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I started a job in January as a Project Coordinator for an electrical company. When I was hired, the position was advertised as "Admin Assistant", but after I was hired, the owner of the company said that he had advertised it as such because it was an entry-level job, and when he had advertised it under its actual title, he was getting overqualified applicants (like engineers). He assured me so confidently that I was exactly what he was looking for.

During my month there, I completed all my tasks successfully and never had any issues, other than the fact that the workload was a little slow, but that wasn't something under my control. When I was laid off this past week, my letter simply says "upon reviewing future requirements, we feel this is not the right fit". The owner said that I hadn't done anything wrong, and he agreed that I had fulfilled my duties successfully, but he said that "the last person in this job was an engineer" - which he originally said was what he didn't want! (So I feel a bit bait-and-switched). He also offered out of his own volition to give me a good reference for my job search.

So, I don't really have a clear reason for why I was let go, and I don't know how to explain that on my resume/cover letter. Should I just put "laid off" beside the job description on my resume, and include the owner's phone number as a reference? I'm just not sure how to explain this in upcoming job interviews.

  • One time I got laid off after three days without reason, the company was closed down two months later. Only interesting thing I did there was a technical brainstorm session about something Dropbox-like. So I turned it into a full paragraph on my resume, just so that I could be sure that in my next interview I was going to be asked about that, as it was interesting to talk about. But normally, don't mention it. – RemcoGerlich Feb 10 at 21:05
  • If you want t include it, list it as a "short term position", like a contract - which it was. – Fattie Feb 11 at 13:22
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It's quite normal that a probation period doesn't work out. It seems they hired you for a position, but then changed their mind and wanted different abilities.

In an interview you can say just that: They were looking for someone who wasn't an engineer, and that's how you got the job, and after a month they changed their mind.

  • Thanks so much gnasher! That makes total sense, it's clear and honest. I think I will word it like that. – cactusgal Feb 11 at 0:04
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So, I don't really have a clear reason for why I was let go

No you do! They told you! it's not you, it's us. And your (ex)boss did offered to make it up to you by providing you a good reference.

During my month there, I completed all my tasks successfully and never had any issues

This is what you should actually mention in your CV/resume. You worked for a month. And you were good. You might have solved some problems or provided some added value. Write it down. Don't inflate it. Just mention it.

Regarding the cover letter I don't find any good reason to mention why you left your last job or any job. In fact in your cover letter you should mention why they should hire you. Not that you were laid off at your last position.

It's frustrating and I understand that you just landed this position and now you have to go all over again. It happened to me as well so I was in your shoes and I write from experience. And in my case it was much worse as I didn't leave in good terms, I burnt the bridge before I left (as in napalm burnt).

I can tell you that it didn't affect my future job search. It wasn't even mentioned during the interview processes. People wanted to know what I could offer them, not why I was for 1 and a half month in my last company. And even if they mention it I knew what to tell: the truth. Let's say that it didn't work well. Or Both sides didn't communicate their needs properly. You can adapt you answer to your case but try to maintain neutrality, don't put the blame on any side (even if you feel that you were bait-and-switched as you said) and try not to think of it too much. A normal and healthy interview is a means for each side to know the other. Otherwise it's a farce, an interrogation etc.

Should I just put "laid off" beside the job description on my resume, and include the owner's phone number as a reference?

For the love of God please no. I think that I've already given lot's of arguments against it above but just to make sure I will mention it here. To add something useful on that, you can get the reference of your ex boss in writing and include it in the application [1]. This will transfer a clear message: Employer giving a reference for an employee that stayed only for a month? It's not the candidate to blame.

Disclaimer: I work for the software industry where interviewers are more worried about finding a good engineer than the gory details of a candidate's last job. All these happened in Europe (EU specifically). In the US things might be completely different.

[1] For that last bit I don't know how exactly it works: I never had a reference neither needed one. From what I know not all countries have the same etiquette for the references.

  • Thanks so much for your thoughtful advice Stelios! I think my brain was just a little shaken up from the shock of being laid off unexpectedly (it's the first time that has ever happened to me) but you really helped put things in perspective. I really appreciate it! :) – cactusgal Feb 11 at 0:06
  • @cactusgal no problem, happy to help. Just don't forget to mark the most useful answer for you, regardless of which that is. :) – Stelios Adamantidis Feb 11 at 9:50
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You were only there a month, that's something of a red flag that you should avoid if you can. Just don't mention it at all.

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You have some pros and cons here. Cons? Obviously, the lay-off and the short term of service. The pros? You got hired, were working, did good work giving you some experience relevant to the role and that industry, and left with a positive reference.

I agree that you should probably not mention it on your resume or cover letter. But I might also bring it up in interviews depending on the situation. You might use it as a basis for learning more about a potential new employer by describing the situation, emphasizing the good work you did, and saying you'd like to guard against something like this happening again. Obviously, you'd need to careful with that. I'd probably only do it with companies you had some reservations about or perhaps felt especially comfortable with.

If you wanted to get experimental, you could even do you own A-B testing by trying to find listing/companies that are similar and applying for some with the position listed in your resume and some with the position omitted. See if you notice any difference in response rates. I'd limit this to the sort of cold applications where you're not even sure you'll get a human response.

Sorry about the quick layoff. Better luck with your next position.

  • Thanks klenwell... Though I just worry that having a month gap on my resume might make it seem like I'm unhirable. I've never had a gap between jobs before so I'm not really sure what I would say about that if it came up. – cactusgal Feb 10 at 18:54
  • If it came up, that is the point at which I'd be honest about it. A one month gap is not a huge deal and will not make you look unhireable. I faced a situation like this once. I started working on a personal project to fill that gap, which is something you might consider if you see the gap starting to stretch out. But also keep in mind that the kind of company you want to work for is probably the kind that would not hold something like this against you. – klenwell Feb 10 at 19:03
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It depends a lot on how you want to manage it.

From a practical point of view you could just not mention it in your resume, as it will require a bit of explanation to any potential employers.

But I do assume that you might not have too many years of experience and every month counts. So lets work with the idea of keeping it in your resume.

Two things to take into consideration here

  1. If an employer would not hire you just because there was a place were you stayed only for a month, then you do not want to work for such employer (yep, this is a radical view, but I think it is worth keeping it in mind... I myself quit my first job after only two weeks, so?)
  2. You should work on how to turn something problematic into an opportunity: what did you learn from your month there? did you leave in good terms (looks like you did)? what could you have done better? All those are very valuable questions, and I will certainly ask that to any prospective candidate with only one month in a particular position.

Finally, do not be too concerned, really, it is not such a big deal. Some people are concerned that if there are positions were they have remained less than a year, then it looks bad on their resumes: I think this is an incorrect approach, learning, making mistakes and being unlucky is part of the workplace, the only important part is how you can learn from it and keep going.

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