Q: How do I address being laid off in a resume, cover letter, or an interview?

I was let go recently, not due to performance issues, and I’m concerned about how to communicate this to potential employers in a way that doesn’t make me look bad.

A: The first question to address is that the severance of ties wasn’t based on performance and that it was likely due to factors outside of your control, whether that was restructuring, layoffs, financial issues, loss of business, etc. In this case, honesty can be the best policy.

Once you’ve made clear the terms of your separation, you want to bring the conversation back around to your strengths, and get away from the potential negatives.

In the Interview

If you’re in the interview, talk about why this ended up being a good opportunity for you in the end. Perhaps it pushed you to really think about where you want to go next, or what skills you wanted to work on developing, and then relate that to the opportunity at hand.

A Recent Departure

If the departure was recent, it may not be necessary to go into detail in the cover letter. It may suffice to simply say that you “wrapped up your most recent role with X Company in June,” and are pursuing your next opportunity in whatever specialization you’re targeting. The resume is not the place to address reasons for leaving a company, only the timeline of your employment there.

If You Were Fired

Now, if your departure IS based on your performance, don’t lie about it. If they conduct reference checks and find out that the information you provided is misleading, that can be grounds for rescinding the offer. Be honest about the separation, and then again, pull the conversation back around to your strengths:

“I came to an agreement with my supervisor that perhaps my role wasn’t the best fit on both sides. I appreciated her honesty with me because it helped me realize that my strength is more on the internal operations side than in a client-facing role. I’m really great behind the scenes when it comes to coordinating meetings and logistics. That’s why I feel this opportunity is such a great fit…”