How to Address a Layoff on your Resume and Cover Letter

May 12, 2020 | Job Search Strategy

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Getting laid off stinks. Fortunately, you’re not the only one during COVID-19, and your situation is completely understandable. Here’s how to address your layoff on your resume and cover letter.

By: Matt Dupee, CPRW | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma

As we all know, a lot of people have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many folks may have recently started a new job or even earned a promotion, only to be faced with a layoff and the inevitable, difficult question, “how will I address a layoff on my resume?” Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a major obstacle. I can guarantee hiring managers will understand your circumstances if you were laid off in the first half of 2020. 

How to Address a Layoff on Your Resume

The short answer is DON’T.

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I typically don’t address things like this in full sentences on the resume, even if it feels really awkward to start your resume with a short job. While I usually don’t recommend listing jobs you held for less than six months, we are all in new territory due to the pandemic and will need to make some changes to our standards. 

Regardless, the resume is not the place to talk about a layoff — doing so takes up valuable real estate for listing your accomplishments and skills. 

Focus on the Positive

Even if you held your last role for a short time due to a COVID layoff, make sure you focus on your achievements prior to the layoff. Show the hiring manager that even though you held the role for a short period, you got a lot done and left your mark. Highlight results using metrics (numbers speak volumes) and keep everything positive.

Where to Address a Layoff

Your cover letter is the ideal place to explain any layoffs or short-term roles. This is your best opportunity to eliminate a potential red flag by briefly explaining the circumstances around your departure.

CAUTION: if you happened to be terminated for cause from your previous role, this does not apply to you. We will need an entirely different approach to that scenario and I will address it in another blog. For now, consider these points if you were laid off or furloughed:

Some job seekers can get away with not mentioning that they were laid off at all until the interview. But with COVID-related layoffs, there are two important considerations.

#1) A TON of competent employees have been laid off due to COVID. It’s now easier than ever to prove with just a sentence or two that your layoff wasn’t due to your performance but the health of the company.

#2) Anyone who started a new job in 2020 and was then laid off is going to have a short job on their resume — it’s easy and understandable to explain that in the cover letter.

How Do I Address the Layoff in the Cover Letter?

If you decide to address a layoff in your cover letter, follow these guidelines:

  1. Make it short
  2. Make it positive
  3. Make it forward-looking
  4. Don’t dwell on it 

Mention the layoff briefly and early in a separate paragraph in the cover letter. Explain that the layoff was due to the pandemic and not your performance. Demonstrate that you were doing a great job up until that point (which will also be clear with your specific stories in the next paragraphs).

Then, just move on. Don’t highlight the layoff any more than you have to. Simply answer the question “what happened?” and let it be. Here’s an example our founder Chris wrote for a hypothetical client in the service industry:

 “Recently, Landry’s Inc. announced a round of layoffs due to the COVID-19 crisis, and my position was eliminated. I was consistently rated as a top performer at my restaurant, and I plan on delivering that same level of service in my next position.”

The Bottom Line

According to a May 2020 Labor Department report, 33 million Americans filed unemployment claims since mid-March. That means that 33 million resumes will be impacted by a layoff and possibly a short-term role.

Of those 33 million resumes, none should have the term “layoff” anywhere on the resume. There should, however, be 33 million cover letters that briefly link a layoff or employment gap to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and thereby eliminate red flags.

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