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Reader Q&A: Reason for Leaving?

A reader sent me this query privately: “I was just laid off from an advertising agency when the agency lost our largest client (30% of billings) when the client merged with another company. My former client as well as employer have said they would serve as references for me. My question is – Should I mention this in my cover letter and if so, how?”

The question is two-fold: 1) Should I explain why I lost my job and 2) Should I mention the great references that I have.

It might be helpful to briefly explain the circumstances that downsized your company. However, don’t assume that people are going to read your cover letter (many never do), and be sure your resume is strong enough to stand on its own. In other words, focus on your value to the company while you were there and be ready to answer the “why did you leave” question during an interview.

With regard to your references, why not ask your former boss and client to write reference letters for you now, then excerpt a few of their fabulous quotes in your resume or cover letter? Third-party endorsements are very powerful! Saying “my former boss and client will give me great references” doesn’t have nearly as much meaning as a specific and glowing recommendation of your work.

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