Whether you’re a young professional still thinking about your career goals or an experienced professional transitioning into another industry, you may have switched jobs a bit before getting to where you are now.
Job hopping is increasingly common in the workforce. However, it’s still seen by employers as a red flag if you have numerous short-term jobs on your resume.
Fortunately, with the right strategy, you can overcome job-hopping in your resume and make a positive first impression on employers.
What is job-hopping?
Job-hopping refers to someone switching jobs multiple times within a short period of time, usually a year or less.
Job-hopping can happen under circumstances outside of your control, like during layoffs or restructuring. Or, it can be a result of struggling to find a company that is the right cultural fit.
Whatever your reason is, whether you’re looking for a more meaningful career or you feel like it’s time to find a new job, you may be concerned about how this will affect your chances of gaining employment.
Here are 3 tips to help you frame your job-hopping in a positive manner:
1. Choose the right resume format
The chronological resume is the most common resume format. It lists your work experiences in reverse chronological order, placing your most recent job title at the top.
This format is a good option for most job seekers, but if your resume features many short-term positions, you may want to choose a functional resume format instead.
A functional resume allows you to emphasize your skills rather than your work experience. You can then group together and elaborate on your acquired skills in categories. Under each skill category, use bullet points to highlight examples of the skills you’ve used in both your work and personal life and detail the positions you’ve used these skills in.
The functional resume format is best used in situations where you’ve experienced long periods of unemployment or you’re switching to a new industry. It’s also a good choice if you have highly specialized, industry-specific skills.
Here’s an example of what a functional resume looks like, with your relevant skills at the top:
If you’re wondering about how to write a functional resume, using a resume builder to optimize your current resume format can simplify the process and save you time so you can focus on writing a solid and customized cover letter.
2. Explain your job-hopping in your cover letter
Job-hopping doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Your cover letter is the perfect place to address job-hopping head-on and turn it into an advantage.
Use your cover letter to explain the circumstances surrounding your job changes. Emphasize that you’re looking for stability in your next role and that you’re not afraid to work hard to succeed. You should clearly state why you didn’t stay longer in a role and describe your departure in a positive manner, even if you experienced a layoff.
Frame your background in a positive manner by emphasizing your skillset and what your various experiences have taught you to pull employers’ attention away from your job-hopping.
For example, you could say:
“My previous workplace couldn’t accommodate my increasing caregiving responsibilities even though I surpassed KPIs. One of the reasons I’m interested in this role is because of the possibility to work on a flexible schedule.”
It’s important not to dwell on the negative experiences you may have encountered (this includes experiences with former employers). Try to find the positive aspects of your time spent in your past positions, such as skills and experiences acquired, and to emphasize those in your cover letter.
Highlight how your job changes have helped you grow professionally and how you’d be able to apply the skills you’ve acquired and developed in your current role. End your cover letter by mentioning that you’d be happy to answer any questions about your employment history if given an opportunity to interview.
Offer to provide references if necessary, which can ease a hiring manager’s doubts about your qualifications, work ethic, and character as an employee.
Since your cover letter is your best opportunity to make a good impression on the hiring manager this early in the hiring process, learning how to write a well-structured cover letter optimized for your unique situation is essential to create a strong job application.
3. Explain your job-hopping during the interview
An interview is your chance to explain any notable gaps in stable employment on your resume. Even if you already touched on the reasons in your cover letter, the hiring manager may still bring it up so it’s best to be prepared.
Be strategically transparent
If job-hopping comes up during your interview, be honest about why you left a position. Don’t be on the defensive, over-explain or downplay your job changes, or blame your former employer. But being transparent doesn’t mean complaining about what you were unhappy about with your previous job’s working conditions, like your manager or colleagues, your workload, or office politics.
A potential employer doesn’t want to hear about potential complaints you may have with their own workplace. Diplomacy is a better policy than full disclosure to avoid negativity.
Here are some acceptable examples to reframe a negative situation:
- You didn’t feel connected to your work and desire a sense of agency
- Your responsibilities were expanded outside of your original agreement and abilities
- Your qualifications weren’t fully utilized and you’re ready for new challenges
- Your last job’s leadership had different priorities or work styles and you prefer a more collaborative environment
- Your previous company is going in a different direction that’s no longer in line with your values
Note that it’s not mandatory to disclose information concerning highly personal matters like health issues or a difficult family situation, for example. Shift the focus of the conversation during your interview back to your qualifications by:
- Emphasizing what you learned – Frame your story with tact and professionalism to explain why you and your former company weren’t a good fit.
- Sharing what excites you about the position – Make sure the job description aligns with your career goals and that the company culture is a good fit for you so you can have an honest conversation with the hiring manager.
Focus on your acquired skills and accomplishments
In addition to being honest about your job changes, you should also focus on the skills and accomplishments that you have gained from each position. By emphasizing what you have learned and accomplished, you show that job-hopping has actually been beneficial for your professional development.
Additionally, highlight transferable skills you developed throughout your career to strengthen your application. Here are a few examples:
- Computer skills
- Time management
- Writing skills
- Language skills
- Conflict resolution
By being upfront about job-hopping, you show that you’re trustworthy and able to turn difficult situations into a positive learning experience. This will help put the interviewer’s mind at ease, and they’ll be more likely to see your job changes in a positive light.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.