Interview Advice

How to Explain Job Hopping in an Interview

Until recently, workers were expected to start and end their professional careers with the same company. Times have changed. Today, many companies have fewer objections toward the practice. However, some hiring managers will consider frequent job changes to be a red flag because it gives them the impression that you are disloyal or that you aren’t willing to commit to a job.

How do I explain job hopping to an interviewer? Draw the interviewer’s attention away from your short-term ventures by highlighting the diverse, transferable skills you’ve gained from your experiences. Be transparent as most hiring managers will be more understanding if the situation was beyond your control. Assure them that you’re here to stay by explaining that you’re looking for a long-term position and why their company will be an ideal fit.

Your frequent job changes are likely to make interviewers hesitant about hiring you. Therefore, come prepared with a list of references that will assure them of your commitment, and offer suggestions to prove your worth. Some employers may be open to giving you a trial assessment, but it’s best to keep discussions regarding probationary terms as the last resort.

How to Answer Questions Job Hopping at an Interview

Companies look for individuals who are prepared to be loyal and committed to their organization, helping them reach their short-term and long-term business goals.

Consistent job changes on a résumé, especially if all your roles were short-lived can raise a few red flags. Even though job hopping is becoming increasingly popular and more accepted among employers, it can be difficult to set yourself apart from others who were more committed in their past ventures. Fortunately, the following steps can help give you an edge among your competition.

1) Acknowledge Concerns About Your Job Changes

Most hiring managers will have concerns about your employment history. By acknowledging these concerns, you can develop a solid transparency strategy without the risk of sounding like you’re making excuses.

The following are some examples of concerns that may be going through a hiring manager’s mind while reading your résumé:

  • Will the candidate give up when faced with challenges?
  • Will this candidate require months of training only to end up quitting later?
  • Is this candidate worth our training cost?
  • Does this candidate have problems fitting in or getting along with a professional team?
  • Does this candidate’s employment history indicate disloyalty or an inability to commit?

They do not know the reason for frequently switching jobs, so any questions or concerns are understandable. Avoid taking anything personally as it may make you appear defensive. Don’t sound apologetic or go deep into explaining your short-term ventures.

If you work with startups, it’s vital to note that frequent job changes are expected as startups generally either fail or are acquired by other businesses.

For technology positions such as software developer or computer programmer, the amount of time an employee spends in a particular company is almost irrelevant.

If your recruiter has any doubts, explain to them that in technology and biotech industries where startups are frequent, it’s common practice to switch jobs often.

2) Draw Attention Towards Your Transferrable Skills

For some people, job hopping into different positions and industries can indicate the desire to acquire transferable skills and survive the current, continually fluctuating marketplace.

Most hiring managers are only aware of the type of job hopper who repeatedly ventures in the same industry and the same position. However, if your jobs reveal advancements in your career or a new field, it’s likely that your interviewer will be interested to hear about the diverse skills you’ve developed from your varied employment history.

Employers look for proof of professional growth on candidate résumés. Therefore, focus on emphasizing the progress in your career as much as possible to highlight the purpose of your frequent job changes.

How to Explain Your Frequent Job Changes

One crucial skill to discuss is your networking ability. Talk about your relationship-building capabilities and how they’ve helped you become successful in your past ventures.

While it is okay to explain why you left a particular job, avoid focusing on giving any lengthy explanations about your job hopping. Provide the hiring manager with a clear and concise explanation and navigate the discussion towards your skills.

For example, one good reason for leaving a job is your skills being under-utilized. Describe these skills and achievements and talk about how they can be valuable to the company.

3) Optimize Your Résumé

Focus on drawing attention away from your job hopping by formulating a functional résumé. Chronologically listing qualifications may work for most job seekers, but as a job hopper, listing your frequent job changes may reduce your chances of scoring an interview.

Instead of listing your experiences, education, and achievements in chronological order, try devising a template based on your skills, achievements, and abilities.

4) Career Summary and Areas of Expertise

Show hiring managers that you know the business by including a career summary in your résumé along with your areas of expertise. A career summary can be written in bulleted or paragraph form.

Using no more than five lines of text, explain your top abilities within 5 to 10 sentences. Your areas of expertise should list down nine to twelve top skills, bulleted in a table without any borders.

Customize your career summary and areas of expertise according to the specific job you apply to.

