written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 8/31/2011
Job change concerns by a hiring manager may shift your otherwise stellar resume from the inbox to the circular file. How can you make it past the resume screening if your work history shows a fair amount of job hopping? In addition, how do you address these concerns in an interview?
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Comparing Job Market: Apples to Oranges
Would you know how to define job hopping? If you are fresh out of college and just starting out, there is some leeway if you are quitting a couple of jobs in one year to head on over to greener pastures. Workers in an industry heavily beset by plant closures and downsizing -- of note here is the car sales industry -- also get a bit of a pass if they have more than one employer in any given year.
On the flipside, an executive who changes jobs every three years or so, as outlined by the Harvard Business Review, might also be considered a frequent job changer; in this case, it is not a good thing. The bottom line is simple: While there are a few good reasons that make frequent job changes understandable, there are far more reasons why it is a serious liability. Nevertheless, mitigating some of the damage is possible.
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1. Tweak the Objective
In the good old days, a resume writer would suggest that the applicant was on the search for a job wheres an educational background would make a difference. For the job hopper who (accurately enough) realizes that a resume with this type of information will not pass muster, it is vital to highlight the candidate’s worth in the form of a summary statement.
For example, you might want to point out that you have more than 12 years of retail management experience, even if it took place at seven different venues. While it is a minor cosmetic change, it lends a sense of direction to your professional persona; rather than looking like a person who cannot stay put, you appear to be a professional who does not need a lot of investment for the position of retail manager. It also highlights that you have an overall career goal from which you do not deviate.
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2. Forge Connections
There is some talk about foregoing the standard resume setup in favor of a type that merely highlights different employers and the work performed there. Granted, omitting the start and end dates makes it easier to gloss over the job hopping on paper. Of course, even a newbie to recruiting or human resources management knows that a resume of this type is a red flag. In fact, plenty of recruiters screen out these types of resumes simply because they are the favorite modus operandi of the frequent job changer.
Mitigate the problem by showing that there is cohesion between the job changes. For example, make it stand out that the jobs were in the same field, required similar training and expertise, built on the skills already present and propelled you toward an ultimate goal. If your career moved forward, you have a better chance at landing an interview than if you went backward.
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3. Minimize Job History in Favor of Skills
There is no way to dress up an irregular work history with frequent changes. Minimize their appearance by highlighting the skills. Even as the recruiter recognizes that you are a frequent job changer, a nice array of highly marketable skills may persuade the professional to give you a chance. After all, if you can hit the ground running, the cost to otherwise train and integrate a new worker is minimized.
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4. Find a Job and stick with it
Insider Nick Corcodilos minces no words when he warns the job seeker against job hopping. Frequent job changers have a tough time in today’s economy and no recruiter wants to make a hefty investment in a candidate who does present as good return potential. Using personal referrals to find a job -- and then sticking with it -- may be the only way to get the stigma of job hopping off the record. As a workaround, consider hiring on part-time with a business and remaining an active -- albeit part-time -- worker for a number of years. This longevity has the potential to make you look like a good risk; after all, you do have what it takes to commit to an employer.
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5. Prepare for the Interview
If you made it to the interview, you have cleared a major hurdle. Yet even here there is a good chance to make a bad impression. Just like a job interview question related to a criminal background check might leave you stumbling for words, a checkered job history can have the same effect. The hiring manager will ask about your job hopping. Consider it a given and practice what you will say and how you will deliver the information. Avoid negative comments about other employers; they quickly mark you in the industry as a liability. Of course, overconfidence is just as bad; hubris is not a character trait of team players.
Remain factual and even a bit self-deprecating. Speak of the great opportunity another company offered you, the new skill set you learned and do not fail to remark on your disappointment when the job ended (hopefully because of downsizing) -- or when you realized that you rushed into a new position without really thinking it through. Then show off by being well-informed about the industry in general and the company in particular; make the recruiter ‘feel’ like you hand-picked the company and envision yourself finally settling down there.
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There is no way around job changes concerns on the part of the recruiter. Do not kid yourself into thinking that you are different from all the other applicants; in fact, go ahead and check your resume right now. Are you a job hopper? Business insider Mark Suster says if “you’re 30 and have had 6 jobs since college you’re 98% likely to be a job hopper. You’re probably disloyal. You don’t have staying power. You’re in it more for yourself than your company… If you’re 42 and the longest you’ve EVER worked at a company is 3 years -- TOAST." Mitigate damages now, before you send out another resume.