Resume After Demotion – Here’s how to tackle it

Being demoted is awful once; but it’s an awfulness that keeps on giving if employers are looking at you less favorably. 

As I talk about here, employers only spend seconds looking at your application, and a demotion on your resume can cause them to pass on your candidacy.

If you’ve been demoted and are having a hard time talking about your experience in your resume, scroll down to the scenario that applies most to your situation to update your resume.

Quick side note: I’d love to offer you a little pick-me-up in the form of my salary-doubling, two-page resume cheat sheet if you’ve been demoted recently. It breaks down exactly how a marketing manager was able to double the initial offer they received. You can get your own copy by submitting your information right here:

 

Often, candidates tend to over-explain perceived blemishes on their resume in an attempt to help the interviewer see their side of the story. However, it is much more likely that the interviewer will empathize with your previous employer than with you!

Therefore, in order to keep your narrative tight, focus only on the positive aspects of the demotion on your resume.

I go into more detail on how to do that in each of the scenarios below.

Demoted Recently

If you were demoted recently, this is what your resume might look like right now.

(In all of the following examples, ignore the text under each experience. Just look at the bolded title, company name, and dates.)

As you can see, the most recent role visually looks much less impressive. It just isn't as beefy at only 2.5 lines. If someone is spending just seconds looking at your resume, they might immediately dismiss you, thinking that you were demoted due to performance reasons:

Solution:

Reorder both experiences by consolidating them under one company heading. Use the dates you were at the company instead of the dates you were at each role.

Demoted A While Ago

Now let’s extend the previous example. Let’s say the demotion happened several months or years ago. Here’s what your resume might look like currently:

As you can see, the management experience pushes the director experience quite far down on the page, making it immediately obvious at a glance that there was a demotion on your resume.

So what do you do?

Solution:

Merge the two experiences. If you had a track of promotions until you got demoted, use the line “Promoted throughout career based on (the key skill that you’d like to convey).” Otherwise, skip this line. (See example below.)

The end result looks something like this:

I wrote this resume after speaking to this candidate at length; we agreed that “Executive Roles” best described the work he was doing. However, if this is not the case for your situation, notice that saying “Logistics Management Roles” and then “Leveraged 8+ years of director-level experience” doesn’t take any attention away from the full weight of the accomplishments either.

Experiment with this phrasing so that it's accurate for your unique case, but also shines the light on your strengths.

Sounds Like A Demotion, But Isn’t

Most job seekers believe that the job title is something they absolutely can’t tinker with.

However, even if you perform director-level duties, if you don’t outright say that you’re a director, applicant-tracking systems (ATS) that are filtering candidates based on their job title may reject you automatically.

Look at my job title on LinkedIn, for example. It says that I’m a resume writer. 

But I also write blogs -- like this one. And I like to think I’m quite good at writing blogs!

However, if I was applying for a job as a blog writer, I might get automatically rejected because it doesn’t say “blog writer” anywhere on my LinkedIn profile.

Similarly, a lot of people have titles that aren’t aligned with what they do, and most recruiters understand that. They know that some companies like using “odd” or client-facing job titles.

Solution:

Therefore, the solution to this is pretty simple. Add “duties” or “equivalent” next to your title on your resume. 

Alternatively, if your role was definitely a promotion but sounds like a demotion on your resume, you can use the preface “Promoted to” in front of your job title.

Examples: 

1. You were promoted but it doesn’t sound like it.

Let’s say you were director of one factory, but were later promoted to managing an entire set of factories. If a recruiter sees the following and isn’t reading your resume carefully:

Area Manager, FSK Inc., 2017 - Present

Factory Director, FSK Inc., 2016 - 2017

They might incorrectly assume that you were demoted.

This is fixed with a simple “Promoted to,” like so:

Promoted to Area Manager, FSK Inc., 2017 - Present

Factory Director, FSK Inc., 2016 - 2017

2. You want people not to dismiss you based on your job title.

If I was interested in a quality control job, I would use:

Resume Writer (Quality Control Specialist Duties), CareerTuners, 2010 - Present

And this is 100% accurate because I do Quality Control for part of my job.

However, my actual role is more of an Operations Director. While I have QC duties, my responsibilities mostly include directing our overall operations. So, if applying for an operations position, I would use:

Resume Writer (Operations Director Equivalent), CareerTuners, 2010 - Present

Notice that I use “duties” if only part of my role focuses on that task. I use “equivalent” if most of my role focuses on that field.

Looking for more help on how to tackle demotions? Check out these links:

Would you like me to check your resume and let you know whether you've addressed your demotions in a strategic manner? Upload it below.

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