5) Experiences and Achievements

You can organize your achievements and experiences in the following formats:

  1. Group job positions and descriptions according to each skill set. For example, if you’re a marketing and digital communications expert, you could classify your experiences into marketing, advertising, and digital communication. By doing this, you don’t have to list your job positions individually, but consolidate them under one skill. List down the right positions, noteworthy achievements and descriptions for every section. Using dates is optional.
  2. Create key skills assessments with positions at the bottom without descriptions. To create a key skills assessment, add all your job descriptions to a single master list in a bulleted format. Avoid going over six bullets per list. You can reduce repetition and the number of bullets by creating multiple lists and dividing them into subsections – similar to grouping job positions according to skill sets.

6) Don’t Include Everything

If you worked at one job for two years and another for two months, it’s acceptable and beneficial for you to leave out the position where you worked for a few months – especially if it isn’t relevant to your title. By doing this, you don’t have to discuss your short-term position during your interview and risk raising any red flags among potential employers.

7) Be Clear About Your Contributions

One main concern potential employers have about job hoppers, is that they may not be worth the company’s investment. Hiring a new employee includes interview time, background checks and plenty of training – all of which cost money. A potential employer may fear that you may leave before you make the company’s investment on you worth it.

However, if you were working in a company for a year and were able to make significant transformations or had significant problem-solving roles in that position, be sure to play them up. Include an accomplishments section in your résumé to grab the interviewer’s attention towards your achievements and away from the amount of time you spent on each of your positions.

Make sure you talk about your networking skills and ability to build relationships rapidly. If you’re a job hopper with many successes, chances are they came from your ability to be versatile and learn and adapt quickly. All of these skills are crucial in the current volatile market.

8) Opt for Tactical Transparency

If your employment history is rich in short-term ventures, a hiring manager will not hesitate to question why. Be prepared to answer their questions, explaining why you made each move and how each of them helped you advance in your career or acquire a more varied skillset.

Let the hiring manager know if you got the opportunity to try more high-profile projects, learn about and use new technology or take on added responsibility.

Job hopping explanation

Never get defensive or apologetic while explaining your case. A list of excuses can leave a bad impression in any potential employer. Most hiring managers will be open to understanding circumstances that weren’t in your control, such as a spouse’s relocation.

The following are examples of valid reasons given by candidates to explain job hopping:

  • You wanted to pursue further training or education to achieve long-term growth in your career
  • Your work environment changed after your boss left
  • Your previous jobs didn’t allow you to grow or advance in your career as fast as you wanted
  • You experienced changes in your role that differed from what you were hired to do
  • You had a more attractive opportunity come up, which you wished to pursue
  • You had to stay at home to raise a child
  • You had a personal issue to deal with, such as major surgery or caring for a sick person.

9) Don’t Make Money a Reason

Never use money as the only reason for leaving a job position.

Ideally, you shouldn’t mention it at all, but if you feel the need to, state it as a contributing factor and explain that your previous role did not accommodate any salary negotiations in the long-term.

10) Be Honest

Steering the conversation toward your abilities, instead of your frequent job changes doesn’t mean you can hide important information or lie. A potential employer is likely to learn about the truth sooner or later.

For example, a hiring manager may ask if you liked your last job. Be prepared to answer such questions with strategic honesty. Explain that the company moved out of town, downsized or went out of business. You can also explain that the positions weren’t most suited to your skills. Avoid trying to place blame. Take responsibility and explain facts without bias.

11) Don’t Complain About Past Employers

If you’ve moved between jobs because you had poor relationships with your past employers or your pay wasn’t satisfactory – it’s ideal not to dwell on these reasons.

Doing so is only going to sound like you’re making excuses or are complaining about your previous bosses. Furthermore, complaining may suggest that you’ll be unhappy in a new position as well and are likely to leave if anything unpleasant happens between you and your employer.

Instead of talking about your past experiences with your bosses, try briefly acknowledging your employment history without pointing any fingers. Even if you’ve had a rough history with an employer, it’s better to explain that most opportunities in the industry are generally short-term and stop challenging you after a certain amount of time.

You can add that even though you’ve learned a lot from your past experiences and have enjoyed them thoroughly, you’re looking for a more permanent position that will better utilize your skillset.

12) Watch Your Tone and Body Language

After making it through the first cut and landing an interview, you want to make sure you present yourself while going over your brief tenures.

Your voice and body language can make or break your chances of scoring a job. You may be explaining one thing, but communicating the exact opposite with your body language.

For example, crossing your arms may be an indication of you being defensive about your employment history. It can also signify arrogance or that you’ve taken the recruiters words over your job hopping too personally. Lack of eye contact is another key mistake many applicants make, which may imply insincerity or dishonesty.

