Let Your Resume Tell Why You Left Your Last Job

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It’s never fun to think about the awkward situations that you will run into when you reach the interviewing stage of the job application process. You never know exactly what will be asked, but you can anticipate – and sometimes that anticipation leaves you biting your nails off to say the least. This sentiment is often true when you know that there is information on your resume that you know could come up during the interview – like why did you leave your last job? If you’re concerned that this information might be an issue, you might want to get some of the explaining over with on your resume. This way, you just may have less to explain when the time comes. Don’t Sidestep the Issue on Your Resume Because the reason that you left your last company is bound to pop up in the interview – and this is something you absolutely cannot lie about – it is a good idea to make mention of it in your resume if you think it is a reason that could raise eyebrows. Of course, you don’t need go into great detail because this is not what the resume is for, but by mentioning it, you can implant a bit of the detail into a hiring manager’s head before seeing you. For instance, if you were let go from your company, there are a couple of reasons that this could have occurred. One is that you were outright terminated from your position and another is that you were laid off. If you were laid off due to downsizing because of the financial crisis, you could mention this detail in your resume. Because employers understand the gravity of the Great Recession, some will not ask any further questions. Let Your Cover Letter Do Some Work Too If you want to go into further detail about why you were let go from your position, you could allow your cover letter to do some of the talking as well. For instance, you could mention how much you enjoyed working for your previous employer and that you remained committed to its goal. However, due to the financial crisis and the need to downsize, you and 2,000 others were let go from their positions. You could even go into short detail about how the experience was difficult at first but in the end it made you stronger in character. Or that it brought your family closer together, something you’ll always cherish (of course, only say something like this if it’s true). If you talk about your departure rather than sidestepping it, it could actually make an employer more interested in you, which is why it’s good to go ahead and tackle it head on. So are you ready to pull your job search together? If so then it’s good to really think about how you’re going to approach the reason that you left your job. And always keep in mind that while it’s good to make mention of it in your resume and cover letter, it could always come up in your interview, so be prepared.

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  • George W.
    George W.
    Here's one that maybe some of you can shed light on for me.  I was fired from my last job (after almost 7 years of employment with them) for being gay.  How do I explain that one?  What are former employers allowed to say to those verifying my past employment if they call them?  
  • Theresa C.
    Theresa C.
    I was laid off from my job in October 2009 and was told at the time, that it was a reduction in the workforce. However, one week before I was laid off I had let my Supervisor and the owner know that I was having a 2nd surgery, but wouldn't be out of the office long. The first surgery was to remove a brain tumor, and it was botched. Also, I later found out that the office manager was telling prospective employers that I was "let go." What, if anything, can I do about that? I was very professional on the day they laid me off and even standing up, and holding out my hand to shake their hands and told them it was a pleasure working with them. Basically though, the article does give me something to think about regarding past jobs, so thank you.
  • Cathy C.
    Cathy C.
    For the past four years I have been laid off from three positions because of economic downsizing..I do  explain this on my resume...my former employers give me good references and recommendations yet potential employers see this as job hopping or worse...unemployable...how do I handle this situation?
  • Patricia
    To Mary P: If you're looking for a different job and you are currently employed in an unsatisfactory position, why not tell them that the company is going through a restructure and your role has been abolished?  Or that downsizing is occurring within the company?To Mary B:  If you were only there for 6 months, can't you state that it was a contract role and the position was no longer required after the 6 months?To Rita:  Perhaps you could say that the role was phased out due to technology or restructure or merging departments?
  • Robin S.
    Robin S.
    Unfortunately, I was fired as an Office Manager for a law firm.  They thanked me for all my hard work but no longer required my services.  That was 2 year ago and I haven't been able to find employment since.  I have many valuable skills and steady work history until now. I feel they are giving me a bad reference.  How can you find out what kind of reference they are giving me?
  • Joey
    "i left for a better opportunity" are the only words that should be said. if u were fired, so what? they can't ask and the former employer is not allowed to tell. isn't it weird how a baseball manager, for example, gets fired all the time, and it is not a big deal. He gets hired the next year or two. But in the corporate world nobody should get fired. what's wrong with that picture?
