Careers advice

Explaining redundancy in a job application

Here’s how to get this right.

What you’ll learn:

  • Will redundancy impact your employment opportunities?
  • Should you mention redundancy on your CV?
  • Should you mention redundancy in your cover letter?
  • How to approach redundancy if it comes up in a job interview

Today, we’re going to address some of the most common concerns Kiwis have about applying for jobs after a redundancy – should you mention it on your CV or cover letter, and how do you address it if it comes up in a job interview? Here are your answers:

Why you shouldn’t worry about redundancy impacting your employability

It’s important to understand what redundancy means in New Zealand. Redundancy happens when an employer believes your position is no longer necessary to the organisation.

While there’s no doubt that this is a painful thing to hear, the crucial implication of this definition is that an employer can’t legally make you redundant because of your performance. The most common reasons are a lack of work for your role, or company restructures due to financial pressures.

So, if redundancy comes up in an interview, the interviewer should already know that your former employer didn’t let you go because they were unhappy with you.

What’s more, with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the tech revolution and the Covid-19 pandemic, redundancies have become more common. This means both employers and recruiters are used to interviewing candidates who have been made redundant at some point in their careers.

Should I mention redundancy on a CV?

In a word, no.

Why? Because this isn’t what CVs are about. One of the most common mistakes you can make when creating your CV is trying to include every detail of your work history. In reality, a CV should be an elevator pitch of your key skills and experience, and nothing else. There’s no need to include any details on why you left previous positions, including when it was due to a redundancy.

You’re not being dishonest by leaving this info out – ultimately, it’s just irrelevant to recruiters and hiring managers at this stage.

How do you explain redundancy in a cover letter?

It’s good practice in cover letters to tell the reader why the job ad stood out to you, and why you’re applying. However, this does not mean you should talk about redundancy as a motivating factor.

In fact, we’d actively advise against it.

Why? Recruiters and hiring managers want to hear from candidates who are excited about their opportunity, so keep your reasons for applying positive. If you mention redundancy, this could make them think you’re applying because you feel you have to, not because you want to.

How do you handle redundancy in an interview?

If you have employment gaps on your CV, you should expect an interviewer to ask what they represent. If this happens, and the gap was due to being made redundant, you should be honest and tell them that this was the case – so you need to prepare an answer. 

At the heart of this, you should be showing how you drew positives from this negative experience. In fact, some recruiters say that resilient candidates who can show how they bounced back from tough situations like redundancy can be attractive to recruiters. 

For example, if you were unemployed for a while, talk about how you used the time productively through upskilling courses or personal development. This immediately shows you to be someone who can roll with the punches, and come out stronger on the other side. 

If you were one of several employees at your former workplace to be made redundant, it’s worth mentioning this too. Doing so can help to hammer home that it was your role that was made redundant, not you. 

Finally, it’s important not to get defensive if your redundancy is raised during the interview. The interviewer isn’t trying to trip you up, and probably just wants to know there was nothing else going on – for example, that you weren’t fired. Once you’ve cleared everything up, they’ll probably never mention it again.