Have you switched careers several times in the past ten years, worked several short-term positions, or been retrenched and forced to find new work? If you’ve held several different positions in the past 5-10 years, you may be sending a message to employers that you’re a job hopper, not staying in positions for very long. Hiring managers confess that if a candidate looks like a job hopper, they will automatically discard their resume, assuming that they’re either not reliable, get bored easily in positions or have been terminated by past employers. Whether employers’ perceptions are accurate or not, you don’t want to be labeled a job hopper and lose a good opportunity.
Whatever your reasons are for frequently changing positions (and there are a lot of totally legitimate reasons nowadays to choose, or circumstantially need to change jobs), you don’t want to be automatically discarded for positions you apply for. Try these helpful tips to avoid being labeled a ‘Job Hopper’ and eliminated from consideration.
Categorize your work experience differently
If you have several short-term, consulting or temporary work assignments, you may want to consider categorizing them under one heading such as “Consultant” and list the various projects you worked on and accomplishments under that, so it appears more as a whole set instead of separate assignments. You can also include two separate headings for your work experience if you’ve transitioned between industries a lot. Put “Relevant Work Experience” with the positions you’ve held that are directly related to the position you’re applying to, and “Other,” or “Additional Work Experience” below that to account for large gaps of time.
Leave out irrelevant jobs
Your resume is essentially a marketing tool to demonstrate your qualifications for a particular position or industry. If you have short-term, contract or part-time experiences that you don’t feel are relevant to the position you’re applying for, it is entirely okay to leave it out. You will, however, need to include it if a company asks for your full work experience.
De-emphasize dates of employment
If your dates of employment are choppy, you can try downplaying the dates in different ways. You can try leaving out the months of employment and only including the years, so it’s not as obvious. You can also include the dates in parenthesis after your job title, or below your achievements.
Focus on resume achievements and qualifications
Employers are mainly concerned with your success in past positions. If you can demonstrate you made significant contributions to your previous employers, even if they were short-term positions, employers will be more likely to overlook it. You can even emphasize accomplishments and skills you’ve acquired through your diverse roles, such as being a fast learner, adapting to new work environments and industry trends, and yielding high results.
Use your cover letter to briefly explain your work history, putting a positive spin on it and expressing your interest in a long-term position
If you feel like your resume screams Job Hopper, you may want to add a brief explanation for why you’ve changed jobs so frequently in your cover letter, or highlight the unique skills and perspective you’ve gained through your diverse experiences. Make sure to stay positive about your past circumstances though and try not to sound like you’re making excuses for every position you’ve left. It’s important to also express your interest in a long-term position with the company to help put employers’ fears at ease.
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