  • Dee J.
    Dee J.
    It is unfortunate that a number of you have experienced very negative work experiences from harassment, malicious gossip, slander, defamation of character to out right abusive behaviors. These and other forms of dysfunctional behavior should never be tolerated in the work environment! My best advice to this is when in doubt, document everything. If possible, seek out legal advise though this can be costly and time consuming. And by all means, try to start quietly searching for your next job ASAP! This is especially important in this type of slow economic environment. Remember that your health is your most valuable asset. You can't do much with an ill body or sick mind. Therefore I would strongly suggest that you keep the bulk of your past history in the past and try to stick to a generic reason, such as layoffs or a difference in philosophy or goals as to why you left your job. Good Luck & I Wish You All Well!
  • RITA
    Yes, what if you were terminated after 23yrs how do you get around that?
  • Jack
    The point of the article is noted. Know what and how to say your reason for leaving.  Honesty is the best policy. And the potential for the truth is a strong possibility. ** I say - up to a certain point. You don't get trapped w/ an honest disqualify response. Honesty will also set you free.Most interviewing personnel only want a brief comment why your seeking different employment. The song is the same for the applicant behind or in front of you. Some employers don't ask.  Again, I say caution.Most companies understand layoffs, downsizing, etc. However, the selfish mindset of the SAME  employer is you weren't worth keeping. Your current employer situation is working against you. So a "no-fault termination" turn against you. I've heard that before.** Getting into the personnel side of the job Q/A is a flat disqualification.  You may be walking into the same trap. So your response (like politics) requires caution. As a practice I don't respond to negative questions w/ negative a response. I flip the question, and accentuate the positive. Because that's what you are-positive.  You may not answer the question, but don't worry about that.  The positive is the end-result. You will come off as positive and the hiring employer will note (in their mindset) you left or leaving for something positive. Not because of unbearable - out of your control situations.  In fact, the potential employer won't contact the previous employer. It's an professional embarrassment.  That's how that work's.
  • Jamie C.
    Jamie C.
    What if you were terminated for reasons other than downsizing, what would you write?
  • Ken
    VL has the correct information regarding what employer's can say regarding your former employment. Typically, you are asked to provide your former supervisor's name to any future employer regardless of why you left your former employer.  A professional former supervisor who is contacted for a reference check should refer an inquiry from a future employer back to HR. A more important and positive reference is probably a peer at your former employer who you can trust.
  • Albert S.
    Albert S.
    I agree with many of the comments made that this article does not address how to handle a situation where you were let go or fired because of "poor performance". How does one handle this situation? Most people feel they were let go unjustly but you do not want to convey any ill will in your interview.
  • Kathleen W.
    Kathleen W.
    I worked faithfully for the same company for 23 years before I was let go this past June for "beginner" mistakes that cost the company money and failure to complete what I considered non-priority tasks in lieu of time-sensitive ones. Due to recent job restructuring in our department my responsibilities were more than doubled and overtime was cut to nothing - it became impossible for me to complete everything in 8 hours. I was informed of the termination at 5 PM on a Tuesday night and the next day there was a new employee sitting at my desk. I hate to think I was "set up" as some people have suggested, but that may have been true. I made NO money and never got a raise, but I loved my job and was very good at it. Now I can't find a job. I have the actual work experience the need but I don't have the computer knowledge required (I knew what I needed to know to do my job). I'm taking some computer courses but I may end up in the poorhouse before I can master everything! I hated leaving the people I worked with for so many years, but I think they did me a favor by forcing me out of a very toxic work environment. If I had it to do all over again I wouldn't let myself become complacent in a job and not stay current with my computer skills. After all, that's what it's all about these days, isn't it?
  • Shirley E.
    Shirley E.
    The article was very good.  I was some what upset when they told me my job would be eliminated in May 2010 but I did not let it get me down.  I was told about six weeks ahead of time and during those six weeks I did my job in the same way I had done it for the past nine years.  I worked as if I was still going to be there when May was over.  I gave the company my best until the day I walked out without a job.  The company was down sizing and it took my job but I learned a lot while working with them.  I loved my job and was very happy there.  It is hard to find a job now because so many people are in the same position I am.  So we just keep trying to sell ourselves to a company that might give us a chance to prove to them that we can do the job.
