How to Explain a Demotion in a Resume and Cover Letter

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What should you do with your resume when you have been demoted? How should you spin it so that you don't look like a loser and are marketable to prospective employers?

Keep in mind that not all career trajectories are straight up. Employees often take on jobs with less responsibility, or are asked to step down to a lower status position. How you mention the job change on your resume and in your cover letter can go a long way towards minimizing any negative impact when you're seeking your next job.

Also keep in mind that you don't need to spell it out for the employers who are considering your applications. Being careful about how you list your work history can help keep your application in the prospective employee pile.

How to List a Demotion on a Resume

In some cases, the job title of your new position - if you have been demoted - will clearly indicate a lower level of responsibility. For example, if you were demoted from sales manager to salesperson or from customer service director to customer service associate.

Don't use any negative language like "demoted" on your resume when you list the change. You should simply list the positions separately, and describe the skills and accomplishments associated with each job.

How to Explain a Demotion in a Cover Letter

How you address the transition in your cover letter will depend on whether you are targeting positions comparable to the higher level or lower level job.

In the case of the sales job, for example, if you now prefer sales over management your letter should frame the transition as a move to a role more appropriate for your strengths and interests.

If you would like to return to a higher level position with a new organization, then you have tougher case to make.

The best thing to do is emphasize the positive impact that you have had historically in that role. You can also mention what you have learned in your reduced role which would be of value in the higher level position. As with your resume, don't mention the terms "demotion" or "demoted" in your letters.

Get Recommendations

Be sure to line up some recommendations as part of your LinkedIn profile from colleagues who can attest to the value you added in that higher level job, and include your profile on your resume. Here's how to get LinkedIn recommendations.

Keep it Positive

Never criticize management for your demotion. Employers may think of you as a difficult employee or a troublemaker. If there was a reorganization which eliminated your higher level position, then you should explain that fact in your letter.

Be Prepared to Answer Interview Questions

Regardless of how well you spin it, your demotion will most likely come up during job interviews. Here's how to answer interview questions about being demoted.

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