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Answering Interview Questions about Frequent Job Changes

If you've had frequent job changes in your career, you may need some advice on how to answer the "job hopping" question in your interviews. Employers favor candidates with a track record of staying a “reasonable” amount of time at previous jobs. They assume the past predicts the future and so the candidate will stay as long as they’re wanted at their company.

The kicker is the meaning of “reasonable amount of time.” The current thinking places a minimum stay in a job at two to three years. This arbitrary time frame does not mean that you shouldn’t cut your losses and leave if you’re in a bad job — circumstances vary widely. It does mean you need to give plenty of thought to how you handle a job-hopper question and deal with it in a logical, convincing, and upbeat answer.

The sample interview question below appears in bold, followed by effective ways to respond to this question:

You’ve changed jobs more frequently than is usual — why is that?

  • List accomplishments on each job that relate to the position you seek. Note that you built new skills in each job. Say that you’re a person who contributes value wherever you go.

  • Give acceptable, verifiable reasons why you changed jobs so frequently — project-oriented work, downsizing, dead-end positions, company sold out, or the department shut down.

  • Say that you’ve become more selective lately, and you hadn’t been able to find the right job until this opportunity came along; explain your employment travels as a quest for a fulfilling job.

  • If this move is a career change for you, show how your experience and skills support this change and how the position fits your revised career goals.

  • If your positions were for temporary agencies, cluster them by responsibility and recast them as evidence of your use of cross-functional skills in many situations.

  • Ask whether this is regular-status employment. If so, admit you’ve lacked some commitment in the past, but now you’re ready to settle down with a good company such as this one. If not, say a temporary job is just what you have in mind to keep your skills refreshed with experiences gained at various companies.

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