Love them or hate them, a cover letter is a crucial part of your job application. Unless the job posting specifically says not to include one, you should always include a well-written, personalized cover letter. It’s the first impression you’ll make with a potential employer, and it’s your chance to outshine the competition.
When you’re on the hunt for a new job post-layoff, writing a cover letter that mentions your layoff may seem like an unwise idea. After all, you’ve probably heard that employers are less likely to hire someone unemployed compared to someone who is currently working.
However, considering the current environment in the job market, it’s safe to say that you are not alone in your job loss or your layoff, which is exactly why you should talk about it. By proactively addressing your situation in your cover letter, you could find yourself ahead of the competition.
Why You Should Address Your Layoff
You may think being laid off isn’t worth mentioning in your cover letter. After all, you lost your job, but it wasn’t your fault (unlike if you were fired). With the right skills and experience and a strong resume, the fact that you were laid off from your last job shouldn’t matter.
But as Doug Ebertowski, Career Coach at FlexJobs, points out, a well-crafted cover letter can place your resume at the top of the “must call” pile. “Imagine that a hiring manager has multiple qualified candidates for a position. As that employer narrows the list, resumes with a question mark can lead them to eliminate that person from consideration. Offering some clarity in advance helps them understand your situation and keeps you in the running.”
When you update your resume to reflect your new employment situation, you will—eventually—have a gap in your employment history. While there are plenty of ways to fill in that gap, you don’t want the hiring manager to jump to conclusions before they’ve had a chance to ask you what happened.
It’s better to fill in the blank with the correct information in your cover letter to answer any questions the hiring manager might have. By being upfront about your layoff, you’re not giving anyone the opportunity to jump to a wrong conclusion. Providing the answers before they ever ask the question can help move your resume to the “yes for an interview” pile.
How to Address Your Layoff in a Cover Letter
To address your layoff in a cover letter, you have to know what to write to effectively explain your employment status. Here are five tips for writing a cover letter after you’ve been laid off.
1. Don’t Waste a Word
A cover letter should never be a summary of your entire work history, skills, or life story. That’s what the resume and interview are for. Your cover letter should be a brief summary of why you’re interested in the job and why you think the employer should consider you for the role.
The key word here is “brief.” Cover letters are generally not longer than one page. If you find your resume is more than a page, start editing and see what you can remove or condense. Since space is at a premium on your cover letter, you may think that one of the items that could go is your layoff.
Ebertowski advises job seekers to never waste a word in their cover letter. “As you approach your cover letter, have the mindset that each and every word is a valuable opportunity to positively communicate how qualified you are for the role and why you’re a good match for the employer.”
It’s important to address your layoff, so potential employers don’t make assumptions about why you are unemployed. But, you don’t want to spend a whole paragraph explaining the circumstances behind your layoff, either. One or two sentences at most will suffice.
2. Avoid Playing the Blame Game
You may still be upset about your layoff. And while there’s nothing wrong with mourning the loss of your job, you should not share those feelings in your cover letter. Layoffs are a normal part of corporate life, and many, if not all, hiring managers will understand that job loss due to a layoff was out of your control, especially during a pandemic.
But while hiring managers may understand and even sympathize with your situation, they will not appreciate you badmouthing your former employer. After all, if you’re still upset about a layoff, what will your reaction be if something goes wrong with this job?
A simple and neutral statement about the circumstances of your layoff is all you need. Examples could include:
- My position was eliminated due to a corporate restructuring.
- The company was bought out, and duplicated positions like mine were eliminated.
- The pandemic forced the company to cut costs, which included layoffs.
3. Talk About the Positives
Cover letters sell you and your qualifications to a potential employer using a positive and upbeat approach. “A cover letter gives you the opportunity to fill in the details of yourself,” says Ebertowski. “Use the cover letter to your advantage and relay how your past accomplishments and current efforts are the answer to their needs.”
After your brief mention of the layoff, talk about what you’ve been doing to keep your professional skills up to date.
Another way to frame your layoff in positive terms is to explain how your professional experience will benefit them. Mention your strong skill set, how it served your past employer, and how it will benefit your future employer. Back your assertion up with data whenever you can.
Ebertowski explains. “A cover letter is your opportunity to create the tone of your current situation and help determine the viewpoint the hiring manager will take.”
4. Don’t Make Excuses or Apologize
Layoffs happen. They stink—but are nothing to be ashamed of. Over explaining, apologizing, or making excuses will not paint the best picture of you. It might even make the hiring manager think the situation was worse than it was, and that you’re trying to hide something. Don’t draw more attention to the situation than you need to.
5. Lay off the Guilt
You may be tempted to use the cover letter to explain how unfair your recent layoff was, and how you need a job to pay your mortgage and support your family. But don’t! Guilt tactics will not work, no matter how kind the hiring manager is. Focus your cover letter on what you can do for the employer, not what you want or need the employer to do for you.
Look Ahead, Not Behind
Your cover letter is the first step toward your next position. While mentioning the past, like your layoff, is a necessary part of your cover letter, make sure not to dwell on it. Instead, use the cover letter to talk about your future and how your skills can help your potential employer.
We’ve got plenty of advice to help you bounce back after a layoff. For more personal advice based on your unique situation, consider speaking with one of our career coaches.
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!