In our second installment of a four-part series on resume red flags, we will discuss how to deal with job terminations or resignations on a resume.
Let’s face it, not all of us are happy at work, and sometimes this can lead to an unpleasant departure. Layoffs are one thing, but how to you explain a job abandonment or termination on your resume?
Don’t Mention It
It is vitally important to be honest on your resume (we can’t stress this enough), but honesty doesn’t mean revealing everything up front. Your resume, after all, is a marketing document. It needs to communicate your intended message efficiently, which means being selective in how you present the data. There is no place on a resume that you need to mention reasons why you may have left a job (this is for the interview stage, or perhaps a job application).
Take the Emphasis Off
In a chronological resume, the focus of the content is one the achievements and deliverables of each individual position you have held in your most recent history. A functional resume, on the other hand, allows you to put the emphasis on accomplishments and responsibilities from your career history without necessarily assigning those accomplishments to a job position. If the job you held previously developed your skill set, but the job itself carries some unwanted baggage, focus on the skills (make sure to include a career timeline in your resume for reference, but include it later in the document without attaching the details to the position).
Analyze the Experience
Perhaps the reasons for being fired or leaving the position have some significant worth to your professional value. For example, it may be that you left an organization because you believed it to be run unethically, or you didn’t feel your skills were developing to their utmost potential. Although it’s important to avoid badmouthing a previous employer (your potential employer may see this as foreshadowing a similar conflict in the future), understanding the merits of the situation allows you to further market your value. If you left because of unethical behavior, focus your “professional brand” on your integrity and commitment to respect.
Use What Went Right
No job experience can be wrapped up in a neat package, and inevitably there were likely important contributions and learning experiences gained from the position. Before you are in a position where you have to explain the reasons for a departure, you have the opportunity to wow your reader with achievements that may, in the end, make your termination irrelevant. How did you excel as an employee? What challenges were you presented with and how did you handle them? How did you improve efficiencies, implement initiatives, or increases the quality of work for the organization? If you felt like you weren’t appreciated by management in a previous position, what kinds of things did you feel were being overlooked? Present these strengths at the forefront of your resume.
Use Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is an opportunity for you to speak directly to a recruiter about your “story”, and can be an excellent chance to explain your circumstance in a bit more detail. Remember, however, that if you do acknowledge a termination or a departure in a letter, focus on the positive. Always ensure that the message you are communicating is one of value.