How Do I Present a Demotion on My Resume?

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You chose a demotion over a layoff. How do you tell that story when looking for a new job?

During the restructuring at Countrywide, the retail branch I operated was shut down. Instead of taking a severance package, I opted to take a demotion so I could stay employed. Should I disclose this information to potential employers? How can I word it to explain the demotion was due to downsizing and not performance?

Prospective employers shouldn't hold it against you if you chose employment over a layoff. Because Countrywide's troubles have been widely reported, your demotion won't necessarily hamper your ability to find a new job.

If your plan is to immediately launch a job search, the place to start is your resume. A well-written resume will land you an interview, where you'll be able to discuss your current status.

The trick is to present your experience in a way that doesn't run up a red flag.

For starters, use a resume with a chronological format. This is the most traditional format, and the one most often used in financial world. Organize your experience, education and training in reverse-chronological order, beginning with most recent and working back. Start each work entry with the organization name, including city and state, and total years of employment. Within the experience structure, you can get a bit creative.

There are ways to describe your positions at Countrywide that won't signal demotion. For example, you can describe your previous position first and follow with the new one. Since you've already stated your total span of employment dates, there's no need to duplicate dates after individual job titles. Another option is to stack the job titles, one after the other, beginning with the most recent. Or, use just one line to list both jobs, beginning with the previous title, a comma, following with your current job.

However you choose to list your titles, follow them with bullets of key responsibilities and achievements. If there isn't much substance to your new job, include just one bullet detailing primary responsibilities. Be consistent in how you format your remaining work history.

Once you've scored the interview, carefully plan how you'll persuade the interviewer that your qualifications are exactly what he's seeking. Organizations have problems to solve: If you can communicate how you can help solve them, you'll catch their attention.

Robbie Miller Kaplan, a nationally-recognized expert on career communications, is the author of "How to Say It In Your Job Search" and "How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times," published by Prentice Hall Press.

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