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Resume reason for leaving - should you include reasons for leaving on your resume?

When putting together your resume, it's vital to ensure that this all-important selling document is well laid out, punchy and informative.

This means focusing on your key achievements, the principal responsibilities in your more recent/more senior roles and the career progression you've enjoyed along the way, whilst avoiding the inclusion of irrelevant information that will clutter your resume and distract the reader from the most important points.

This is often easier said than done, and one area in particular where people struggle to decide what to include is with regard to their various job moves. Obviously, any future employer is going to want to find out why you made the moves you did and how your career has progressed as a result, as well as exploring any gaps between jobs, but is your resume the right place to include such information? In most cases, the answer is no.

General information about straightforward job moves, such as moving to another company to progress your career, should not be included. The wording of your resume should make clear to any potential employer that these were positive career decisions, through a change in job title, wider responsibilities or greater role dimensions. Any information you feel is particularly relevant, perhaps such as being approached by a former boss to join them, or your new company being a more significant player in your marketplace, can be included in your cover letter.

But what if all hasn't gone to plan in your career and you have experienced some periods of redundancy? It's still better in most cases simply to summarise your actual employment history, with the relevant dates, rather than going into detail about the reasons for any gaps on your resume. Again, use your cover letter to explain any obvious gaps, which may be a result of downsizing, company relocation or market related problems within your particular industry, for example. Keep the wording of your letter positive and forward-looking, rather than dwelling on what's happened, but be prepared to discuss the detail of any periods of redundancy openly at interview.

Although the general rule is that the reasons for leaving a job should not be included in your resume, there are certain notable exceptions. The first of these is if you have taken maternity leave. If you have subsequently returned to your employer at the end of the allotted time period, this should be highlighted as a one-line entry on the resume under the same company heading, rather than a job move as such. If relevant, make reference to any change of conditions on your return, such as becoming home-based, or working on a more part-time basis.

If you have taken an extended period of time out to raise your family, simply highlight the dates on your resume, with a description such as "maternity break". Refer to any relevant part-time work or study you may have completed during this period, if appropriate. Use your cover letter to reassure potential employers that you are now ready to return to the workplace and have made reliable childcare arrangements, as well as indicating any efforts you've made to keep yourself up-to-date with developments in your particular marketplace.

Other reasons for leaving a job that should be included in your resume are those that actively enhance your appeal to future employers. These would include taking a study break, perhaps to complete a degree, MBA or some sort of vocational qualification, which would be seen as expanding your skill-set and knowledge base, as well as indicating that you are ambitious and have taken active steps to move your career forward. A travel break is also often seen in a positive light, marking you out as someone who has a desire to broaden their horizons and is sufficiently confident in their ability to carve out a successful career that they are prepared to take a break for something that's important to them.

Finally, remember that your cover letter, which should be individually tailored for each job application, is the appropriate place to draw attention to any other significant information about job moves that does not properly belong in the resume itself.

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