How to Address Your Layoff in Your Job Search

Why you don't need to bring it up at the interview.

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Suzanne Lucas

I was recently economically separated from my former employer. Should that information be included on a resume or cover letter? Should it wait for the interview?

Your resume is what you use to market yourself. Think of it as advertising. Everything you put on your resume must be true. Under no circumstances should you lie on your resume. If you do, you'll get caught and it will be much worse for you.

[See why you should look for the job that no one else wants.]

However, you don't have to put everything on your resume. If you look at my resume you will notice that there is no reference to Burger King. I worked there in high school and college and was even named an employee of the month. (They gave me a plaque and everything!) And even though nearly 20 years later I could probably make a Whopper with Cheese in my sleep, I don't mention it on my resume. Why? Because it doesn't matter.

Now, if I was applying for a job that required a security clearance, they might be interested in my entire work history. In that case, I'd include that information. (I wonder if I still have the plaque and can prove I was employee of the month?) The difference is, if I am asked to list all jobs and I exclude my fast food experience, I am being dishonest. If someone asks for my resume, they want to know what I have done that is relevant to the job at hand. They don't care about the things that are irrelevant.

[See why you should be honest in a job interview.]

You were "economically separated" which (I'm guessing) is your fancy way of saying you were laid off. Drop the fancy jargon. On your resume put job title, company, and the dates you worked there. If a company has you fill out an application and the application asks for a  "reason for leaving," write: "Laid off." If it was part of a group layoff, you might add that you were laid off along with 250 other employees.

You don't need to mention it in your cover letter. You don't need to bring it up in the interview. The interviewer will ask if she is interested in why you left. Give an honest answer. (We check up on these things, you know.)

Don't panic about how it looks to be laid off. In the current economy, you're in good company. Don't make it harder on yourself by writing that on your resume. Stick to the dates and your accomplishments at the job.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.