Job termination and your resume

No matter how you left, you need to present the best accomplishments you made at the job to prospective employers.

Job termination and your resume

A resume should present your qualifications in a positive light.

Your employer just let you go. You need to find another job, but how should you address the termination on your resume? It depends on whether you were laid off versus fired, but a few rules apply across the board.

First, consider that the days when you signed on with an employer and stuck around until retirement are gone. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest the average worker’s tenure with one employer is 4.2 years. Employers are more understanding when they see job changes than in past, but concern persists on how to explain it on the resume. Here’s how to handle it.

Don't mention it

A resume should present your qualifications in a positive light. Including details of a job loss—particularly if you were fired—is not going to do you any favors.

No matter how sour your termination and interest in telling your side of the story, the resume is not the place for gory details. Let the resume do its job of opening doors, and you can explain the situation at job interviews.

Don’t fudge the end date

If your job is officially over, resist the urge to keep the position listed as “to present” on your resume, giving the impression that you’re still employed. The job termination will eventually come to light and hiring managers might think you tried to mislead them.

Explain a layoff in your cover letter

If your termination was due to a layoff rather than a performance-related issue, consider mentioning it in your cover letter. You can write something like this:

As you may have read, (company name) announced a round of layoffs, and my position was eliminated. My performance has consistently been rated as outstanding, and I am looking forward to repeating my record of success for my next employer... 

Focus on your accomplishments

Your resume should impress potential employers by highlighting your accomplishments and value proposition on your resume. Even if hiring managers are wondering why you left your job, your resume should be strong enough for you to receive interview invitations.

When updating your resume, it can be difficult to put your emotions aside and write a compelling description for the employer that let you go. But this is exactly what you need to do.

If you're stuck, seek the opinions of former colleagues who respect your work and ask about your performance. They might remind you about accomplishments that you took for granted or forgot about.

Here are questions to consider regarding your performance:

  • Did you take on responsibilities outside your original position scope? Did you juggle multiple projects while maintaining the highest emphasis on quality?
  • What were your strongest contributions to your employer? In what ways did you excel at your job, and how did your employer benefit from having you on board? Specific, measurable outcomes have the biggest impact.
  • Did you go above and beyond the call of duty? How did you contribute to bottom-line results?
  • What types of challenges did you face? What did you do to overcome these challenges? How did your performance benefit your employer?
  • Did you implement processes or procedures that improved efficiency? Were you known for fast or accurate work output?
  • Were you part of a team that was recognized with awards or accolades? Did you receive positive commendations by your supervisors (or clients, customers, vendors, co-workers, etc.)?

Get a second look

Whether you were laid off versus fired, it's completely understandable if you don't feel 100% confident about your resume, given the circumstances. Could you use some resume reassurance? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Don't be discouraged; take action and start on the path to a great new job.