Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to Explain a "Job Hopping" History

Although I usually post about freelancing issues, I've been getting a lot of queries lately about full-time jobs, eg, how to respond to salary questions, how to explain a gap in a resume, etc.

Maybe it's because it's the new year. So, the next few posts will be dedicated to those who are seeking full-time jobs. Have a question, send it in.

Today's topic, how to explain a job-hopping history.

Y. Black, Publisher

How to Explain a "Job Hopping" History

Are you a job hopper? Eg, have you had three or more jobs in the last five years? If so, you may be viewed as a job hopper by employers.

FACT: Employers don't like job-hopping candidates. Why? According to InsightLink.com, "studies have estimated direct turnover costs per employee to be 25-30% of an individual employee's salary/benefits package. . ."

Many employers will weed out those with a history of job hopping - even if they are extremely qualified.

How to Explain a "Job Hopping" History

Address the job hopping issue head on: I ran an editorial staffing agency in New York City for eight years and was never too fond of cover letters. But, job hopping is one case where a cover letter is definitely needed.

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I remember back in the late 90s during the dot-com craze, it was not uncommon to see resumes where candidates changed jobs every year or so. It was so bad that when I saw a resume with two or more years with the same employer, that was considered "longevity." But, I digress.

Addressing the issue head will significantly decrease your chance of going right to the slush pile.

What Should, and Should Not, Go in a Cover Letter to Explain Job Hopping

a) When explaining a job hopping history, be brief: Don't go into excessive detail. A one or two sentence paragraph, eg, my department was phased out due to budget cuts, is fine.

Employers usually screen many resumes for a position and will, usually, barely glance at your cover letter. So, in your introductory paragraph be sure to grab their attention so they don't think it's just another staid intro that most candidates submit with their resume.

Get right to the point, letting them know that the purpose of the letter is to explain your job hopping history.

b) When explaining a job hopping history, don't bad-mouth your previous employer: This is a hard and fast rule. I don't care how awful your last employer was, your future employer does not want to hear it.

It's human nature to think, if she does that to her last employer, she'll do that to me. Just don't do it. Using an old standbys like, "I left because I wanted more responsibility," is fine. Most interviewers can read between the lines and will appreciate your professionalism.

c) When explaining a job hopping history, point out positives: Eg, show how you progressed with each move you made. Eg, I started out as an Assistant Manager at ABC company, and was offered a chance to be Manager at DEF company.

Finally, I took my last position at GHI company because they offered me a significant salary increase and more direct responsibility.Most employers can understand leaving for promotions and a significant increase in salary. This is human nature.

Pointing out positives: i) directs attention away from the negative "job hopping" idea formed in the interviewer's mind; and ii) reinforces your positive attributes, further distancing you from your job hopping history.

NOTE: Regarding leaving for more money, the increase should be "significant." While this can vary, an increase of at least 10% would fall within this guideline. As annual raises usually range from 3-6% a year for most, most employers would consider a doubling or tripling of this significant.

And, it should be for basically the same line of work? Why, because if you hop from not only job to job, but profession to profession, you may be perceived as someone who only cares about money - not something you want employers to think about you (no matter how true it is).

According to the article, "Tracking Your Pension When You Change Jobs" by By Michael Finney, the average American worker changes jobs four to six times during their career. I'd wager that it's much higher.

So, if you've had this many jobs in the last five years, you may have some explaining to do. Being prepared to explain your job hopping will land you your next position that much sooner.
Copyright Notice: May be reprinted with the following, in full: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com: THE business portal for and about the editorial and creative industries. First-hand freelance success stories, e-courses, job postings, resume tips, advice on the business of freelancing, and more! Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on to InkwellEditorial.com to learn how.
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Irreverent Freelancer said...

Freelancing resolves the whole issue. It's the one career field that encourages hopping. ;o)

Inkwell Editorial said...

Yeah, you'r right Irreverent freelancer. Actually, the MORE you have on your profile sheet the better as a freelancer. BUT, for those who choose the 9-5, I'm trying to help them navigate transitions better.

Thanks for chiming in.

Y. Black, Publisher