Getting Past the Job Hopper Label: How Can a Job Hopper Get a Job?

CN_Marc_v1_e In What’s the Best Way for a Potential Employer To Interview a Job Hopper? I talk mostly to folks who hire, asking them to give job seekers with too many short-term jobs on their resumes a chance. There can be good reasons for a few short-term jobs in a row that have nothing to do with the ability of a “job hopper” to be a great employee in their new position.

But in the end, it’s going to be up to YOU to get yourself past the “hopping” label and into that job you deserve!

How to get an employer to see you as more than a job hopper

(1)  How you think about yourself – Despite a history of short-term jobs, I never thought of myself as anything other than a talented person ready to do my best next time. Leaving the past behind (after taking time to think hard about what didn’t work and what you can do to make the next job a success) helps you create that all-important image of a talented and capable person an employer will want to take a chance on.

If YOU believe it, there is a far better chance the interviewer will. You may not realize it, but job seekers often carry their past and their fears right into the interview room. And it shows. And it leaves an impression that, if there’s any doubt in the interviewer’s mind, works against you.

(2)  Give your resume a unifying story – Your resume has a few seconds to make an impression or get sent to the “no” pile. And one of the first things screeners look at is job duration. So if you have any problems in this area, take the time to make your resume paint a picture that is matched as best as possible (targeted) to the job you want. If there is enough of a match, a resume screener may think twice about your resume and give your cover letter a chance to help seal the deal.

Using a skills summary at the top to emphasize your strengths (ones that match what the job description is looking for) can help make your case. Also, if you have some jobs that are less than a year, use years on your resume and exclude the months. Hopefully there will even be overlap of years, such as a job that lasted from August 2011 to February 2012. You’ll have to be honest on the job application and may be asked to explain this in the interview, but it can help get you there.

Also, if you have a few short-term jobs in a row and / or including some gaps, see if there is a heading you can group them under. When I had a few such jobs, I grouped them under “Project Management” with years for dates, even though they were not the same company. If at all possible, come up with a heading that fits well with the new job.

(3)  Put your cover letter to work – A cover letter works with your resume to make case for you and your history being a great fit for the company and job. Even with jobs that may not seem an ideal match, you can use your cover letter (bullet points help) to point out ways that things you have done help make you uniquely qualified for this new job.

(4)  How you talk about prior jobs – Spend some time thinking about the jobs that didn’t work out. Your goal is to take each one of the short-term jobs, and come up with things you learned from them that helped you better understand what you need in a job now, and why THIS new job has what you need. You want to help the interviewer see that (1) you’ve thought this through; (2) you are determined to make this job work well; and (3) whatever didn’t work before doesn’t exist any more or at least not in this job.

And it all has to feel real. Interviewers have great BS detectors. So go back to step #1 and really believe what you’re saying (or find unifying stories you can believe), and of course believe in yourself!

(5)  Come prepared with stories of determination and success – In the back of the interviewer’s mind, even if he or she doesn’t ask you directly, they will be thinking “is this person going to be happy here or cut and run?” So think about stories from your past – work related if possible, but also any stories about things you’ve accomplished outside of work – that show examples of things you did that took determination, commitment, and follow-through. Big bonus points if these examples point to things you’ll be doing or qualities needed for the new job.

(5)  Get support from other places – This is a tough job market, but people do get hired. You’ll improve your chances if you have connections who can help you get in the door – especially if you have a few things in your resume making it harder. When you see a job or company you’re interested in, this is the time to start looking for a possible connection. Friends, family, former colleagues, friends from school – don’t be shy about sending a quick email to find out if they know someone in the company.

You can also use social media to snoop around and see whom you might find. It’s also a good idea to browse the company website for names of staff and Board members – you never know when you might recognize someone.  And if all else fails, find a name of someone in the department and try to address your resume and a great cover letter to the person – they may be willing to at least forward the resume to a human being for you.

Final thoughts

Remember that your most important job right now is to help the employer see how right you are for this particular position, and why everything you’ve learned up to now – even the mistakes – has led you to this place. The past is to learn from. The future is ready for you to create.

Good luck finding that next job!

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