How to Cover Retrenchment in Your Resume

In the unfortunate event you were retrenched, the first thing you should not do is quickly add your latest experiences to your resume and begin firing off applications to anyone and everyone. While you definitely want to find a new job as fast as possible, desperately mass applying is not the answer – and it is unlikely you will get any callbacks as everyone is doing the same.

Instead, take a day or so to process the news and think about what you want in your next job. It may be time for a career switch, or you could do some research on sectors that are experiencing increased demand due to the pandemic. You may also want to do some serious self-reflection or speak to a career coach.

After all this, then and only then is it time to rewrite the resume. Remember to focus on your strengths, not the terrible experience, and put your best foot forward for potential employers.

Here’s how:


  1. Consider a functional or targeted resume

If your resume was organised chronologically, gaps in employment will be very obvious. Consider a functional resume, which focuses on skills and experience, or a targeted resume, which focuses on how you fit the job posting.

Summarise your relevant experiences and skills with a focus on what value you brought to your previous positions and what your achieved. You may wish to leave out sensitive information like your last date of employment, or why you were let go. Those can be discussed during the interview when they are brought up.


  1. Phrase the retrenchment with sensitivity

One of the lasting effects of the pandemic is a decrease in the stigma attached to retrenchment. Surveys have indicated that 3 out of 4 employers will not factor retrenchment from COVID-19 in their assessment of a candidate, while some have actually said they are more likely to consider candidates who lost their jobs during the crisis.

Therefore, there is no need to go in-depth into your retrenchment in your CV. A simple “Retrenched due to company downsizing during Covid-19” or “Retrenchment due to business closure” will suffice. A potential employer is interested in your competencies and personality, not worldwide events that led to unforeseen circumstances.


  1. Include part-time or contract work

Many applicants make the mistake of dismissing part-time work or side hustles as “irrelevant” and dropping them from the resume. While your time delivering pizza or designing your friend’s wedding invitations may not sound glamourous when put that way, ask yourself what you learnt from these experiences.

Translate those into skills relevant to the job posting, and add them in! For example, running your own small business may have taught you self-discipline, time management and communication skills – all very attractive to potential employers.


  1. Keep your resume aligned to the job description

This advice goes for any job application, post-retrenchment or not. Before you apply, look through the job posting and use key words and phrases in your own CV before sending it in. This will not only customise your application and show genuine interest, ATS systems are often calibrated to pick up on – and pass – candidates who “mirror” the job posting.

Be sure to do some research on the company and look into their work style and corporate language as well, and factor it into your choice of phrases or writing.


  1. Highlight your skill set

Shift your focus away from how many years you were in your previous position or what title you held, to what you can do. Recall significant events and achievements in your career, and put them down on the resume. And remember to keep it relevant to your potential employer by highlighting what value you brought to the company!

You may also wish to include a 1-page USP Slide “advertising” yourself. This short summary of your abilities and achievements will give the hiring manager a quick look at you, and emphasise your readiness to be hired.


Retrenchment is a difficult pill to swallow, so get yourself together and make your applications count!