No one likes being laid off or fired. Beyond the initial shock, inconvenience and income loss is the challenge of presenting this on your resume. The whole point of a resume is to show your strengths and ways you've contributed to various organizations in the past. You need an honest way to account for such events and the gaps in your work history. Let's look at some tips on how to handle being laid off or fired on your resume.
A New Economic Climate
The days when people usually kept one job for their entire working lives are long gone. Today, the average person changes jobs about twelve times over the course of their career. One positive aspect of this is that gaps in your resume or short-lived periods of employment are no longer the stigma they once were. At the same time, it's still important to present yourself in the best possible light. Fortunately, the new economic climate works in your favor as employers don't expect pristine job histories.
Remember The Purpose Of A Resume
There's a simple rule for handling layoffs or terminations on your resume: don't explicitly mention them at all. Your resume is, among other things, a marketing document listing your work experience, skills, and achievements / accomplishments in a persuasive way. It's not a job application, legal document, or journal. You're under no obligation to mention every detail, including why you left a particular job. Simply list your last employer on your resume and leave out the specifics of why you no longer work there.
Remember, that the goal of a polished loss prevention resume is to land an interview. Your resume is simply a tool used to "sell" yourself as a candidate, not explain your entire career. As you apply for future loss prevention jobs, you'll need an explanation and will have the opportunity later in the process to expand on the issue in a way you see fit. If you feel obligated to address a layoff or termination prior to the interview, you’re better suited to address it strategically in the cover letter rather than the resume.
Accounting For Gaps in Your Resume
Even if you don't mention a termination or layoff on your resume, there's still the issue of handling time gaps between jobs. Suppose, for example, you're a Regional Loss Prevention Manager and you were laid off from your position. During this period, you applied for many other loss prevention jobs but it took you almost a year to find a new position. There's now a long time gap in your resume. How do you handle this on your current loss prevention resume?
The best approach is to create a resume that keeps the focus on you and doesn't emphasize dates. The most blatant example of this is the functional resume, which focuses on your specific skills and experience rather than the places where you worked. Not all employers like this type of resume, but it's always an alternative to a chronological resume with large gaps.
Another option is to create a resume in the traditional chronological (or even better a hybrid / combination) resume format with one difference. Rather than listing specific dates, only mention years. This way, unless you have gaps of more than a year in your resume (in which case the functional resume is probably a better choice), gaps aren't visible and don't take the focus off of your skills and experience.
Another option if you are insistent on mentioning your departure from your most recent position, is to place a very generic explanation which accurately describes your circumstance in parenthesis next to your dates of employment. Example: 2010-2016 (Department Downsized) or 2010-2016 (Company Acquired). If you're going with a chronological or hybrid format, be sure to include a strong professional summary at the top of the resume, which will keep the focus on the strengths that you have to offer to an organization.
Account For The Time During The Gap
Another approach for accounting for the time between jobs, is to list activities other than employment on your resume to account for your time. This is a little tricky, as it's important to list pursuits that provide transferable skills or contribute to the image you want to convey. There are quite a few possibilities here, such as:
- Studying - Time studying for a degree is obviously well accounted for. However, don't overlook less formal studies such as non-credit courses (many are free) and self-development seminars.
- Volunteering - Time spent volunteering is worth putting on your resume. List skills acquired and achievements / accomplishments, just as with jobs.
- Internships - Paid or unpaid internships are also activities where you learned certain skills worth listing on your resume.
- Self-employment - Running your own business and freelance consulting are legitimate alternatives to working at a job.
Include these things on your resume just as you would any other form of employment with details that show a talent seeker what you gained from the experience and how that translates into a benefit for them.
These are some of the ways to handle layoffs or terminations on your resume. It’s important to always remain honest and transparent regarding your work history (and gaps), but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still put your best foot forward and present the information on your resume in a way that positions you for success. It's likely, of course, that you will have to discuss this issue at some point in the recruiting process. This is preferable to putting details down on your resume, though, where the information is likely to prevent you from even getting an interview and having an opportunity to explain the situation.
Keep in mind that it's imperative to never omit any information regarding a gap in employment on a job application or when you're asked about the situation. Life happens. Hiring managers know that. It's more important to convey how you've handled the situation and persevered. Always be honest and transparent, but don't sell yourself short in the process.