If you are among the millions of Americans to lose your job because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering how to present this information during your job search so that it’s clear you aren’t unemployed for performance-related reasons.
A resume can be the first opportunity to do this. It’s an opportunity for you to tell a recruiter who you are and who you want to become professionally ― including why you are suddenly looking for a new role in the first place.
Here’s how to mention your coronavirus-related layoff on a resume.
Resume writer Virginia Franco said she is advising people to be upfront about their coronavirus-related layoff because you never want to give a hint that it could be performance-related. “If there’s any doubt, just spell it out,” Franco said.
Franco recommends doing this in the experience section of your resume underneath your most recent job, the dates that you worked there, your title and the company name. Right under that information, in a new paragraph, you should describe the circumstances of your layoff.
“I usually use that first sentence to say, ‘This is where I made my biggest impact. This is what I’m proudest of.’ It’s OK to tag a little past phrase at the end of that, saying your position was eliminated,” Franco said.
This matter-of-fact transition can be written like, “I grew my department’s revenue by 30%. Forecasted 2020 growth was this. Department eliminated as a result of COVID-19,” Franco said.
Language matters, too, if you want to make it extra clear that your job was lost because of the coronavirus. “Instead of saying your position was eliminated, say that your department or division was cut, or that a large percentage was cut,” Franco said.
Ashley Watkins, a job search coach with corporate recruiting experience, also said she recommended adding a one-liner at the beginning of your resume experience section mentioning that your layoff was coronavirus-related.
She also advised including this in the cover letter, because not every hiring manager will read both.
Give yourself credit for projects you couldn’t complete.
Watkins noted that if you were laid off before projects were completed, you can still mention these accomplishments on your resume.
“You can put that it was projected to produce a certain outcome, but ‘Project halted because of coronavirus,’” Watkins said. “You can definitely say that, because no matter that it went to fruition or not, you still did work and you want to give yourself credit for that.”
Mention new skills and experiences you are gaining.
Professionals who are unemployed for more than six months are known to face hiring discrimination. But these are not normal times. Citing her experience as a resume writer during the 2008 recession, Franco said she believed more recruiters would be inclined to be forgiving of long-term unemployment.
“There were certainly people who were jerks about it [in 2008], but that was not the majority, and I think that will be the case now,” Franco said. “But it is going to be important to show that you didn’t just sit and clean your house while you were gone. ... Whatever you are doing during the downtime, show that.”
“Instead of saying your position was eliminated, say that your department or division was cut, or that a large percentage was cut.”
If you don’t have current work experiences, another way to fill in any gaps is to list things like courses completed and volunteer experiences undertaken during this period of forced unemployment.
“You could use that volunteer experience as a position on your resume to fill in that gap,” Watkins said. “And within that explanation of that volunteer role, you could say that, ‘Following recent furlough or recent layoff because of coronavirus, I began volunteering in...’”
You don’t need to bring up your coronavirus-related job loss, but don’t evade answering.
If a hiring manager directly asks you why you were laid off, you should answer truthfully, career experts told HuffPost. But you don’t need to lead with this topic in your interview.
“If there are questions about it, then, yeah, you probably want to reiterate it,” Watkins said. She noted that if you lost your job in between rounds of interviews, you can mention it.
The goal is to be honest but not evasive about losing your job because of COVID-19. “I don’t think you need to announce it. I think you should be ready to talk about it,” said Josh Doody, a salary negotiation coach and former hiring manager.
One way to answer questions related to your layoff is to briefly mention it when asked, then pivot to all your industry-relevant skills and the experiences you learned during your unemployment — because you always want to keep in mind how to differentiate yourself as a candidate, Doody said.
Doody said that this answer might be something like, “Yes, the pandemic did cause me to lose my job, and here’s what I started doing immediately when I lost my job to make sure that I was ready to get back in the game as soon as the economy returned. And here are the skills that I picked up, or the books that I read, or the projects I worked on,” he said.
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