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Do This One Thing to Your Resume if You Have a Jumpy (Patchy) Work History

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Resume Tips for Jumpy/Patchy Work History

It can be stressful if you have a patchy career history because most hiring managers do not prefer to interview or hire candidates who have not stayed very long in their previous firms. However, there are times when employees have no choice but to leave their firms due to circumstances that are out of their control. Perhaps the previous employer had a lot of issues, or maybe the next role was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, which was an exceptional case. Whatever the situation maybe, as long as you're someone who is genuinely able and want to build a long-term career with the next employer, it's quite unfortunate if you have be disadvantaged because of your history.

If you're in this situation, today's article is for you!

When I say jumpy history, I generally refer to leaving a company in less than a year. Of course, every situation is different, so you do need to make your own judgment calls. But, generally speaking, if you have stayed with a company for over 18-24 months, you probably do not need to worry about it.

The best thing you can do (and probably should do) in your resume in this situation is to be upfront and provide convincing reasons as to why you left the previous firms in a short time.

You see, one of the biggest things that most hiring managers worry about is hiring someone who will leave them quickly. Suppose the new joiner resigns in a short period of time without delivering meaningful results (after all the time & effort they put in to hire the person and probably training them). In that case, the cost and the disappointment are greater than not hiring at all. This is why, when hiring managers see frequent job changes, they wonder if the person will do the same after joining their team and will likely be less willing to consider that person.

Therefore, (if you want to increase your chances of 1st round interviews), it's imperative to ease their concern and convince them that you are not the type of person to keep hopping for jobs and that you want to build a long-term career with them.

As I mentioned already, the key is providing CONVINCING reasons. And yes, there are correct AND wrong ways to explain why you left. So for the rest of this video, I will share 3 absolutely critical TIPS when providing reasons for short tenures in your resume.

These are the same proven principles I have used as a professional recruiter for the last 15 years to help job seekers overcome the hiring managers' concerns and land the first interview.

Also, at the end of the article, I will include sample reasons & concrete examples that you can reference and save time, so make sure you take advantage of that.

Let's go!

  1. Reasons that are Out of your control

As much as possible, try to mention reasons that are outside of your control. It could be due to restructuring, redundancy, the position being relocated to another country or city, personal emergency, or others. Remember, we are trying to convey that you are not someone who cannot or does not like to stay in one place for a long time, and the previous short stays were exceptional cases. Therefore, one of the best reasons you can include would be circumstances you had no control over – that it was not your deliberate decision.

I say as much as possible because not every job change may be because of involuntary reasons. In such cases, of course, you should not lie about it.

But if there were multiple reasons for your move (For example, maybe you found another environment where you felt you could grow much more, the salary increment was just too enticing, or maybe it was simply a much superior company as a whole. But at the same time, there was also some restructuring going on in the firm, frequent senior management changes, or other factors that made you feel less than secure, which was also a motivation).

If that's the case, you could choose to mention the restructuring or frequent senior management changes as your motivation for leaving, as that would be much more convincing than leaving the previous firm within a year because you preferred the other opportunity.

Also, another important tip is if your previous roles were contract positions and you didn't stay with them very long, make sure you clearly indicate these were NOT permanent positions because most employers recognize that contract jobs, by nature, are not likely to have lengthy durations.

  1. Context

This is probably where most people make mistakes and that is providing the right context. Quite often, I see some job seekers providing reasons for leaving their previous employment in the resume. However, rarely if ever, do I see candidates providing the right amount of context too.

But context is crucial because just mentioning the reasons without providing the necessary details is usually not persuasive enough.

For example, let's say you left because the previous employer decided to downsize or there were repeated management changes. But if that's all you mention, the hiring manager reading your cv will probably wonder, how much did they downsize? Was it by 5%, 20%, or 50%? And how many management changes were there exactly? Was it 2 or 5, for example? Or how widespread was the restructuring?, etc. And if you leave these details to the hiring managers' imagination, they will either imagine the worst or, at best, still be left with the same doubt that they had before but with more questions now.

You want to remove as much doubt, concern, and confusion as possible by giving sufficient specifics so that the decision-maker feels comfortable enough to decide to have an interview with you.

If you can, provide concrete numbers. For example, 30% of the team was let go, or 3 different managers in 9 months, or 40% of the team left in 3 months, etc.

By the way, one major thing to watch out for when providing context is: Do not blame or badmouth the previous employer. That is typically an immediate turn-off to employers. Make sure you keep your tone neutral and describe the issue matter-of-factly without blaming anyone.

  1. Be Succinct

The last tip is to keep it short. You do NOT want the resume's focus to be on why you left your previous firms. By making it too long, you can raise more questions in the hiring manager's mind, defeating the whole purpose. The goal is simply to lessen the concern so that the potential employer can see past the job change frequency and invite you based on your skills & qualification – that's it.

I would aim for one sentence or maximum 2 sentences only

As mentioned, here are sample reasons for leaving:

  1. Left in order to take care of family members who were ill.

  2. Due to frequent management changes (3 different managers in one year), I felt my position was unstable and decided to look for a new job.

  3. I had to leave because my entire department was relocated to another country.

  4. In the first 9 months, 4 people in my team of 5 left resigned, unfortunately. As a result, I felt my position was unstable, and I decided to move on.

  5. I was transferred to a different team after I joined the firm, which was quite different from what I initially interviewed for. I still tried to work hard and add value, but, in the end, I felt it necessary to look for the right role.

Hope this post will help you understand how to come up with more convincing motivations for leaving. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’d be happy to respond.

All the best!

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