History of Job Hopping? Here’s How to Spin It

Though the perceptions of “job hopping”—moving from position to position in short periods of time—have changed in today’s market, there are still many employers who view it as a red flag. Career paths are more fluid these days and often involve a few moves, as opposed to the 25 year stints with the same company so common of previous generations, but hiring managers do still value loyalty. It’s a paradox many candidates face these days: how do you acquire the broad skills and experience you need to succeed in your field without seeming noncommittal?

Clearly, there are pros and cons to the “job hopping” approach. If you have a history of dabbling in positions and not staying anywhere long-term, try the following tactics in your next interview to make your professional experiences work in your favor.

  1. Focus on your skills. By working in a number of jobs in a variety of companies, you’ve likely acquired a wide range of both technical and soft skills. Make sure to communicate this on your resume and in any interview you attend—by doing so, you could potentially alter the hiring manager’s negative perception of your work history and mold it into a positive.
  2. Tell stories. Just like these past stints have afforded you a diverse skill set, so too have they broadened your professional work experience. Therefore, in an interview, be sure to show how they’ve contributed to you as a whole and improved you as a professional. This can be achieved through telling stories of past challenges and how you handled them.
  3. Present measurable achievements. Likewise, be sure to offer concrete examples of how your work positively impacted the company or companies you’re talking about. Since one of the worries regarding job hopping is lack of loyalty to the company, this can help show that you were invested in your past employers enough to make a measurable difference.
  4. Emphasize emotional intelligence. It’s widely agreed that emotional intelligence is quickly becoming a desired trait amongst most employers. Since you’ve worked several jobs, you’ve likely been exposed to lots of different personalities and situations, and it requires an emotionally intelligent person to reflect and react professionally to them. Show off this trait in your next interview by exhibiting listening and reasoning skills in the question and answer portion, then to take it a step further, be sure to ask thoughtful questions at the end of the interview. This will show you’re not only invested in the potential opportunity, but that you know what makes a good fit and why that’s important.
  5. Be truthful but tactful. Should your work history be directly questioned, be truthful but tactful. This requires some reflection before the interview, of course, but that’s where that emotional intelligence comes in! Know why you’ve made the decision to move on from your past employers, and communicate that to your interviewer should he or she ask. Maybe you felt those positions weren’t the right fit, or you were  exploring career options. Maybe you didn’t feel there was enough opportunity for development at one of the companies. All of those things are understandable and employers will usually appreciate the honesty, but if you’ve had bad experiences, always err on the side of positivity and don’t bad-mouth any previous employers.

These tactics should help most who are looking to put a positive spin on a spotty resume and land a longer-term opportunity. However, if you’re not looking for something long-term or are still exploring options, it may be best to look into temporary employment. Taking on permanent roles and leaving after you’ve gained the experience or skillset you need, or immediately after deciding the fit isn’t right for you, can result in a lot of hardship for the company and a potential tarnish on your reputation. Temporary and temp-to-perm jobs are likely the best option for those looking for more flexible scheduling or an opportunity to explore careers and companies.