Reframing Job Hopping During an Interview

Two women discussing in a meeting

For a long time, having a decade or more tenure at the same company listed on your resume made you an ideal candidate because it demonstrated your loyalty to your employer. Today, having a long tenure on your resume still makes you very marketable, but if it’s there, it likely has less to do with loyalty and more to do with the incentives a company is offering. 

Between economic, labor and technology evolutions, it’s now easier than ever for workers to look for and apply to new jobs, and pack up their desk and move on to a different company with more potential. More potential might look like better pay, increased flexibility or a job that’s more in-line with your lifestyle these days. Or perhaps you found yourself in a situation where you’ve had a large swath of temp jobs, consulting gigs or other employment that isn’t as long term for reasons outside of your control. The concern with either scenario is that the narrative around employment tenure hasn’t quite evolved to accommodate them, and switching jobs frequently can earn you the label of “job hopper.”

Job hopping is a bit of a myth because there are all kinds of reasons why a resume may list several jobs in a short amount of time. For instance, a lot of workers today have side hustles, are freelancers or consult for a living, and having multiple clients at one time would deem them as successful, not directionless. Additionally, anyone working in an in-demand field will get a lot of job offers, and who can blame someone for wanting to advance their career when given the opportunity? 

No matter how justified your reasons are for why your resume looks the way it does, if a recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t buy into the idea of “job hopping” it can be a hurdle for job seekers. At some point, you might need to address and/or explain your colorful job history to a recruiter or hiring manager, so do it on your own terms by reframing the narrative.

Be honest and confident

You have two options for addressing your career history: you can either bring it up on your own if you feel like you need to get ahead of it, or wait for the recruiter or hiring manager to bring it up. Either way, your attitude about the topic will set the tone for the conversation, so you’ll want to come across as the confident and empowered professional you are. There is no need to defend your work history or apologize for it, but you may want to spin it a little bit, depending on the situation. 

If your history as a freelancer or consultant is the reason why your resume looks the way it does, that’s a pretty simple explanation and you shouldn’t have to go into much detail. You may want to explain that the roles were project-based or short-term contracts to ease the interviewer’s mind a little bit, but anyone familiar with contract and freelancing work will likely understand that this is the nature of the business. 

If your resume has several traditional roles in a short amount of time, however, you’ll want to start by being honest. Did you move companies for promotions? Was your family a driving factor in your decisions, if so, why? Were you offered a better salary or benefits? Whatever it was, explain how each ‘hop’ was an investment in yourself and your career.

Example: As you can see I’ve held various roles at different organizations, each with progressively higher titles. Unfortunately, the companies I’ve worked for in the past didn’t have clear career growth plans. I’d like to work for a company with these kinds of plans in place and who promotes from within. 

Put them at ease

Recruiters and hiring managers want to find the best person for a job opening, and often in their mind, the “best person” is someone who will stay in that role for a long time. So, if you’re finding that they’re putting a lot of focus on your job history, pivot the conversation in a way that will put their worries to rest. Talk about your long-term career goals and how well they fit in with the company’s direction, express interest in the business’ five or ten-year plan and come right out and say you’re looking for an employer that will invest in you as much as you invest in yourself. 

Example: My hope is for my next move to be long-term, at a company where I can continue to advance my career in-house.

After the interview

Once the interview is over, if you feel like more time was spent focusing on the duration of your jobs than on your level of experience, give your resume, LinkedIn and website a fresh edit. Just like you can reframe a conversation, you can also reframe your portfolio to better highlight your accomplishments and downplay your career moves. 

Rather than using the bulk of your resume space listing out your job history in traditional chronological order, categorize and condense your experience under several headers instead and then list your chronology further down on the page. This will shift the focus from job history to the amount of time you’ve put into mastering essential skills, which is really what a recruiter needs to know, anyway.

Example:

Accomplishments
Process Improvement  2010 - Present

  • Milestone / Accomplishment
  • Milestone / Accomplishment

Marketing Campaign Development 2013 - Present

  • Milestone / Accomplishment
  • Milestone / Accomplishment

Employment History
Job Title 1, Company ABC, 2010 - 2012
Job Title 2, Company XYZ

Take ownership of the narrative

The most important thing to remember is that this is your career story to tell, and there’s no need for you to apologize for or defend any length of employment. During your interview, frame your work history in a way that speaks to the experience you’ve gained, and then take the opportunity to demonstrate why that experience makes you the perfect candidate for the job you’re interviewing for.


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- September 13, 2021

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