To avoid raising any flags, try staying even with your tone throughout the entire interview process. Doing so will exude sincerity and confidence in what you’re saying.

Holding eye contact with occasional pauses and leaving your arms open to your sides will make you appear more receptive to the discussion. Maintaining a positive tone of voice shows confidence, which is especially important when you’re diverting the recruiter’s attention away from your short job tenures and towards your diverse soft skills and achievements.

best way to explain job hopping

13) Talk About Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a widely recognized skill that creates great leaders. Employers know this, and they’re aware that people with higher emotional intelligence are capable of working well with others. A higher EQ also indicates that a person is more inquisitive and empathetic.

Furthermore, according to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, companies with executives with higher EQ are likely to be more profitable.

Job hoppers are exposed to a myriad of different personalities, challenges, and situations. Use this to your advantage by explaining how this has made you a more emotionally intelligent person.

14) Explain That You Don’t Need Much Training

Many recruiters assume that job hoppers will cause a loss in their training investment. However, the converse is also true in some cases. Many job hoppers don’t require much training and investment because they have worked in multiple jobs. They aren’t rookies that need extensive training.

You’ve already worked with many companies and have obtained plenty of training from each of them. Talk about how you may not require as much management attention as a person who hasn’t worked in multiple firms.

15) Assure Them That You Want to Commit

Every candidate, especially a job hopper, needs to discuss why they want to work for a particular company or business. What scares hiring managers most about job hoppers is the perception that they aren’t willing to stick around or commit. It pushes them to assume that they’re better off hiring a more committed candidate, instead of a job hopper who is not guaranteed to stay.

Potential employers like to know that job candidates are willing to stay for at least six months. If you can commit, be prepared to explain why the current case is different from your previous jobs.

Focus on explaining why you want to work for the company and your willingness to stay. You may even benefit from showing your desire to find a long-term workplace. Link together common themes in your experiences and discuss how they will help you advance in the position.

Your client may still be hesitant, or may not trust your intentions, so come prepared with suggestions that will substantiate your worth. Bring a list of references that will verify your inclination to commit. Request for letters of recommendations from your previous supervisors and bring them to the interview.

16) Make Them Understand That You Thrive When Challenged

Sticking to one job position without climbing the ladder can indicate that you lack ambition, or are complacent. However, most experienced professionals are aware that staying in one company for a minimum of one year is standard – even for frequent job changers.

Therefore, if your résumé shows too many job changes within short periods, the hiring manager may begin questioning your patience.

No employer wants someone who cannot cope with a changing workplace or changes his employment every time a new software or policy is integrated. However, you can turn your job hopping around and use it to win a recruiter over. Letting the hiring manager know that you’ve generally sought for work where you feel consistently challenged, will suggest that you’re a go-getter. You know you’re an asset, and you know how to get what you want.

How Many Jobs are Too Many in 5 years?

In general, you should stick to a job for at least one year. As you progress in your career, any job where you stayed for less than 2 to 3 years may create hesitation among hirers.

Although many employers still frown when they notice any stints that last less than two years, the stigma associated with job hopping is deteriorating with time.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time an individual stays with one employer is 4.2 years. This number is higher among older employees aged 55 to 64, who show a median stay of 10 years. Younger groups aged 25 to 34 years show a median stay of only 2.8 years.

According to a Gallup report on millennial job occupancies, about 21% of millennials report changing their jobs in 2016 and only half of the individuals surveyed expect to stay in the same company a year later. Recent research from Robert Half also confirms that 75% of individuals aged 18 to 34 think that short-term positions may be beneficial for their careers.

Companies are now finding ways to accept short-term stints on résumés to avoid disqualifying a large bulk of well-suited applicants. Does this mean any questions regarding your employment history are irrelevant?

Absolutely, not. Most hiring managers will require some explanation for you leaving your past employment, so it’s going to help you to come prepared using the above tips.

What if Nothing Works?

There are occasions when applicants aren’t able to explain their job changes – at least to their advantage, thus costing them many suitable opportunities.

If you aren’t able to find employment in a company, consider checking out some local staffing agencies or talent scouts. While this option may not sound appealing and may even compromise your chances of scoring your dream job, it is going to be enough to pay the bills.

Staffing agencies typically provide steady work at local businesses. The benefit of temp work is that you have the option to work with several employers but place them all as one company on your résumé. This reduces the risk of supplementing your job hopping record.

Furthermore, working multiple roles in several different companies also helps you acquire important soft skills and professional development. Networking is another advantage of working multiple positions within a short period. Many job hunters end up finding their dream position by networking during their temp roles.