As mentioned earlier, layoffs are a common thing these days, and no serious employer is going to refuse to hire you based on that criteria alone.
Should I Put a Job on My Resume If I Was Fired?
If you were fired from a that you only held for a few months, you may not need to list it at all. If you have had a series of firings, however, you should consider how you will address that in your cover letter or interview. You might also want to look at yourself and ask why you’re continually being fired for cause.
As a rule, though, you usually shouldn’t avoid the issue. List that period of employment on your resume along with all the others. That way, the employer cannot come back months later and ask why you failed to mention that job. And if he or she does have questions about why you left that company, you can explain it in an interview.
Of course, it’s important to know how to deal with that issue if it is raised during an interview. There are a few things that you can do to effectively address most firings, but they all involve being as direct as possible without going into too much detail. For example,
“Yes, they did let me go two months ago, and I was sorry to part ways. That’s a great company, and they’re doing great things in the industry. I really feel as though my time with them was an invaluable lesson that truly helped to sharpen my skill sets, and I’m disappointed that my relationship with them didn’t last longer than it did. However, I’m hopeful that the many lessons I learned with XYZ Corp will help me to be an even greater asset when I’m employed with your firm.”
Use the Functional Resume to Deal with Layoffs and Firings
The functional resume is the ideal format for dealing with these types of issues. It can provide you with an opportunity to redirect attention away from your employment history, and focus it like a laser on the skills that you offer to any new employer – as well as the accomplishments that make you such a great candidate.
The functional resume is perfect for addressing any gaps in your work history, especially when you just list the years of employment rather than the months and years. It also puts that work experience into perspective by listing the work history last on the resume. And since the goal is to reduce the attention paid to layoffs and firings, the increased focus on your skills and abilities will help to highlight your qualifications rather than waste time dealing with the details surrounding your previous jobs.
You can read out post regarding resume formats here.
Addressing Layoffs in the Cover Letter
Again, layoff issues are best addressed in the cover letter that you send along with your resume. The resume itself should be used to details your skill sets and accomplishments, while de-emphasizing the actual positions that you’ve held. That’s why we recommend the functional resume as an ideal vehicle for addressing these types of issues.
With your cover letter, though, you want to continue to focus on all those great benefits that you bring to the table for any new employer. If your layoff or firing was recent, you may want to mention it in passing, but only in a positive way. You don’t have to be deceptive, but you do have to be diplomatic. Always think about how you would want a prospective employee to describe his former employer if you were in the hiring manager’s shoes. You can also check out our post on how to write an awesome cover letter.
What If You’ve Been Laid Off and Are Still Unemployed?
Another question that many would-be workers often ask is how they should handle situations where they’ve been laid off and still haven’t found a job? In addition to the resume gap, that unemployment status can be an obstacle to gaining employment.
Yes, that seems counter-intuitive – but it’s true. Hiring managers are often resistant to hiring people who are unemployed. In much the same way that it takes money to make money, you often need to be working to obtain work. Catch-22? Perhaps, but that’s life. The good news is that you can close gaps and remove the employment barrier by being creative.
If you were fired or laid off, do more than just submit resumes and wait for the next opportunity. Fill some of your time with activities that can at least give the appearance that you’re working. Begin to write a book. Volunteer with a charity. Do some independent contracting. Keep yourself active and in the marketplace in one way or another. That can help to ensure that you’re seen in the best light possible.
The Bottom Line
You can’t just ignore being laid off or fired, but neither should you allow the loss of one job to stand in the way of getting the next. By using the right resume format and focusing on an honest and positive promotion of your great skills sets and accomplishments, you can create a resume that minimizes the importance of being laid off or fired in the past.