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Job Hopping – DOs and DON’Ts

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Some might say job hopping, the practice of changing jobs frequently in a short period of time, is career suicide.

Many hiring managers are biased against job hoppers — seeing frequent employment changes as a sign of flakiness or unreliability.

More and more, however, it’s becoming evident that job hopping may not be the career curse it once was. After all, lifelong job security is impossible to find these days.

In a turbulent business environment, professionals are often forced to move more frequently than they’d like. Others are hopping by choice, looking for ways to develop skills and experience and avoiding dead-end positions.

Because of all of this, most of today’s employers are more open to considering an applicant with a short tenure or two on their resume. However, keep in mind that a consistent history of job hopping (staying less than 2 years and especially less than 1 year) can affect your chances of getting hired.

So when it’s time once again for you to interview for a new job, you must be prepared to discuss your reasons for leaving each position in a way that shows you’re not flaky or unreliable.

Here are some guidelines to help you downplay any job hopping (real or perceived) and land your next position.

DO – Highlight The Experience

An extensive job history shouldn’t necessarily set off alarm bells. Your past illustrates a rich field of experiences, and these experiences are what make you a competent employee.

Your best bet is to spin these moves as strategic. That is, these frequent job moves were an effort to gain as much knowledge and expertise as possible. If the field is changing with each job (or every few), it’s important to stress how each job was a building block to construct a strong background that would be valuable in your next role — making your perfect for the position at hand.

DO – Stress Your Skills

Having had such a variety (or at least a number) of jobs, you’ve probably got a few different tasks under your belt. For example, a young professional who went from working in marketing to advertising would have a well rounded skill set for public relations. Having dabbled in a bit of everything can bring you knowledge of where your strengths lie, and how to use them effectively.

DO – Share Your Info

You’ve worked for a few different companies, and now you’re interviewing with another. Think about how knowledge gained from past experience can help this potential next company.

If you’re interviewing with a small start-up, your time spent with a large company gives you knowledge about policies and procedures the little guys may value. On the flip side, entrepreneurial attitude and budget consciousness learned at a small company can make you a great hire for a larger firm.

DON’T – Speak Ill of the Past

It’s not entirely unheard of, of course, to leave a job due to a mismatch of personalities or misalignment with company values or politics.
Sharing negative reasons for leaving a job, however, doesn’t really help you. In the working world, you must be able to play nice.

Negativity and blaming will only raise concerns that you have trouble getting along in a work environment. That’s not always fair. After all, there are plenty of bad bosses in the world. However, to make a great impression in an interview, it’s best to remain neutral and diplomatic when discussing reasons for leaving a position (especially if you have several departures to discuss over the last few years).

Focus on the positive as much as you can. Employers would rather hear about you leaving to take on new challenges or opportunities than running away from a bad situation. If you must mention negative issues that prompted you to leave prematurely, keep your explanation general and neutral.

  • For example, avoid: “The new head of operations was totally incompetent and just didn’t like me because I didn’t kiss up to him properly.” Even if this is true, saying it makes you look gossipy and self-serving.
  • Try a more neutral version: “A new head of operations came in and the department changed drastically, to the point that I didn’t see opportunities for me to continue taking on new challenges in the position.”

DON’T – Follow The Money

Implying (or saying outright) that you’ve left a job to pursue a higher salary is another way to raise red flags. Hiring managers are looking for candidates driven by more than just dollar signs.

There’s nothing wrong with expecting to be paid what you’re worth, but nobody wants to hire an applicant who can be easily lured away for a few more dollars.

The key is to put the focus on the opportunity and the work, not the pay check. Saying that you’ve left jobs due primarily to higher pay can make you look disloyal.

DON’T – Put Your Stability in Question

There are a number of ways you can imply you’re not right for the job at hand, and one of them is getting a little too enthusiastic about your extensive history. Leaving a job after less than a year is not unheard of, but if you’ve got more than one job that falls into that category, steer the hiring manager away from thinking it is in your nature.

Boredom” is not a good reason to have left a company, but “finding a lack of available growth opportunities” is. Be sure to stress that you attempted to make it work at each company before moving on.

Emphasize any longer-term positions on your resume to show that you are a candidate who can and will stick around and grow with the company when opportunities are there.

Follow these guidelines and prepare in advance how to address why you left each position. With these tips, you can play down your job hopping and play up your strengths.

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

3 Comment to Job Hopping – DOs and DON’Ts

  • Kimberly S. Henderson

    Pamela, thanks so much for writing a relevant article with practical advice minus the fluff and fan fare. I find your recommendations well informed and highly transferrable to various job seeking activities. In fact, my plans are to augment some of my resume and interviewing tactics with your material.

  • Pamela Skillings

    Hi Kimberly,
    Thank you so much for the kind words! Good luck with your job search. Please feel free to reach out if I can help with anything.

  • Shenise J McLaurin

    this is a very great and helpful post !