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Is it appropriate to indicate on one's resumé or CV (next to each employment on a plain reverse-chronological one) why the employment ended? Or is that a detail better left to a face-to-face or phone conversation?

For example, this might be to indicate that one's employment ended because the company closed up shop completely. The question of why a job ended seems rather common, and this might be a way to pre-empt that and provide a brief explanation (which could then be expanded upon in a conversation if the need arises).

I am mostly interested in cases where the employments were reasonably lengthy; specifically, several years long. Also, let's assume that all employments ended on good terms; obviously one that didn't would not be one you want to list, and leaving one out can invite questions (so then just edit them all out).

Also, in a listing of commisions of trust (serving on non-profit organization boards, for example), is it appropriate to list something similar? For example, "departed at own request at the general assembly meeting year X". (Let's not turn that into a discussion of whether or not such a section is appropriate; personally, I feel it helps to show the applicant as more well-rounded than simply a workaholic, and it is easy to edit out of the master resumé before sending to a specific company should there be a reason to.)

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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It's not a matter of proper vs. improper. The resume is a marketing tool. It is intended to describe your career history, while constructing the best impression of the person possible. It is never advisable to outright lie or embellish the facts, but you should focus on highlighting your professional accomplishments.

That being said, job assignments end. Everyone understands it, and no one expects you to explain why a job ended on your resume or CV. If they really want to know, they will ask you in person or ask for it on your application form. What employers tend to look for are large gaps in time between jobs. Taking two job listings from a resume, if I see that one job ended in the same month that the next one began, I can readily assume the person found a better opportunity. If I see more than two months separating the two jobs, then I may ask why the first job ended. If I see more than six months, I'm going to want to know why the person had so much difficulty finding another job. In all of these cases, a reasonable explanation or justification will not remove them from consideration. However, I would suggest that you wait until they ask the question about why you left, rather than volunteering it so freely.

UPDATE: In regard to the non-work-related assignments, I feel the same rule applies. By stating your reasons for leaving the assignment, you are almost guiding the discussion toward your reasons for leaving, rather than just focusing on the work you did and the accomplishments you achieved.

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"The resume is a marketing tool." That could be a pretty good one-line answer, actually. I'd be inclined to accept this, especially if it also addressed the second half of the question about non-work assignments. I'm not completely sure that they can be seen quite as one and the same, but certainly would be willing to stand corrected on a well-reasoned argument against that feeling. –  Michael Kjörling Jan 10 '13 at 20:39

There is no need or requirement to indicate the reasons for ending an employment. There are many reasons against it:

  • If it ended on bad terms, do you really want that listed
  • In such a case, if you leave it out, it would only invite questions

The only reason to put the reason on your resumé is if it adds to your appeal - if it sells you.

Or is that a detail better left to a face-to-face or phone conversation?

Certainly - but do not bring it up yourself.

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Skip it.

For the most part, it's assumed that employment ended on a positive or neutral note, so there's not usually a reason to note it. Usually, as an interviewer, I can read between the lines and figure out most cases. For example, when the date of one ending and the next beginning are the same month, there's a reasonably good chance that the candidate left of his own volition and that the nature of the transfer was relatively good.

More important, usually, is to find a way to explain gaps - when a candidate leaves and then did nothing in between jobs, it's a red flag to me that something worth asking about occurred. Usually candidates list schools, intense volunteer work, or other time-occupying activities in such cases, which gives me at least some sense that they were doing something useful.

A resume is a really short space to condense a LOT of work history - so I say focus on what you did on the jobs, not why or how you left. Trying to explain it is going to raise more curiosity for the abnormality than any value the explanation may give.

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Yes to the last paragraph especially. When you have more than a couple of years of experience you are thinking of how to leave stuff out rather than add stuff. If they want to know why you left, they will ask. –  HLGEM Jan 10 '13 at 21:29

I keep this explanation outside of resume (in my LinkedIn and SO Careers profiles) and here is why.

My resume is targeted at a typical recruiter who scans 50 resumes to quickly decide whether to proceed further or not. At the speed I assume them to work through resumes it's unlikely for them to really appreciate details of my careers transition, rather that looking through it will tick them as a bit unusual.

Now, why did I decide that this "a bit unusual tick" speaks in favor of having it out of resume? This is based on my personal experience. In one of the past projects, I used to take part in intensive hiring, sometimes working much like recruiter, scanning through 10-20 resumes per hour.

My observations were that at this rate "unusual tick" is perceived as an obstacle in the flow, causing slight discomfort. As opposed to this, well standardized resume that goes through easier felt appreciated and got better chances to be passed to next round.

That "next round" mentioned above involves more thorough study of pre-selected resume. At this step recruiters typically asked me for more details that aren't included in the resume. That was before I got LinkedIn profile and included link to it into resume - which really made this round noticeably shorter (especially since every time I was getting additional info requests I tried to update my profile to integrate answers to these).

As for my decision to include explanation of career transitions in LinkedIn profile, it has been based on advice discovered in the article at JibberJobber blog:

...Two things I love:

  1. She is bridging one role to another… which is something I had wondered about (just how did she get into coaching??).

  2. She has her personality and her brand all over this. You get a her brand in her summary, and she carries it through to here. This is normally a boring “did this, did that” section, but she spices it up.

Do you have gaps on your LinkedIn profile? If you can help people understand the transitions that are not so obvious, you’ll probably create more interest in who you are and what you bring to the table.

http://i.stack.imgur.com/DhPxa.png

I tried above and it looked like going well. One thing I noticed that was quite pleasant is, it became a bit easier to pass though interviews since there were less questions about job changes.

  • These interviewers can be... funny. I mean, OK it's easy to explain why I would want to change job now but how am I supposed to recall subtle details of why I did that 5-10 years ago?
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