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How to Explain Why You’ve Been Job Hopping

If you’re worried about coming across as a “job hopper” or changing jobs too often, here’s how to ditch the stigma and stand out for the right reasons.

Landing the perfect job, rising to the top and earning big raises and benefits are a dream come true, especially if all are achieved at the same company. Sometimes though, staying with one employer doesn’t work out. Whether due to personal health or family concerns, business ventures gone sour or industry-wide layoffs, it’s best not to bounce from job to job, otherwise known as job hopping.

Jumping from one venture to the next within short time spans tells the employer you aren’t willing to commit. Or maybe when a hiring manager sees frequent job changes on a resume, they infer you are a bad employee and companies don’t want to keep you around for the long haul. On the other hand, explaining why you’ve had various short-term opportunities isn’t very difficult. There are several techniques to draw attention away from your job hopping history.

Before sweating in front of the hiring manager, try these simple techniques to explain your frequent job changes to ease the “job hopper” stigma.

Optimize your resume.

The first step to explaining your various opportunities and frequent job changes is by not drawing attention to them in the first place. Most resumes list experience, education and achievements chronologically, placing most recent qualifications first. While this is the best format for most job seekers, listing your vast experience may kill your chances for an interview. Focus your template on skills, achievements and abilities rather than time. This format is called a functional resume.

Include a career summary and areas of expertise. Show hiring managers and recruiters you know your stuff and mean business. Career summaries should be written in paragraph or bulleted form, include between five to ten sentences, include no more than five lines of text and focus on your top abilities. Areas of expertise are top skills (nine to twelve), formatted within a table (without borders) and bulleted. Tailor the summary and areas of expertise to each specific job.

Draw attention to skills, abilities and achievements.

The next step is organizing your experience and achievements. This is done with one of two formats – grouping positions and descriptions according to skill sets or creating key skills assessments with each position (no description) at the bottom. For example, using the first technique, marketing and digital communications experts could divide their experience into three categories: advertising, marketing and digital communication. List the appropriate positions, descriptions and notable achievements under each section. Feel free to use the dates or not.

On the other hand, creating a key skills assessment fits with positions detailed similar descriptions. Remove all job descriptions and add them to a master list. Delete repetitious information, and rewrite it using action verbs and achieving words. Format the list into bullets. Each list should not have more than six bulleted sentences. Reduce the bullets by creating more than one list and diving into subcategories, similar to the previous template.

On the other hand, don’t lie or hide the facts.

Drawing their attention to your abilities rather than your multiple job history isn’t the same as lying or hiding information. Never lie or hide information about job hopping from potential employers. They will learn the truth sooner rather than later. Prepare yourself for the inevitable. Once you’re in the interview, someone will ask why you’ve been changing job frequently within a short period of time.

Another question will be “Did you like your last job?” The only way to answer either question is with absolute honesty – and tact. Be transparent. Explain that the company downsized, went out of business or moved out of town. These are the easiest scenarios to explain. On the other hand, if you were the catalyst, explain why you left the job. “I felt my skills and abilities weren’t utilized to their furthest extent.” Or you can explain that the positions weren’t the best fit. Don’t be defensive about changing jobs too often or try to place blame. Explain the facts honestly, accurately and without bias.

Draw attention to professional development and skills.

Explaining your reasons for leaving a job is great. Just don’t focus too much on the explanation. Give a short, concise explanation and steer the conversation towards your abilities. For example, after explaining how you felt your skills weren’t utilized, start describing those skills and achievements. “I felt my skills and abilities weren’t utilized to their fullest extent. Recently, I took a five week seminar on social media marketing and analytics. This allows me to design online campaigns and determine their effects on sales.”

This also is a perfect opportunity to list new skills and abilities learned from working with different companies. Choose one or two projects you successfully completed. Describe those achievements and contributions. Don’t pat yourself on the back. Show the hiring manager what you did for the company and what you can do for their business. Focus on how you can bring value to the potential employer.

Assure them you’re there to stay.

Job hopping scares hiring managers and tells them you aren’t willing to commit. They automatically assume you will leave this job, making them work to find another candidate. Assure them you are committed to staying and want the job. “I am looking for long-term employment and think your company is a good fit because…” Don’t be sappy or brownnose. This is a little obvious and obnoxious.

If the hiring manager is still hesitant about your frequent job changes, experience or seems to not trust your intentions, offer suggestions to prove your worth. Come prepared with a list of references who will vouch for your commitments. Ask former supervisors to write letters of recommendation to bring to the interview. Some hiring managers may be open to a trial assessment. Just don’t mention probationary terms until it’s the last possible alternative.

What if nothing works?

Sometimes we cannot explain our shortcomings, and it costs us several good opportunities. Rest assured, this isn’t the end of the game. You may lose a few battles due to frequent job changes, but the war hasn’t been lost. If you cannot find an employer to offer solid employment, there are still a few options to build your reputation and improve your marketability. Check out local talent scouts or staffing agencies. Yes, we know; temp agencies aren’t very glamorous. They may not offer your dream job. But they do pay the bills.

Staffing agencies often provide steady work at local companies. There are three main benefits to temp work. You have the option to work for several employers, but only have to place one company on your resume. This reduces the “job hopping” stigma. Working for various companies in multiple roles also provides important soft skills training and professional development. The most important benefit is networking. Some job seekers report finding their dream job by networking at their temp roles.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!