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No Need to Mention Layoff in Your Cover Letter


This posting is a guest entry from the Career Doctor, Randall S. Hansen, PhD: Michelle writes: I recently was let go from my position at my office due to financial reasons. How do I start off a cover letter letting the employer know this information in a positive manner? I just need some advice on how to construct the first part of the cover letter and I did not see that on the website. Hope you can help and thank you for your time.
The Career Doctor responds: Repeat after me — again and again — never ever put any kind of negative information in your cover letter, resume, or any other job-search materials. The time to address any of these negative issues — such as being fired — is in the job interview ONLY after the employer raises the issue. Your cover letter is the job-search tool that sets the tone for you as a job-seeker and provides the critical first impression for the employer. How positive an impression is the prospective employer going to have if your opening paragraph states, “although I was recently let go from my previous job because the company was having financial difficulties… ” The employer is going to stop reading before he/she even gets to the end of your sentence. But you are not alone. In the thousands of cover letters I have seen over the years, it is absolutely amazing the kind of negative information job-seekers put in their cover letters. Perhaps they mistakenly think that full disclosure is necessary. Or perhaps because professionals stress being truthful, they think this means they need to fess up to all prior mistakes. Please remember a cover letter is a marketing document. Its sole purpose is to entice the hiring manager just enough to review your resume. It’s then the resume’s job to verify that you are worthy of getting an interview for the open position. If your cover letter is not focused, if it provides negative information, if it has typos or spelling errors, or if it has too little or too much detail, your resume will simply not get a look and your job prospects for the position are officially over. Finally, let me once again stress that I am not saying to lie. I am simply saying do NOT disclose negative information (or even too much information) until the employer asks you about it. And at that point you need to put a positive spin on the negative information — but only then. I believe you need to review two key resources. First, read my article about moving beyond after getting laid off: Getting Fired: An Opportunity for Change and Growth. Second, take advantage of the all the tools and resources we offer in this section of Quintessential Careers: Cover Letter Resources for Job-Seekers.