Discussing what to write for the executive summary

How do you explain being made redundant in your CV or résumé?

“How do I explain being made redundant in my CV” is a common question people ask when it comes to writing their CV or résumé. To be frank, it isn’t uncommon for a successful person to have been made redundant at least more than once in their career. A lot of people want to know how to include the reason for leaving on their CV. Or if this is even necessary to include at all.

Here at Executiveone.co.nz I have been leading the CV writing team for the past many years which has helped numerous professionals throughout New Zealand and Australia secure new jobs. Our service rewrites their CV and cover letter for them, so they can achieve their goals. 

Background to redundancy

Redundancy in the eyes of some may have a bit of a negative connotation attached to it. Sometimes, if you tell your friends or family about your redundancy, you may get a vibe of confusion, worry or disappointment. 

However, I argue strongly against this. I have met and worked with a large number of amazing people, with extremely valuable skillsets who have been made redundant (in their career. 

In fact, redundancy in my view is a way of life nudging you in the right direction to take the next step with your career. 


I’ve also been very glad to speak to people and catch up with them 6 or 12 months after their redundancy. Almost all of them have told me that the redundancy was the best thing that could have happened to them. They were waiting for that ‘push’ to get on and live their life. After all, life is too short to be stuck doing one thing – especially where you may not be well suited, valued or utilised correctly with or by an organisation.

Start with the mindset

Before I go into the specific answer of how to explain a past redundancy in a CV, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to see redundancy as a positive change in your life. 

Many of my clients tell me that they have been stuck with the same organisation for 10, 15, 20, or even 30 years. It’s a long time, and a lot of organisations often make us feel institutionalised and used to doing things the same old way as we used to before. It’s that comfort zone that often makes us feel good about ourselves, knowing we have something to go back to that is consistent.


But often that consistency and comfortable feeling will stifle our growth and potential success as people. We have so much to offer, and as you might have noticed, there are many more job opportunities these days, compared to 10 years ago when we were all experiencing the effects of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

Ask yourself the right questions

Use redundancy as a chance to ask yourself the right questions. Here are some examples.

1. What are some of the skills I have learnt in the past few years, that could be of benefit to other employers?

2. What do I really want to do with my life? What would make me happy?

3. What other jobs or career paths have I heard about, that I am interested in exploring?

4. What did I do well at my last job?

5. What did I do well, that my previous employer did not appreciate, or perhaps did not have the infrastructure to make the best use of me in?

Did the organisation limit your growth? 

There are many ways the above questions could be answered. But take for example someone who believes they have great marketing skill. However, they had been quietly frustrated at their job for the last few years where they were never allowed to show their true talent. A particular organisation may have made them redundant. It does not mean that they are not creative, or not a good marketer, or not good at their job – it more often than not means the organisation or employer did not have the infrastructure to retain them or utilise them.

I am generalising here, but that person could realise that a smaller and more dynamic organisation could make better use of their skillset and want them to have a greater hands-on level of involvement. This redundancy might have been their ‘push’ from nature, sending them in the right direction of achieving their true potential.  

Get confident for an interview

In an interview, it isn’t uncommon to be asked about your work experience. You may not get asked ‘why you left your last job’, but you’d be expected to answer some questions about your work history, surely. In my experience coaching people who were recently redundant, their instant compulsion was often to explain the problems they had in their job and try to find ways to justify those problems.

Focusing on the problems creates a negative tone to your conversation. And in my opinion, you would be wise to stand back from that, and instead focus on the skills you can offer that organisation.

Here are some quick tips

1. Why do you think the organisation you’re being interviewed is hiring someone? What is the problem they are trying to solve? Are they looking for someone creative? Are they looking for an extra set of hands to help out? Are they happy with how things are going, and need another manager? Think about what they want. And mentally rehearse how you can meet their needs – if true and appropriate.

2. Do some background research on the employer. I can’t stress this enough. Interviews are a two-way conversation. You’ll stand out from other candidates and make the redundancy even less of an issue if you can talk about them, and not just about you. What is this company focusing on? What are some of their projects? What are they about, their values, recent history, achievements, etc.?

3. Have specific or quantifiable examples of what you have done well, ready and up your sleeve. When you are asked what you did at your previous jobs, this isn’t a time to dwell on the negatives. Rehearse and be ready to fire snappy answers including answering in a “problem + action = results format”. For example, “The organisation was underperforming in a certain department. I undertook a review of the systems, and the result was that growth was increased by 15% in a one-year period. This improved profitability.

And so…. How do you explain redundancy in your CV?

Having written so many CVs to date, and sought out the professional opinion of many, the simple answer is – you do not. 

Simply carry on as normal and write the start and end dates of the jobs. Do not include the words redundant or redundancy.


Why?

1. Redundancy is often the action of the organisation you worked for – not yours. 

2. CVs and resumes are NOT to include reasons for leaving organisations. Including a reason for leaving is a no-no, and not expected by most employers or recruiters. They are a document to explain your selling points.

3. Your worries need to be set aside and channelled into energy to answer interview questions positively. If you are asked about redundancy in an interview, you can explain it then.

Get the right mindset in place – that was the very point of this article.

Remember

You are a valuable person and your skills will be worth a lot to the right employer or right person. Get out there, be your best self, and don’t get hung up on this point. Always think about what you can offer. The more positive and effective you can keep your interviews, the better.

Further help

If you’d like further help around professional CV writing (we write your CV for you – as we have done for hundreds of professionals in the past years) or career / interview coaching sessions, please contact us at www.executiveone.co.nz