Ask DFS: How do I explain short term employment on my resume?

Dear DFS:

I was only at my previous job for a few months before I was laid off.  Should I list that company on my resume? I want to be honest, but I don’t want the short employment period to make me seem irresponsible. What should I do? 

Counting the days away in Brooklyn,


Dear Andrea:

Yes, you should definitely not be shy to list that company on your resume!  With the highs and lows of today’s economy, it’s not uncommon for an employer to encounter a candidate who has been laid off in the recent past.  This isn’t necessarily a reflection of your work ethic or skill level as an employee, but that your previous employer was undergoing certain changes and was forced to make the tough decision of eliminating a portion of their workforce.

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your interview with a new potential employer—you can even implement what I like to call the Three E’s!

Explain the lay off in factual terms when asked why your employment ended so abruptly.  Did the company simply downsize?  Was your position was eliminated?  Be as specific as possible to your lay off, but just remember to always talk about your pasta employers in a positive light!

Emphasize that you are eager to move forward with a new career and that you are looking for a company to grow with—and, in fact, to help grow!  Using the word “career” shows them that you are interested in a long term relationship with them and that previous short employment period shouldn’t be a concern.

Elaborate on your strongest qualities and how they can benefit the company that you are currently interviewing with!

Just like any other challenging question you’re asked in a job interview, you have the opportunity to turn this into a positive.  Anticipate that you will be asked about why you were only with your previous employer for such a short period and craft an answer ahead of time, so when the interviewer finally poses this question to you, you can answer with ease and keep the conversation flowing smoothly!


Glynis W. Bell

Founder & Executive Director

Dress for Success Winston-Salem