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Overcoming a Job-Hopping Image in Your Resume

Holding five or more jobs in ten years can brand you as a job hopper — even when it wasn’t by choice. Job-hopping can be a red flag to potential employers. Use your resume to provide explanations that emphasize your accomplishments and downplay negative factors.

In the 21st century, the notion of job hopping is as far out of a reality circle as the concepts of job security, company loyalty, and a guaranteed company pension. Many people find that they have to take virtually any job they can to survive. Adding insult to injury, some employers cling to a double standard — hiring and firing employees like commodities, then looking with disfavor on applicants who have had a glut of jobs by circumstance, not by choice.

Emphasize accomplishments in your resume

Even employers who are guilty of round after round of employee dismissals instinctively flinch at candidates they perceive to be hopping around. Take pains to reverse that disapproval.

Review your resume for accomplishments that enhance your image, such as the following:

  • A fast learner: Give examples of how your skills aren’t company-specific and you rapidly adjust to new environments.

  • A high achiever: Show favored skills much courted by headhunters, and at the end of each job mention, put “Recruited for advanced position.”

  • A quick adapter: Mention examples of agreeable flexibility in adjusting to new ideas, technology, and position requirements.

  • A relationship builder: List praise from co-workers for commitment to team success.

If your current joblessness comes after a background that a quick-change artist would admire, use your resume to prepare the way to acceptance. Emphasize project completion and career progression, using years not months. If you still have trouble landing interviews, use positive statements in your cover letter to tackle your history.

Cleaning out your job closet

Large numbers of people have to write resumes that explain holding too many jobs in too short a time. The harsh realities of business may force you to detour from a single career path to alternative tracks where you can acquire new skills and experiences, even if they’re not skills and experiences of choice. If so, you need serious creative (but truthful) writing to keep your resume focused on the work history that is relevant for the next job sought.

Use these workarounds when you find that you have too many jobs in your history:

  • Start by referring to your diversified or skills-building background.

  • Use a functional resume or hybrid resume format and present only your experience relevant to the job you seek.

  • Alternatively, you can list jobs relating to the position you now seek first under “Relevant Work Experience” and cluster the nonrelevant jobs under “Other Work Experience.”

  • Express your work history in years, not months and years.

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