hiring manager

Imagine you’re a hiring manager. You’ve been at your job for two years, and you have every intention of sticking it out for at least five more. So far, you’re satisfied with your work, and you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Which is why, when a job-hopper’s resume lands on your table, you can’t help but raise your eyebrows. Why hire someone who can only last for six months at most on any single job? Seems like the candidate has commitment issues, or has trouble getting along with co-workers.

Besides, it’s not like the market is short of potential employees. If you have to choose between millennial candidates, who seem to be particularly fond of job-hopping, and those rare types who will stay no matter what, the choice is obvious. Hiring budgets are limited, and if a candidate can’t take the heat, they might as well get out of the kitchen.

Now that you understand how hiring managers usually think, let’s talk about what you can do as someone from the other side of the equation, namely a job hunter with a spotty resume.

1. Play up Your Adaptability

Taking on a new job isn’t a cakewalk. Not only do you have to learn new systems and processes from scratch, but you also have to adjust to a culture that may be completely different from what you’re used to. Recruiters are well aware of this, so don’t be afraid to use that awareness to your advantage.

Talk about how you adapted to your new job. Emphasize the skills you learned during the transition. Show that your move benefited not only you as a professional, but also the companies you were involved with.

2. Discuss Your Accomplishments

Feeling that you no longer have room for growth is a perfectly valid reason to change careers. Just keep in mind that recruiters can easily mistake your ambition for impatience, or having unrealistically high expectations of what an ideal job should look like.

To come across as more of a go-getter, prepare facts and numbers that show you’ve done everything you can to excel in your previous job. Talk about achievements that aren’t on your resume, and elaborate on the ones that are. Specify instances that demonstrate why you’re a valuable asset to a company, regardless of your tenure with them.

3. Be Tactful About Bad Bosses

 Being in a toxic environment or having abusive co-workers/bosses are also valid reasons for leaving a job. However, be careful not to use these judgmental, emotional phrases when you answer the question “Why did you leave your last job?” Otherwise, they might backfire on you.

Instead, talk about what you want to move toward, rather than what you want to get away from. Phrase your concerns along the lines of “It’s not them, it’s me.” For example: “Unfortunately, due to recent changes that are no longer in line with my career goals, I decided to look elsewhere for job opportunities that fit better with my skills and values.”

4. Watch How You Project Yourself

As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If you only have positive words for your previous company, and your body language matches what you say, recruiters are less likely to suspect that you have something to hide no matter the state of your resume.

Before you head to the interview room, stand/sit in a straight, comfortable posture. If you’re sitting, put your bags and other belongings on the floor, so you can move gracefully when you need to stand up and greet your interviewer. When the interviewer shakes your hand, use a firm but relaxed grip. Follow through with body language to help you nail that interview.

Don’t let a sketchy resume hold you back from your dream job. The more you focus on what you can do for your new company, the more likely an employer will give you a chance to prove your worth – job-hopping or no job-hopping.


Sarah Landrum is a career expert and the founder of Punched Clocks, a site for professionals looking to grow their career into one they love. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her job search and career newsletter.

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