Job-Hopping: How to Overcome Your History
When I was an executive recruiter, we had a word for the résumé of a person who had two, three, or more jobs that only lasted a year: a “story” résumé, meaning that there’s a story behind all these moves. It’s unfortunate if one takes a job and it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason (such as mismatched skill, culture, or personality fit, company instability, or changes in management). But frequently workers get bored or feel under-challenged in new jobs and just decide to move on. Whatever the reason, your work history looks unstable and recruiters and employers want to know why — if they even decide to give you a chance despite your choppy work history. What can you do to minimize this problem if it is one you recognize you have?
- Where possible, explain parenthetically on the résumé what happened if you left a job involuntarily (for example, “one of 55 employees downsized in October 2009” or “company acquired by XYZ Corp. in February 2011”).
- In interviews, focus on your strengths and accomplishments, especially those that have been repeated, and your years of experience. Sometimes success in multiple organizations looks better than years at one company. Never go negative about your previous employers — try to stay neutral: “It wasn’t a good culture fit;” “The position didn’t turn out to be the one described in the interview.” Again, focus on what went well while you were there. If you were fired, acknowledge what went wrong and what you learned from the experience. Keep all explanations short.
- Format your résumé to focus on your experience and achievements. Dates don’t have to jump off the page; you can put them next to your job title or at the end of the job description. Use years only, not months. And after a period of time in your career, it’s okay to leave off jobs that lasted less than 12 months. They didn’t add a lot of value to your career and don’t give your future employer much additional information about you.
- Use personal connections to uncover opportunities instead of answering ads. The most important thing for all job seekers to realize is that most positions (more than 80 percent) are filled though networking and building business relationships. Most of these people do not need to see your résumé to become interested in your strengths and abilities to do a job.
In summary, draw your future employer’s attention to why you are an exceptional candidate, summarizing the years you’ve been in the business and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Acknowledge that you have had some short-term jobs but explain briefly why each of them ended. The most important thing to realize is that you are selling yourself, not defending your candidacy.
For more advice visit Johnson Alumni Career Resources.