How to Overcome Obstacles in Your Cover Letter

An essential job search skill is knowing how to overcome potential obstacles in your cover letter. Many possible career situations can make writing a cover letter more difficult.

These conditions can include layoffs, demotions, gaps in work history, long-term unemployment, elder care, and medical leave. Although these may seem to be potential red flags, a cover letter is a perfect place to address these issues.

Writing this type of applicant letter will take more thought. It can be more complicated than writing a regular professional cover letter.

The cover letter allows you the opportunity to explain the details of your situation. What may look like a deal-breaker or a red flag in your work history won’t keep you out of the interview pile.

Keep the explanation concise, and ensure the tone of the letter is upbeat and positive. Don’t waste this opportunity by sounding negative, placing the blame for your situation on someone else, or by appearing like you are complaining. Your cover letter is a job search marketing tool, and you need to show your value by nipping these potential problems in the bud.

Overcome Different Types of Employment Obstacles

Explaining a layoff:

Explain the layoff and communicate your excitement and enthusiasm about the opportunity to work immediately for the position available.

How you describe the situation will determine how you are viewed as a candidate. Explain the position you held, and be sure to include whether others were laid off at the same time.

If you know the number of people who were laid off, you can include this as well. Was your department downsized? Was your factory closed? Were there widespread budget cuts? Briefly communicate what led to the layoff. For instance:

“After being laid off as a Mining Supervisor when ABC Mines shut down, I am excited at the prospect of returning to this role as a dedicated and hardworking member of Alliant Mines.”

If you faced long-term unemployment:

Try to briefly state the position and responsibilities allocated to you in your previous employment. Do not emphasize the duration of your unemployment, but instead, focus on the new skills attained during your hiatus. Mention any volunteer or professional development you took during this time to upgrade your skills. Remember, you are trying to concentrate on the positive aspects of your career. An example includes:

“After leaving XYZ Consulting, I have been focused on upgrading my skills and learning new methods to deliver client transformations. For instance, I have attended several seminars, have received my PMP certification, and have volunteered at Consulting Professionals Inc. where I have gained new insights on how best to meet clients’ needs.” 

Explaining a medical leave:

Do not disclose any medical information because this may jeopardize your chances of gaining employment. State your leave of absence and notify your potential employer that you are fit to work again. Deciding to disclose your medical information is a strictly personal choice. Here is an example:

“I had to leave People’s Petrol is 2016 due to a health issue, taking a medical leave. Now that I am 100% healthy again, I am excited to get back into my fulfilling career, and the opportunity at Canada Oil seems like the perfect fit.”

Caring for an ill or elderly family member:

Briefly state the situation and let them know that the family situation is now resolved. Communicate to your potential employer that you have honed your skills or have upgraded your skills through other ventures. Although taking time off to care for an ill family member is a selfless and noble act, you need to let potential employers know you are now available and qualified for the position. You might word it like so:

“After taking time off to care for my terminally ill father, I’m now ready to return to the workforce. During my time off, I remained wholly committed to my career, completing several courses and workshops to ensure my skills remained sharp and up-to-date. I believe that my long track record of success, coupled with my passion and steadfast commitment, will prove valuable to this position.”

Time off to raise your children:

Show your potential employer that you have stayed up to date in your line of work or profession during your break. Letting them know that you have acquired new skills and connections will be an added advantage to you. Below is a sample of an explanation:

“I stepped away from the workforce to start a family, during which time I kept my skills and connections current through active volunteer work, including leadership roles in school and charitable organizations. I am now eager to resume my professional career now that my children are school-aged.”

Embarking on an entirely new career path:

State your motives for doing so and explain that you are passionate about making the change. Try to steer the employer to view you as a competent person in your new career. Share the reasons why you think you can excel in this new position. For example:

“Although I was successful in my engineering career, I have realized that the aspects of my work that I found the most rewarding were all teaching-related. As a result, I am currently pursuing a full-time position in this area and am confident in my ability to make a difference.”

Transitioning from an entrepreneur to a corporate position:

Show the potential employer that the reasons for leaving that field were not due to failure but rather to pursue your passion. The organization needs to realize that you would be an asset to their company instead of a liability. Uncovering transferable skills and including them in your application letter and resume is paramount for a career change. An example to help tailor your response:

“After building a successful small business where I grew revenues from zero to six figures in two years, I recently closed the company to pursue my passion for marketing. Your opening is an excellent opportunity, and I look forward to speaking with you about how I can help grow your client base.”

Changing jobs frequently, a.k.a. job-hopping:

State that you are searching for a job you are willing to commit to and give 100%. Convince the potential employer you are willing to be loyal and committed to the work with no intention of leaving. This example response will assist you in writing your own:

“Although I have changed jobs frequently in the past few years, I am looking for a position and company where I can make a long-term commitment. If you agree that my credentials are an excellent fit for your needs, please feel free to call or email me to arrange a meeting.”

Demotion in a previous job:

Assure the employer that you are capable of doing more and will be efficient and competent in the position they are hiring for. How you address the transition in your cover letter will depend on whether you target positions comparable to the position before your demotion or after it.

For instance, if you used to be a sales manager and got demoted back to a sales team member and 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 a tougher case to make. The genuine thing to do in this situation is to emphasize the positive impact you have had historically in that role.

Mention what you have learned in your reduced role that would be of value in the higher-level position. Don’t mention the terms “demotion” or “demoted” in your letters. An example explanation is below:

“Budget cuts required me to take a sales position to remain employed, but I am confident in my ability to step back up to a management position and hit the ground running. I would welcome the chance for an interview to discuss your goals and outline ways I can help you achieve them.”

Your cover letter is a crucial component of your job search, so take time to make sure the wording paints a positive picture and communicates the value you will bring to a company or organization.

What other methods do you use in your cover letter to explain some of the situations above? Comment and share below!

If you need additional help, reach out to Candace for assistance by calling toll-free at 1 877 738-8052 or send an email. I would enjoy writing the perfect, attention-grabbing application letter to help you succeed in your job search.

Take the time to review our cover letter samples.