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.
If you’ve churned through a few jobs in a few years, prospective employers might look at your resume with one eyebrow raised even though technically you’ve done nothing wrong.
You were just pursuing the next great opportunity. Or, maybe you were subject to forces outside your control. For example, Michelle Magazine, who runs an executive search and consulting firm based in New York City, recalls a candidate who took a position with a startup that lost funding in less than a year, then joined a company with a difficult culture, left and took a position at a company that folded the division after six months.
Still, a recruiter who doesn’t know you beyond your resume may see all those jobs and think you’re a flight risk even before you joined. So how do you explain away your limited tenures and convince potential employers that you’ll be loyal? Try these steps:
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, but keep it simple and don’t get emotional, especially if things ended badly.
“Don’t be defensive or make excuses or complain,” Magazine says. But don’t be apologetic or insecure about short-term stints, either. “Own the experience and move on,” she says.
And don’t dwell on why you left a particular position—keep it concise.
You say: “I loved working at [tech startup X] and I was sad to see them run out of funding.”
Accentuate the skills you've gained
Next, you need to help potential employers see past the job-hopping. Instead of diving into a lengthy explanation as to why you’ve made so many moves, steer the conversation toward your experience and the skills you’ve picked up along the way.
“Always focus on how you can bring value to the potential employer,” says Christine Brown, who owns the California-based resume writing and career branding service Written Resumes.
For each job, be prepared to describe a key experience, what it taught you and how you’ve put that lesson in action, advises J.T. O'Donnell, CEO and founder of the career advice sites Careerealism and CareerHMO.
You say: “At [tech startup X], I learned how to read spreadsheets. 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.”
Say you want to stay for a while
It can’t hurt to tell the interviewer that you’re looking for a long term fit, especially if you’ve left had to leave companies because they’ve closed or underwent layoffs.
But if you still sense hesitation about your job record, suggest ways to ease the concerns. Offer up references who can speak to your strengths and loyalty, or even propose some sort of trial assignment.
“That way, you can let them share their frustration and offer a solution that would make them feel good about hiring you,” says O’Donnell.
You say: “I’m looking for a place where I can grow and learn for several years. But I want you to feel comfortable with me as an employee, so how can I make that happen? Could I do a temporary assignment, or would you like to talk to some of my references before we continue this conversation?”