How to Address a Layoff in Your Cover Letter

Cover Letter

Whether you were laid off due to budget cuts or simply because your company was downsizing, it can be a difficult and confusing time. 

It's important to note that you're not alone. Companies big and small across the biopharma industry have reported sizeable layoffs this year. Thus, many others may be in the same position.

If you're currently on the job hunt due to a layoff, you may be wondering how to address your recent unemployment in your cover letter.

How to Address a Layoff in Your Cover Letter

First, don't panic. Being laid off is not the end of the world, and it certainly doesn't mean that you're unemployable. In fact, many employers understand that layoffs are often out of your control.

To help you in your job search, we've explained how to address a layoff in your cover letter to help you land your dream job.

Address the Layoff Head-On

It might be tempting to avoid mentioning your unemployment altogether, but that's not the best strategy. Hiding information in your cover letter is never a good idea, and chances are your potential employer will find out eventually anyway. It's always better to be upfront about any employment gaps in your history.

Giving an explanation for your unemployment is also a good idea. Whether you were laid off due to budget cuts or simply because your company was downsizing, make sure to mention it in your cover letter. You can even use this opportunity to explain how you handled the situation and what you learned from it.

For example, if you were laid off due to budget cuts, you might want to mention how you took the initiative to find new opportunities for growth within the company. Or if you were laid off because your company was downsizing, you could talk about how you helped with the transition and made sure that all of your projects were completed successfully.

Highlight Your Accomplishments

Just because you were laid off from your previous job does not mean you have nothing to offer a new employer. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to highlight your accomplishments and show why you would be an asset to any company.

In your cover letter, make sure to mention any relevant skills that would further back up the narrative that you were not laid off because of any personal failings. Use specific examples and quantify your successes whenever possible.

For example, if you increased sales by 20% in your previous role, make sure to mention that in your cover letter. Or if you helped to streamline a process that saved your company time and money, be sure to include those details as well.

Date Employment by Year

The job market can be tough and being laid off can make it even harder to find a new job. If you were laid off from your job early last year and remained unemployed until recently, some employers might want to believe that you spent that entire time on the couch instead of job hunting. To combat these ill-preconceived notions, you can date periods of unemployment by year so that there are no gaps in your employment history.

Dating your employment history by year is perfectly acceptable, and it's often the best way to deal with long gaps in employment. This way, potential employers will see that you've been actively looking for a job and haven't just been unemployed for a year.

Keep it Positive

It's important to remember that your cover letter is not the place to vent about your previous job or badmouth your old boss. Even if you were laid off due to company downsizing or budget cuts, it's important to keep your cover letter positive. This is your chance to make a good impression on potential employers, so you want to make sure that you come across as professional and upbeat.

In your cover letter, focus on the positive aspects of your previous job and what you learned from the experience. If you were laid off, talk about how you handled the situation and what you learned from it. Whatever you do, avoid being negative or sounding bitter about your previous job.

Don't Over-Emphasize the Layoff

While it's important to address your unemployment in your cover letter, you don't want the entire letter to be about it. Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is to show why you're the best candidate for the job, not to explain why you're unemployed. Keep the focus on your skills and accomplishments, and only mention your unemployment when it's relevant to the job you're applying for.

Remember, your cover letter is supposed to be about what you can do for the company. Obsessively highlighting a negative event in your past is not going to do you any favors. Do not give a winded speech about how hard you've been searching for a job or how much you want this particular job. Instead, focus on what makes you the best candidate and leave your unemployment out of it. 

Any negative points regarding the cause of your unemployment should be countered with an even more impressive positive highlight of an accomplishment in your work history.

The Takeaway

Being laid off from your job is never easy, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Just because you were laid off does not mean you're not qualified for other jobs. In fact, being laid off can even give you an opportunity to reflect on your career and figure out what you really want to do. As long as you frame your unemployment in the right light, it should not have a negative impact on your job search.

Additionally, it's important to remember that your cover letter is not the place to vent about how much you disliked your previous job or boss. This will only make you look bitter and unprofessional. Instead, focus on what you learned from the experience and how it made you a better employee. Highlight your accomplishments and show off your skills to prove that you're the best candidate for the job.

With a little effort, you can overcome being laid off and get the job you really want.

This article was originally published on BioSpace in October 2022 and was updated to refer to recent layoffs in December 2023.

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