How to Explain Being Fired and Other Work History Blemishes, Part 2

job hopping

Part 1 of this blog described how to explain a job loss. Part 2 below includes tips for clearing up for potential employers a history of multiple jobs in quick succession or a lack of a diverse job background.

If you’ve been fired, had a succession of jobs or held the same job for a long period of time, you may wonder how to get past these barriers on your cover letter, resume and during a job interview as you look for a new job. Here are some tips, based on each situation:

Multiple Jobs

Employers have traditionally considered holding several different jobs over the past few years as a sign of career instability. The good news is that attitudes are changing regarding the practice of “job-hopping.” In an Accountemps survey, 58 percent of respondents felt that job hopping could be beneficial to their careers, especially if they gained new skills and were able to experience a new corporate culture. Be sure to highlight these two factors, and avoid comments like, “I was trying to make more money,” since the hiring manager might think you would also leave their company for better wages.

The best way to write a resume that compensates for a job loss or multiple jobs is to use a hybrid resume format that lists your relevant skills, experience and other qualifications first, and then lists your employment history in reverse chronological order. When you list your strong points first, there’s a better chance that the recruiter or hiring manager will be impressed with what they see before they notice the employment gaps.

If you were laid off, you may want to note this in your cover letter, since this situation was beyond your control. However, if you were fired or quit, don’t address this in writing – just be prepared to discuss it during the interview. Your cover letter and resume should just list what you were doing while you were not working. For example, if you were unemployed from March 2014 to August 2014, on your resume, you might list this gap in employment as time spent volunteering at the local YMCA or taking online classes. Also restate this information on your cover letter. The point is to show that you were being productive and not sitting around playing video games or watching TV.

Same Job/Lack of Variety

First the good news. Having the same job for a long time shows that you are dependable, loyal, and consistent — and these are very desirable traits. Today, however, you may also appear to be a one-dimensional employee who is not open to challenges or changes. During your interview, and also on your resume and cover letter, you need to describe how you actually grew and developed in your role.

For example, you may have been an executive assistant for 15 years. However, during those 15 years, you may have gained more supervisory responsibilities, starting with one employee and eventually managing eight. You may have trained new admins, served on a committee and mentored others in the company. Be sure to highlight anything that shows growth and development over those many years.

Don’t be intimidated or discouraged by work history blemishes, such as job hopping, a lack of variety — or even having been fired. Thoughtful answers that demonstrate your growth, development, and willingness to accept responsibility may actually work in your favor and make you a memorable job candidate, both on paper and during the job interview.   

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