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3 Smart Ways to Explain Your Frequent Job Changes

3 Smart Ways to Explain Your Frequent Job Changes
Credit: Ollyy/Shutterstock

Decades ago, it was expected that workers would begin and end their professional careers with the same company. Jumping around from job to job was rare, and often seen as disloyal.

As the practice of switching jobs every few years becomes more common, especially among millennials, employers are taking fewer objections to it, and many even see the value of gaining a variety of skills and experiences from different jobs. But holding too many positions in too short a time may raise a red flag for hiring managers.

"Consistent job hopping on a résumé — especially if every role is short-lived — can be a red flag," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group, a division of Robert Half staffing agency. "Companies want to hire people who will be committed and loyal to their organization, and help them reach their short- and long-term business goals."

How much is too much? The answer may vary depending on the personal views of the hiring manager, but a Robert Half survey of human resources managers found that an average of five job changes in 10 years (or a new job every two years) is the limit.

"You never know how a hiring manager will feel about job hopping," said Bill Driscoll, district president of Accountemps, another Robert Half company. "While some may be understanding, others may question your ability to commit to a job [for the] long term."

"Most [employers] still frown on making changes too quickly, [which] is a subjective call," added Mary Ellen Slayter, a career expert at Monster.com. "In general, you want to avoid stints of less than one year. As you get further along in your career, anything less than two- to three-year stretches can raise eyebrows."

If you are a "chronic job hopper" by these standards, there are a few smart ways to discuss your employment history during an interview that will still sell you as a solid, committed candidate. Here's how experts say you should address frequent job changes on your résumé. [Why Frequent Job Hoppers Might Make Good Hires]

Highlight your transferable skills. In most cases, the type of job hopper employers are wary of is one who moves around in the same industry, taking the same position or job level over and over again, said Ryan Jenkins, millennial keynote speaker and author. However, if your job changes reflect career advancement or a brand-new field, a hiring manager will likely be receptive to hearing about the diverse skill set you've gained from your experiences.

"Job hopping into new industries or new positions can simply reflect [a] desire to gain transferable skills in order to thrive in our flux marketplace," Jenkins told Business News Daily. "A job hopper who has diverse perspectives and skill sets may be the best talent for the shift towards more remote and project-based work of tomorrow."

Driscoll agreed, noting that multiple employers on your résumé might even look better to some hiring managers.

"Employers like to see evidence of professional growth on a candidate's résumé," Driscoll said. "As much as possible, highlight your career progression, which will show a larger purpose to job changes."

Be honest about your reasons for job hopping. If your employment history is full of short tenures, hiring managers will likely want to know why. An employer will be more understanding if circumstances were beyond your control, such as downsizing or a spouse's relocation, but if you chose to leave each time, you'll need to provide an honest, valid reason for your frequent moves.

"Explain why you made each move and how each one helped you in your career," Domeyer said. "For example, did you get to use newer technology, work on more high-profile projects or take on additional responsibilities?"

Slayter emphasized the importance of not getting defensive when you explain yourself — a potential employer won't want to hear a laundry list of excuses.

Show that you want to commit to this employer. Every job candidate should be able to discuss why he or she wants to work for a company, and this is especially true of job hoppers. Prospective employers will be looking for reassurance that you won't leave them in six months, so be prepared to explain what's different now, Slayter said. Connect the common themes of your experiences, and explain how they will help you thrive in the position you want now, for the long term.

"Highlight why you want to work for the employer and your willingness to commit," Domeyer added. "You may even want to express your desire to find a long-term home."

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.