How to explain why you’ve been job hopping

The fact that you’ve had five positions in three years is definitely gonna come up in the interview. Show what you’ve gained by job hopping to ease the employer’s concerns.

How to explain why you’ve been job hopping

Learn the right way to talk about your job hopping.

Job hopping can be a strategic way to move up in your career, but prospective employers might look at your resume with one eyebrow raised. After all, they want to hire someone who will commit to their company.

That said, according to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, 47% of employers said that job hopping is becoming less of a red flag as a result of current market conditions. But if you’ve switched jobs a few times in a few years, be prepared to talk about it.

You’re not the only job-hopping candidate out there. According to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers had been with their current employer for a median of 4.2 years in January 2018. The tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). That indicates a generational shift in attitude with regards to just how long it’s appropriate to remain in a job.

Still, a recruiter who doesn’t know you beyond your resume may think you’re a flight risk if you have multiple short-term jobs. So, how do you explain your brief tenures and convince potential employers that you’ll be a loyal employee? “It’s a bit of a tightrope walk,” says Teri DePuy, a Colorado-based career coach at ICC, Inc. Here are six rules to follow when explaining why you’ve been job hopping.

Be transparent

Whether you’ve had a string of bad luck or moved around in search of your true calling, the question about your employment history is coming whether you like it or not. The best way to handle it is to be honest about why you’ve made so many job changes. Maybe you were just pursuing the next great opportunity. Or you had to escape a toxic boss. Or, perhaps you were subject to forces outside your control, like a layoff. Whatever the reason, be up front about it from the very start.

The last thing you want to do is contradict yourself. “If you said in your cover letter that you left your job for one reason and then cite a different reason for leaving during a job interview, that’s going to hurt your credibility,” warns Stamford, Connecticut-based executive coach Anne Marie Segal.

Keep it short and sweet

Your best approach is to offer a short, concise explanation of why you left each job, says Segal. In other words, there’s no need to provide long-winded explanations, or give a play-by-play of how things went down. And don’t get too worked up, especially if things ended badly.

DePuy recommends job seekers craft “exit statements”—simple explanations of why you left a job in 25 words or less. For example: “Candidly, when I got settled into my position, I realized the work I was doing wasn’t what was described in the job ad,” or, “I wanted to develop my skills in a new area, and my company didn’t have an opportunity for me to do that.”

No matter what you say, never badmouth a former employer, says Andrea Kay, career consultant based in Cincinnati and author of This Is How to Get Your Next Job: An Inside Look at What Employers Really Want.

Focus on the skills you gained

To help a hiring manager see past your job hopping, steer the conversation toward your experience and the skills you’ve picked up along the way. Be prepared to describe a key experience for each job, and how that experience helps you bring value to an employer, says J.T. O’Donnell, CEO and founder of online career coaching platform Work It Daily.

For instance: “At [tech startup X], I learned how to scale a business. At [large corporate company Y], I got a chance to manage several projects. And at [medium-sized, established firm Z], I finally got to lead my own team. I’d say, in sum, these experiences have prepared me for this job.”

Be committed

Typically, a prospective employer’s underlying concern when interviewing a job hopper is loyalty. It’s a valid apprehension—if you’ve left organizations after only a short period of employment, what’s going to stop you from doing that at your next job? Your goal is to alleviate this fear.

Segal recommends addressing the topic head-on: “I understand why you’d be concerned, so I want to express to you that I’m interested in working at a company where I can stay and grow, and I see this as the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Provide references

It’s always beneficial to let other people sing your praises. Offering references from your job-hopping days—whether they be former bosses, old co-workers, or past clients—can show a hiring manager that you were a prized employee, regardless of how long (or, in this case, how briefly) you stayed at a company. Great results speak for themselves.

Find the right job

Job hopping can be beneficial in developing your skills and experience, but finding the right job that will take you to the next level is where the challenge lies. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways Monster can help you reach your desired career destination.