Should I Address Being Laid-off in My Cover Letter?

Laid-off recently or expect to be soon? The question of how and when to disclose that fact in your job search can be tricky. Keep reading for the pros and cons of doing so in your cover letter.

If you've been recently laid off or are facing one in the near future, you may be wondering if (or when)to disclose that in your cover letter. There are pros and cons to disclosing a layoff in your cover letter, and it ultimately comes down to what is best for your individual situation. Let's take a closer look at when and how to disclose a layoff in your job search.

The Pros of Disclosing a Layoff in Your Cover Letter

There are several times when it makes sense to disclose that you were laid-off in your cover letter. Here are the times when it typically makes sense to proactively address your separation.

It is Recent

If your layoff happened in the last few months or is still fresh in your mind, it is probably best to address it upfront. You will get asked in the interview process "Why do you want to make a change?" or some similar question. Putting details about your lay-off in the cover letter will help to set the tone for your interview and to prevent an unwanted surprise for the interviewer. This will also help you to set the tone for the interview and it can make the process easier.

You were at the Company for a Long Time

Although more common post-COVID, it is still relatively uncommon for someone that has been somewhere for several years to look externally. When they do, it is usually for a big reason. So, many recruiters and hiring managers will want to know why they are all of a sudden looking to make a change.

A lay-off is a logical reason for this to happen and doesn't mean anything negative. Addressing this in your cover letter will make it easier to talk about in your interview and will ease the questions of the people that make the hiring decisions.

Company-wide Restructuring

Being one of many impacted by the change can be comforting when faced with an unexpected change in your employment. Recruiters and hiring managers also understand that such situations are not reflections of your abilities or personality.

Large restructurings or lay-offs aren't always public knowledge, so it can make sense to disclose that you were part of a company-wide transition that resulted in the elimination of your position in your cover letter. Doing so provides the people skimming your cover letter to understand why you are looking and can make the interview questions much easier.

Prevent the Worst Assumptions

People that do screening and hiring of candidates have often seen and heard everything. As a result, recruiters can infer the worst when they don't have all the information. Telling people that you were laid-off in your cover letter prevents the recruiter's imagination from running crazy. You don't have to get into all of the details, but you can paint the picture in your cover letter to keep the story clear.

Show Strength & Optimism

You may not have wanted or expected the change, but you can still use a lay-off to find strength in your job search. This is always easier when you have a severance package or warning. But, everyone can choose to use a lay-off as an opportunity to find a job or company that they love. This can be in culture, substance, or people - whatever it is that makes you happy.

Simply make sure to convey this positive, future-looking mindset in your cover letter if you are disclosing your lay-off. Doing so will make you seem more attractive as a candidate and will ensure that you are thinking about your next career move in the right way for the short-term and long-term.

Be Honest

Including an explanation that you were laid-off can demonstrate that you are an honest person. You aren't hiding anything from the potential employer by coming out and telling them about why you are looking. This level of direct, transparency can also be expected by some organizations or at some levels. If being honest is a part of your message as a candidate, then you are probably best served by showing that level of honesty in your cover letter.

You are Available

In the current market, simply being available can be a strength for many positions and companies. Putting the fact that you were laid-off and are now immediately available in your cover letter can make a huge difference in your ability to stand out. Use this as an opportunity to turn the potential negative into a strength.

The Cons of Disclosing a Layoff in Your Cover Letter

On the other hand, there are also a few reasons why you might not want to disclose a layoff in your cover letter. Here are some of the times when you may want to hold off on discussing your lay-off.

It was Negative

Getting let go for cause or being the only one laid-off is a tough situation. In those cases, it can be best to not discuss the separation in your cover letter. The goal of a cover letter is to make someone want to interview you, not give them reasons not to.

You are Applying Internally

If you are applying internally for a position that has opened up, then you don't need to provide an explanation in your cover letter. The potential managers and colleagues already know the situation and understand why you are looking.

Not Recent

If the layoff happened years ago, then it is probably best to not bring it up. The date will likely come out eventually, but there is no reason to volunteer the information in your cover letter if it isn't recent. Plus, if it happened during or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were in that situation. Own this when asked, but don't feel the need to explain it all in your cover letter.

You are Stuck on It

The cover letter is an opportunity to move on and look to the future. If you are still fixated on the lay-off, then it will likely come across in your cover letter. This isn't the right attitude for a cover letter or job search in general.

You Didn't Handle It Well

This is a tough one, but sometimes you may not have handled the lay-off well. Maybe you were angry, said some things you shouldn't have, or didn't take the time to look for a new job right away. If this is the case, then it is probably best to not bring up the lay-off in your cover letter.

It hasn't Happened Yet

There are often times when people get notice of lay-off months in advance. In those cases, you are still working for the organization but simply have an end date set. In that case, it doesn't always make sense to disclose the upcoming lay-off.

The Bottom Line

Whether or not to disclose a lay-off in your cover letter is a tough decision. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of your specific situation. In general, it is probably best to be open and honest about a layoff if it is recent and you handled the situation well. If the lay-off was negative or happened a long time ago, then you may want to leave it out of your cover letter.

When and How to Disclose a Layoff If You Don't Mention It In Your Cover Letter

If you decide not to mention your layoff in your cover letter, then you'll need to be prepared to address it during the interview process. The best time to do this is after the interviewer has had a chance to get to know you and ask some questions about your background and experience. Once they've done that, they'll likely have some follow-up questions about any employment gaps on your resume. At that point, you can brief them on the situation surrounding your layoff and what you've been doing since then.

Making the decision of whether or not to disclose a recent lay-off in your cover letter is not an easy one. There are pros and cons to both disclosing and not disclosing a lay-off, and ultimately it comes down to what is best for your individual situation. If you do decide to mention it in your cover letter, be sure to frame it in a positive light and emphasize how you've used your time since being laid off productively by staying sharp and keeping your skills up-to-date. And if you decide not to mention it in your cover letter, be prepared to address it during the interview process so that you can put any employment gaps in context for the interviewer.