Do Employers Think You Are a Job Hopper?

When hiring managers read resumes, one of the first things they look at is dates of employment. If they see multiple short employment stints, they will often assume that you are a job hopper, question your ability to stay at one company for long, and move on to the next candidate.

Often people's choppy employment record may be caused by several factors beyond their control; but unless the story behind your job changes is made clear on the resume, you risk being passed over for someone who can offer the perception of a more stable work chronology. Here are some of the circumstances that make job seekers look like job hoppers and what you can do about it.

Serial layoffs. It happens. You may be a loyal employee, but perhaps you have been the victim of serial layoffs and as a result, your resume depicts movement every year or two. Rather than just putting your dates of employment on the resume and letting hiring managers come to their own conclusions as to why you left, tell them why right on the resume. Add a brief explanation following the dates of employment -- such as "company downsized," "company relocated," or "company went out of business." This way, the employer has the facts and isn't left to guess why you are no longer with the company.

Temporary assignments. If you have spent the past few years working on consulting or temporary assignments, your chronology may be questionable to your reader. Instead of listing each temporary assignment and company with their corresponding employment dates, create one category for temporary assignments with the total length of time you have been working in this capacity. Then give an overview of the companies you have supported and highlight some of the main accomplishments that encompass all of your temporary experience.

Rapid promotions. Frequently I see resumes where the person has been at the same company for 10-plus years, and they re-list the company name and new job title and dates each time they are promoted. To the reader who is quickly scanning the document, this may cause confusion; he may think these were positions at different companies. Just because it is obvious to you, don't assume it is obvious to the reader who may be trying to get through hundreds of resumes. List the company name once and place the full dates of employment to the far right. Underneath that list each job title with the employment dates immediately following. By placing full dates of employment and dates of specific company positions in different sections, you increase the chances that the reader will understand that these changes were the result of promotions at the same company and not job changes.

Company mergers. Have you worked for a company that was bought by another company and then bought by another in less than five years? When you list all three company names individually with the dates you worked for each company, it can look like you voluntarily went to work for each of these companies during that short time frame. A better strategy is to list the current name of the company and in parenthesis write "formerly company XYZ" and follow that with the full dates of employment from the time you started at the first company before any acquisitions occurred.

The bottom line is this: Employers don't read resumes. They scan them very quickly, and it's easy to have your information misinterpreted if you do not make things crystal clear for your reader. Obviously there is more of a story to tell behind your employment experience and the reasons why you changed jobs. But in order to be able to tell that story to a hiring manager, you need to make sure that your resume provides enough of a positive hook that they decide to call you in for an interview.

Next:Why Career Monogamy Might Not Be Such a Good Thing

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