  • William K.
    William K.
    Good, but with a weakness, a gross over site! You did not address how to deal with a termination.  Sometimes it's a weakness in a person that causes them to be terminated.  That would be the person's fault, not the employers'.  What if the person learned from his mistakes and made life altering changes?  How would he convey this to the prospective employer.....actually to the HR person who stands guard over the gates to the interview!  Or maybe it was the pettiness and vindictive nature of another that cost him his job.  How do you address that issue?  There is very little face to face, human to human contact in the job search.  HR has dehumanized the process.
  • Joshua C.
    Joshua C.
    You didn't give advice when having been shown the door.  But that's predictable - there is no valid advice and you know it.  There is no valid way to defend termination.  You will always be damaged goods.  Why? doesn't matter - the worst will be assumed and the employer will be given the benefit of the doubt - not you.  Go ahead accentuate the positive. The interviewer will assume the negative and steer clear of those rocks.
  • David W.
    David W.
    Hello. How would I describe being terminated from my previous employment for lodging federal discriminatory complaints to the employer and being terminated within four business hours, and settling a federal lawsuit with the employer a year and a half later. Thanks for any information you may be able to provide. Respectfully, David W., 49 years old and hard to find work.
  • Pat M.
    Pat M.
    Interesting comments. I got terminated from a company because of a hearing problem.
  • Rahul I.
    Rahul I.
    Thanks for addressing this.  I did talk with a few others about my resume, and this is what I have done.  I have also been told to keep my comment, short, sweet, and to the point.  Hence my comment just says (downsized due to current economic situation. or downsized due to business issues with customer)
  • JR
    I agree with some of the previous comments. What if you were terminated, against your will, for something that had NOTHING to do with your job performance or lack of performance? What if it was involuntary, painful and downright wrong? How do you put that in the allotted 25 spaces of reason for leaving??
  • Ari
    The article was helpful, although, similar to a few others, my previous job of seven years where I excelled and the company benefited from my work, I left because of a major conflict with my assistant and eventually my boss. At interviews I simply say that after seven years I felt the need for growth and did some consulting work overseas(which is partly true) for the nine month gap between jobs. But I'm never certain about what the background check will turn up...
  • raunnie
    I agree with some of the other posters on here that the article did not address some more complicated reasons for leaving a job. Lynn I feel for you - that is harsh what happened to you.  I had a female manager who was like this - throwing temper tantrums,(she even threw a bottle of chemicals at me at one point) calling me at home, not allowing me to do my job when customers would compliment me all the time, totally protected by her peers. They should hook up!
  • DONNA J.
    DONNA J.
    I worked for Girl Scouts (in the office)for 5 years.  When I felt unappreciated (and had NO performance reviews for two years), I took a Leave of Absence to work at GS Camp.  When I returned in the Fall & applied for three other office positions, I was told I was "not qualified."  Interesting, since I worked there 5 years and was NOT fired!  This is awkward to explain because it makes NO sense.   
  • Mary B
    Mary B
    I would like to see another article written addressing the fact how to answer why did you leave your last job if you were terminated. It seams that a lot of people who read your article feel that has not been covered and would be extremely beneficial to a lot of people how to answer that question in an interview. Also I have filled out applications before the interviewing process and it asks you on the application," Have you ever been fired before" If you answer yes are you branding yourself and risking your changes from getting that job. Please advise. I was always told you should not ever say anything negative about your previous boss or company during your current job interview. So how do you handle the issue that you were let go because of being treated unfairly by your boss and when you bring it to his attention your branded as a complainer and then he make it difficult for you to work there. Then they let you go because he says that your not what there looking for in this position, you have worked there for 6-months and made a lot of great contributions and you and your clients really thought you made a difference, and your let go because of a bosses jealousy or insecurity. How do you handle that? Another words your boss is fearful for his job because you look better then him.
  • Mary P.
    Mary P.
    So how do you explain why you're looking for a different job if you are currently employed in an unsatisfactory position (without acting like a disgruntled whiner)?
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