Posts Tagged ‘employment gaps’

How to Overcome a Job-Hopping History

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Maybe you’ve had to move around a lot for your spouse’s career. Maybe you just can’t seem to find a company or a job title or a career that suits you. Or maybe your career so far has been one long “series of unfortunate events”, enduring economic downturns, companies going bankrupt, and massive layoffs.

However you explain it, if your resume seems to show you moving around quite a bit, that is usually seen as a red flag by hiring managers and HR. If a company is trying to invest in the long-term, bringing on someone who seems to leave their job every few months is certainly not going to meet those hiring KPIs instituted by management.

So how do you overcome the stigma attached to you and your resume, with a career you cannot simply undo or pretend didn’t happen? There are several tactics you can use, depending on the reasons for your moves, your industry, and your discipline.

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You have an unstable work history, having held several jobs in a relatively short period. How can you try to prevent potential employers from holding your job-hopping past against you?

You can minimize the appearance of job-hopping by focusing your resume on your career history rather than your job history.

The biggest hurdle is getting noticed because recruiters usually screen out people with a choppy employment past.

It is easier to overcome a choppy history if you are young and just starting out. It’s more acceptable for those under 30 to move around, so I don’t think they need to address it, unless there are big gaps in their resume.

And, of course, you will have an easier time if your recent departures resulted from mass layoffs at previous employers. You can emphasize this point in your cover letter or add a few parenthetical words about it on your resume, such as “(one of 700 employees downsized 11/01)” or “(company acquired by ACME in 1/09)” after the job title or company name.

How should a resume deal with short periods of employment?

The dates of those jobs don’t have to jump off the page. They can go in parentheses after the job title, the company name or at the very end of the job description. You can also use years only, rather than months and years.

It’s also fine to eliminate one or two jobs from your resume. For example, if you took a position and two months later decided that it wasn’t for you, it’s probably best not to include it. It’s not that you’re ashamed of it, but it’s not the most relevant information you need to share in your resume.

If you do keep a job off your resume, be prepared in the interview to explain why. As long as you’re being truthful, you can answer that the job didn’t add a lot of value and you wanted to include more meaningful experiences and accomplishments.

Use a cover letter to explain your reasons for switching jobs — something that is difficult to do in a resume. But first, tell the employer why you are an exceptional candidate, summarizing your background — including the number of years you have been in the industry — and the results of your work.

After that, acknowledge that you have held several jobs in a short period and address each with a line of explanation. Keep the explanations short. Remember, you are selling yourself, not defending your candidacy.

Aren’t there some industries where moving around often is expected?

If you work with start-up companies, frequent job changes are almost de rigueur, because start-ups often fail or are acquired by other companies. Especially in the biotech and technology industries where there are many start-ups, it’s O.K. to move around. If you do consulting work on a project basis, it is expected that you would be switching jobs fairly often.

For certain technology positions, like computer programmer and software developer, the length of time at each job is almost irrelevant. The breadth of experience is far more important.

dilbert-hopper

How should you handle questions about your job history during an interview?

Focus on your accomplishments and stress your years of experience. Managers value accomplishments that have been repeated. If a person can demonstrate they have had repeated success in their jobs, they may be more attractive than a person with years of experience at only one organization.

If you were fired from a job, discuss it in a way that shows you have come to terms with it. Don’t be defensive about it. If you were at fault, acknowledge it, and discuss what you could have done differently.

If you cannot persuade hiring managers to look past your job history, are there other potential ways to get an interview?

This is especially hard at the executive and senior levels of employment. A pattern of short jobs is a show-stopper. No amount of resume editing will help — there is simply no way to dress it up.

Instead of answering ads, focus on networking because a personal connection is more likely to persuade an employer to give you the benefit of the doubt. Your network includes friends, family, current and former co-workers and former supervisors.

You need someone who will give you a break. That’s usually someone who knows you and your work and has a reason to take a leap of faith.

So you’re not doomed if you’ve moved around a lot, though it will definitely be a struggle to get past the stigma associated with being labeled a job-hopper. By being honest, addressing the reasons directly in interviews and on your resume, and understanding the nature of your chosen industry and discipline, you can overcome it and perhaps even portray it as an asset rather than a liability.

Good luck!

How to Overcome a Job-Hopping History | Eilene Zimmerman via the New York Times