Ever wonder if you should add your reasons for leaving a company to your resume? A recent client of mine whose resume I was optimizing had those reasons under each of his jobs. Small print, mind you, but I recommended that he take them off. He was concerned, because he had several short stints due to layoffs, acquisitions, changes in strategy, etc., a common issue for senior job seekers in the high tech market, especially early stage companies.
As we discussed, he proposed some sound reasoning for inclusion of explaining his transitions, especially in this hyper-critical tight market. I held my ground, yet began to wonder if current conditions might require new thinking.
So, I sent out an inquiry to one of my favorite Career Coaching groups on LinkedIn.com. I quickly got many replies, all “No way!” and “Never”.
A few of them did indicate that the reason for the change in companies could be inferred as part of an accomplishment statement, as you’ll see in the comments below.
Bottom line, not in the resume, perhaps in a cover letter, and for sure the candidate must have a succinct story to describe why s/he made each transition in their career. And, finally, let me point out that your reason for a change, if your choice, should be positioned as a ‘moving forward’ decision, not a ‘had to get out of there’ decision. If not your choice, focus on lessons learned, positioning the transition as a great learning experience!
Here’s the compilation of the responses I got from other Career Coaches –
“I have NEVER included a “reason for leaving” statement in any resume, and would advise squarely against doing so. That goes against the purpose of a resume, which is still primarily a marketing tool. Having critiqued, advised, revised or looked over more than 9,000 resumes in 45 industries or functions in the last 15 years, I have never seen one that would justify the need for including such a statement.”
“It is remarkably rare that I include “reason for leaving” on a resume. Usually, if I feel the need to discuss the reason a job seeker has left their position, I will address it in the cover letter. Generally, the only time that I’ll include this information on a resume is because the reason they left was so interesting … an around-the-world trip, won the lottery, got funding to study gorilla behavior in Rwanda, pursuing advanced degree to support major career transition, etc.”
“I echo the two previous comments. Resumes are designed to get the interview, showcase your achievements, illustrate your value etc. We all know this but some of our clients don’t. Space on a resume is a premium so I wouldn’t want to use it for non-value-add information. That said?… space permitting, adding highly unique experiences (i.e., participated in gorilla study in Africa) as Wendy suggests, would certainly make a resume more memorable!”
“I agree with Wendy. I’ve never included reason for leaving. The cover letter is where you would include it if it is beneficial to mention it.
I have heard employers say the same thing.”
“Wendy and George hit it on the head. The intention to include all information is commendable. I would highly suggest not including in on the Resume. I know that the resume is about getting in the door for an interview. The client can prepare for that “Sticky Widget” question for the interview. Hope that helps.”
“Occasionally I will add a reason for leaving if it (a) reflects well on my client and/or (2) answers an unspoken question – e.g., short tenure.
For example, “Grew revenue 2X faster than projected, leading to acquisition interest and sale of the company in 2009.” But otherwise I agree with previous comments – don’t take up valuable resume space with something that’s nonessential.”
“I agree with all of our colleagues who responded to this question. I never put reasons for leaving on a resume. I would only include it in a cover letter, if applicable. My only reservation of even including a reason for leaving in the cover letter is that you may disqualify yourself, before you even have the opportunity to land an interview. I feel your chances of landing that interview are greater if you leave your reasons for leaving out of the cover letter as well. During the interview, if a discussion is prompted by the interviewer as to why you left your past employers, this would be the time to do so.”