If you find this article useful, most of my blogging is now done at Job Tips For Geeks.
If you have been in the software development business for more than ten years, odds are that you have at least three or four different employers listed on your resume. Many dot-com era veterans could have more than ten separate companies listed on your resume, and although the fact that you worked for three failed start-ups probably was not your fault (was it?), your resume still may raise some red flags to hiring managers and HR professionals that typically scan the piece of paper that tells your story and could seal your fate. You may have left a few employers due to odd circumstances completely out of your control, and you probably left on good terms.
‘Job hoppers’ are often assumed to be disloyal to their employers or below-average performers, but that assumption can be completely avoided once the reasonable explanations are divulged. So what are the best ways to explain your full job history on resumes and also in interviews so that you don’t get the label of ‘job hopper’?
Let’s start with the resume. If you think you may be labeled a job hopper, one way to quickly avoid the label is to write a brief explanation of why you left the company. Something as simple as “Reason for leaving: Company went bankrupt” or “Took maternity leave”, placed just before the details of the next job will suffice. This is extremely important for contractors or those of you that have had short or medium term contracts (under two years) between your permanent positions. Contractors should specifically state which positions were contract employment. Only include a ‘Reason for leaving’ if it is something that you did not control. It is not recommended to put down that you left for more money or because your commute eventually became unbearable, as those will be red flags for future employers who will assume that you will leave them for higher paying competitors or jobs closer to home.
In interviews, you should fully anticipate that the question about your job history will be asked if you have had several jobs. Expect on every interview that you will be asked about why you left any companies where you had a short stint – have an answer prepared and try to keep it as positive as possible. If you can provide a reference or two from those companies, that will be incredibly valuable, even if the company no longer exists or if the reference no longer works at that company. Positive references are the most proactive and effective way to avoid the job hopper label.