Six Tips for Job Hoppers

A 1998 New Yorker cartoon showed a middle-aged man smiling expectantly as the CEO across from him says, "Smith, you've been with this company 25 years. That shows a lack of ambition." Frequent job changes became the norm among talented professionals in the late 1990s, as demand for employees outstripped supply in many fields and companies aggressively recruited candidates to help fuel their growth.

Today the pendulum has swung back a bit. Too many jumps in too short a time causes hiring managers to think that maybe this candidate doesn't have the resolve to overcome problems or that maybe the candidate is the problem! Plus, an employer may not want to invest in an employee who will jump ship after a few months on the job.

Executive recruiters say there is a decent interval for staying at a job before moving on. They peg it at anywhere from one to three years, and say that generally, you need to have stayed long enough to be able to have learned something and contributed to your company.

If you have a history of frequent job changes or have stayed with two or more employers for less than a year, your integrity and loyalty could be called into question. Here are some ways to minimize your image as a job hopper and best present your moves in a search.

1. If there are several entries on your resume of 18 months or less, or if you have gaps between jobs, it may look better to specify the time you spent at previous positions in rounded years, not in months and years.

For example instead of showing three positions this way:

Company A October 1999 to January 2001

Company B June 2001 to February 2003

Company C June 2003 to present

It would be better to simply show:

Company A 1999 to 2001

/> Company B 2001 to 2003

Company C 2003 to present

2. If you have several short stints, you may want to insert a brief parenthetical explanation for why you left after the dates of employment, such as "company closed due to lack of funding" or "division eliminated due to new corporate direction."

3. Make sure you supply references from the companies where your tenure was short. These references should be able to vouch for you as a loyal and valued employee during you brief employment.

4. Show that your career progression makes sense...that your positions all offered increasingly better opportunities to learn and grow. If you left a job for a promotion or position with greater responsibility, emphasize that aspect of the transition.

5. Highlight the positive aspects of working at a variety of organizations. Demonstrate that your wide range of experience makes you more employable than if you had stayed in the same place. Give examples that demonstrate the positive qualities it takes to switch jobs, such as being flexible, decisive and a quick learner.

6. Bring it all back to them. Show the prospective employer how you got the chance to work on multiple projects that have given you the skills they need and why your experiences can help the company.

The key is to package your job history in a way that shows steady career advancement and to emphasize how the moves have provided you with useful experience and skills. As one hiring manager put it: "I don't hold a series of changes against a candidate. What I want is someone who has learned from their experiences and can put that to work for me."

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

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