What to do if you look like a job hopper

A job hopper is someone who frequently switches jobs. A list of short-term positions is a warning sign for an employer because it appears that they would not be a loyal employee. A job hopper would be a waste of money for the company to train only to have them leave shortly after, forcing another candidate to be found. If your resume makes you look like a job hopper, here is some advice for you.

What are the reasons for leaving your previous jobs? There are plenty of common and understandable reasons to leave a job after only a short time: student jobs, summer jobs, contract positions, seasonal positions, changing locations, etc. If you fall into one of these categories, don’t worry – you are not a job hopper.  Do note in your resume that the job was not meant to be long term, such as: “Office Assistant – 8 week internship” “Summer Landscaping Services” or “Team Supervisor (Contract Position)”.  The date of your diploma, certificate or degree will explain summer student work.

Do not put unrelated jobs on your resume. Clean up your resume and only include the jobs that are most applicable to the one you are applying to. It will look better to appear to have a few months of unemployment between great jobs, then constantly jumping from one employer to the next. If you were only with an employer for a few months, there’s not going to be much experience or accomplishments gained anyway. Focus on detailing your accomplishments on the most applicable jobs, rather than listing every single job in the last 3 years.

State that you are looking for a long-term career in your cover letter. After a string of short-term jobs, it’s important to be clear that you do not intend to leave your prospective employer soon. Mention long-term goals such as building your career within the company, or being a part of the company as it passes an important milestone.

Prepare to defend yourself in the interview. You may be asked why you left a certain position, what your career goals are, or how you can be trusted to stay with the new company for any length of time. Your history does not speak well for you here, so you need to persuade the interviewer that you intend to be a loyal employee for at least a few years. Have good reasons why you left your previous employers: culture misfit, commute, long hours, relocation, struggle with tasks; not ‘flighty’ reasons: wanted to travel, wanted a new challenge (after 2 months?), became bored, didn’t like a co-worker. Your 5-year career plan should involve staying with the same company, whether it is moving into a supervisory or management role, or becoming a dependable and expert source of knowledge in your field. Consider your goals and prepare an argument that will show you are someone who will be loyal and stable for the next several years.

In the past, it was common for people to stay with a single company throughout their career. Nowadays, it is more likely a person will have several jobs throughout their working life, and especially when they are just entering the workforce. Keep in mind, however, that having several jobs over 45 years means moving companies every 5-10 years, not every year. Companies still value employees who are dedicated and reasonably loyal, not ones they have to replace after a few months.