Hiring managers will always be curious about why you left your previous job. So it stands to reason that you should put that information on your resume, right?
Actually, no. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t put a reason for leaving on your resume.
Like any resume “rule,” there are exceptions. We’ll cover the major ones below, as well as the reasons you should leave it off, how to know when an exception applies to you, and what to say on your resume if you were fired.
Should you put a reason for leaving on your resume?
Most of the time, you shouldn’t include a reason for leaving on your resume. Why not?
- It’s not necessary. Recruiters don’t expect to see it, which means they won’t notice if it’s not there, but may wonder what’s up if you include it anyway.
- It redirects the conversation. Instead of highlighting your accomplishments from previous positions, it puts the focus on why you left.
- If you left for a bad reason — like if you were fired, or you walked off the job without notice — you probably want to keep that to yourself for as long as possible.
- Your resume is a marketing tool, not a full legal document. It should only include information that makes you a more appealing candidate, and reasons for leaving generally don’t fall under this heading.
When you should (and shouldn’t) put a reason for leaving on your resume
There aren’t a lot of times when you should put a reason for leaving on your resume, but you can consider it if:
- It was a deliberately short-term position (e.g. a seasonal or temp job)
- You worked a fixed-term contract to completion
- You were laid off or downsized — not fired for performance-related issues — and parted on good terms
On the other hand, you definitely shouldn’t put a reason for leaving on your resume if:
- You were fired for cause
- You left on bad terms or without giving notice
- You don’t have a good reason for leaving (keep reading for some good — and bad — reasons for leaving a job)
Whether or not you decide to put a reason for leaving on your resume, Let’s take a look at how to address your reasons for leaving a job.
If you’re not sure if you should put a reason for leaving on your resume, upload it to the tool below to get a detailed review with suggestions on what you need to add or remove from your resume.
What to put as a reason for leaving on a resume
If it was a fixed-term contract
There is some benefit to indicating a fixed-term contract on a resume. As well as explaining why you left the job, it also shows that you’ll stick around to finish the job.
Do it: If you’re applying for more roles as a freelancer or independent contractor.
Skip it: If it was a single contract position, especially if it was a long-term contract.
You can do this simply by adding “contract” to your job title — no need to waste a whole bullet point describing why you left.
It was a temp job or seasonal position
Most of the time, you can leave short-term jobs off your resume entirely. If you have a compelling reason for keeping it — like if you’re new to the workforce or don’t have any other relevant experience — stating upfront that a job was intended to be temporary can prevent recruiters from wondering what went wrong.
Do it: If you have relevant accomplishments or transferable skills from your temporary position.
Skip it: If you’ve held multiple temp jobs — group these under a single heading instead.
You can also put this in your job title, for example, “Seasonal Customer Service Representative” or “Construction Supervisor (Contract).”
If you were laid off
A lot of people experienced major upheaval over the past few years. If you’re one of them, you can put your reason for leaving a previous job due to layoffs. Including a layoff on your resume should be a judgment call — if in doubt, you can safely leave it off.
Do it: If you have impressive but incomplete accomplishments due to major layoffs (especially during COVID-19).
Skip it: If you don’t have a compelling reason to include it.
You can address a layoff in your bullet points, but keep it brief, for example, “due to company-wide restructuring.”
How (and when) to address your reasons for leaving a job
You should provide your reason for leaving a job:
- If a job application asks for it
- If you’re asked about it in an interview
- If it supports your candidacy (this is rare — see above for possible exceptions)
Here are some key tips to keep in mind when addressing your reasons for leaving a job:
DO wait until you’re asked about it, either on a job application or during the interview stage. You want the focus to stay on what you accomplished at your previous jobs, not why you left.
DO be honest (but professional) about your reasons for leaving. Never lie about why you left a previous job — or about anything else on your resume.
DO be prepared to answer questions about why you left. The key is to keep your answers brief and focused on why you want this job — not why you didn’t want the last one.
What to do if you were fired from a previous job
The first rule of being fired is: Don’t say that you were fired if you don’t need to. Never put it on your resume or job application unless you’re asked about it — but don’t lie about it if you are.
Here are some ways you can address being fired without lying about it:
- Answer honestly if you’re asked outright whether you’ve ever been fired.
- Use a more neutral-sounding phrase that means the same thing, like “mutually agreed separation” (if it actually was) or “difference in long-term goals.”
- Have a good answer prepared for if (and when) you’re asked about it — for example, it became clear that the actual requirements of the role weren’t a good match for your skill set, so you’re looking for something that better aligns with your skills in X and Y.
- Leave that job off your resume entirely. This isn’t always a great option, but you should consider it if you were only there for a short time, you’re unlikely to get a good reference, or if you were fired for a particularly egregious reason.