You've been changing jobs. Sometimes it's dissatisfaction with a job. Sometimes it's relocation to another area. Sometimes it's the market area. Other times, it's just that life is unpredictable. Employment and experience are almost always necessary when pursuing a new position, but a lack of consistency can actually hurt your chances of getting that great new job. If you have gaps of employment or many short stints in various industries on your resume, you may have been job hopping. Knowing how to explain it in your interview is a key step to success.
The Red Flags
It is very unlikely that your interviewer will know you prior to the interview. Even if a family member or friend elsewhere in the company can vouch for you, a company's first priority is hiring the best applicants. A resume that is full of inconsistent work can send many red flags to the hiring personnel.
One red flag is that you may be irresponsible or lazy. This can be the case if you have many gaps of employment or it looks like you've been job hopping with short employment dates and changing industries. If you go from cashier to front desk attendant to library page in a matter of months, it may tell the interviewer that you get bored easily. If there are months of time between them, it may say that you aren't willing to work very hard.
Another red flag is that you may quit early. Companies generally don't like turn-over, or having to hire to positions over and over again. Life happens and people do leave the workplace, but the hiring manager will be looking for people who will last as long as possible. Job hopping tells them that you may not be that person.
A third red flag is that you don't have enough real experience. This is especially true if you move from industry to industry or the position you want now is more specialized work. Just having worked may not be experience enough. It may look like you never stayed long enough to glean good experience in any one place.
Make It Work for You
Those may sound like very unfair judgements, but don't lose hope. Whether or not you've intentionally been job hopping, you can make your resume work to your advantage in some different ways. Depending on your specific situation, consider these ideas when heading into your interview.
- Good reasons: There are good reasons for moving to and from different jobs quickly or for having employment gaps. If you've had to move around because of your spouse's employment or military obligations, if you've been discovering your career path, if you've found better positions, if you've had personal matters to deal with, or if market availability has been an issue, tell your interviewer. These reasons are justifiable to many employers.
- Honesty: Sometimes there are no good reasons for job hopping or employment gaps. In this situation, it is a good idea to just be honest about why you left or didn't find work. Honesty is a good quality for an employee, so it may work in your favor. Just be sure to let the interviewer know that you've learned from it and grown.
- Find a theme: Another way to explain inconsistencies on your resume is to find a common thread or theme to tie them together. Did every position teach you the same valuable lessons? Did some training crossover from one to the next even if they were in different industries? Think about general skills, too, like customer service, cooperation, leadership, organization, or flexibility. These skills can be just as valuable in an employee as experience.
If your resume looks like you've been job hopping, be sure to use these ideas to help explain your position. Doing so will help your interview be a success.