If You've Been A "Job Hopper"

Working Girl has been pretty clear in her stance that moving around from job to job is OKAY.  It’s not the career killer it used to be.  (Ahem, that’s job hopping within reason–see here for handy guidelines.)

But say you’re hunting for a job.  And worrying that potential employers might look askance at your multitudinous job history.  Is there anything you can/should do?  Yes:

  • First, if you are under 30, you probably don’t have to worry.  Employers will not be surprised to see a handful of jobs on your resume, and may even expect it.
  • Also, consider your industry.  If you’ve worked for start-ups, say, or in the tech industry, the length of time at each job is less important than the quality of the experience you gained from that job.
  • Similarly, if your jobs ended as a result of mass layoffs, this should not be held against you.  Just make a clear and, if possible, cheerful explanation of what happened.
  • At interviews, when you are discussing your experience, stress your successes.  It’s even cooler if you can identify a particular success you repeated in each of your jobs.
  • Use your cover letter to clarify why you’ve had a lot of jobs.  Emphasize the number of years you’ve worked in your industry (albeit for different employers) and, again, talk about your successes.
  • Organize your resume so that your multiple jobs are less obvious.  Dates can be put in parentheses after job titles, for example, instead of front and center. 
  • While we’re talking about resumes, do not rely on simply circulating your resume (whether by mail or on job boards) to get you interviews.  Resumes generally go to a human resources department.  Human resources people are trained to reject “job hoppers.”   (As regular readers know, the best way to get interviews is through contacts. )

Well, all that sounded bossy, didn’t it?  But the bottom line is:  Don’t let anyone (!) tell you that a history of job hopping makes you unemployable.  Focus on identifying the skills and experience you have to offer, and then finding employers who need those skills and experience.

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3 Comments

  • almostgotit says:

    As a fellow hopper, I heartily agree. HOWEVER, it is important to have a good answer ready when the interviewer asks about why you worked so briefly at your previous job. Think it through, and be ready — because yes, it is likely to come up. Tell the truth, but in as positive and as “no big deal” a way as you can. Don’t make excuses, and don’t stab your previous employer in the back either — it only reflects badly on YOU.

  • [...] If You’ve Been a Job Hopper | Karen Burns, Working Girl [...]

  • First of all. Bossy is good. People looking for jobs need tough love, don’t you think?

    I really appreciate your last bullet point. Resumes do get trashed regularly for too many bunny prints (hmm, I feel a post coming on . . .). Getting in front of or on the phone with a live person is the best way to explain movements – which often times are far less sinister than someone in HR imagines them to be.

    The reality is you can make a big impact at companies during a one to two year stint. An impact that many companies would be crazy not to consider. Once they get to know you, that is . . .

    Great post, Karen!