Author Topic: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?  (Read 1977 times)

hhehe45

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I'm looking to get out of my current job soon. The business is privately owned and is sinking fast. People have been let go, pay cuts, etc. I was told I was next and have been looking like mad for other jobs.
I landed an interview this week. But I'm nervous about it because this is the first opportunity I've come across in about 8 months and it seems like a good one. It's a lunch interview followed by an office tour and I'm really out of touch with interviews at this point as I haven't been on one in about 4 years (it was a disaster). I was planning to offer to pay for my own meal... Not sure if I should wear a suit or just business casual... Someone even told me to order the same thing as everyone else...? So any tips would be appreciated as well.
But my biggest issue is that I've changed jobs often since I graduated school. I'm sure they'll ask about it and I need some answers that are positive and explain my decisions well. Here's my job history:

Job #1 Left after one year mostly because it was very one note. My degree took 8 years total to obtain and I was only doing one thing I was trained for. I left that job for a place where I could stretch myself and use my training more. (It's not highly unusual in my field for people to do that, not knowing what they want right away. I think their current employee is leaving after being there for a year, and just graduated last year). There were other reasons for leaving but this is usually what I tell people.

Job #2 Left for a pretty simple reason: they started cutting my hours down to part time and made me use my PTO for it. I managed to stick it out for a little over a year since I thought that would look better on my resume.

Job #3 (held for 4 years) Left because I wanted to be closer to family

Current job-held for about a year. I honestly have nothing good to say about it. I should've stuck it out at job 3 for longer and waited for another opportunity. I only moved here because my family are all here. I'm not sure if that's a good thing to tell people or not...? Also.... Current job and job #1 are the same place. I know this employer well, we left on good terms. I knew they were desperate for a new hire at the time so I took my chances and came back. This area is sparse when it comes to jobs in my field so I didn't see many other options.

If it does comes up at the interview, should I one by one give my reasons for leaving each place or just try to come up with a nice statement like, "well my job history is extensive but I've learned a lot from each place...." that kind of thing?

Paul der Krake

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2018, 10:55:18 AM »
You're way overthinking this... nobody cares if you've had 4 jobs, and definitely do not offer to pay for your own meal.

Also, job #2 sounds illegal as hell.

COEE

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2018, 11:01:41 AM »
For lunch I'd suggest not eating anything messy.  Ex: spaghetti, salad, etc.  Don't speak with your mouth full.  It's a tricky balance for sure.  Wear a suit.  Probably lots of good advice if you search online.  Don't order the most expensive thing on the menu.  Depending on your industry it is standard for the potential employer to pay for the meal.  Don't feel bad about it, but thank them.  Also be ready and willing to pay for your own meal, but don't offer, IMHO.

So you've been in industry for 6 years and had 4 jobs.  Not terrible, but not great either.  The trick here is to stay positive and truthful and spin it to improve yourself rather than knock your employer.

#1: You left to seek more applicable work to your profession and grow your practical knowledge
#2: Was not as good of a fit for you as you thought it would be because of [ something other than because you weren't getting enough hours ]
#3: You left because you wanted to be closer to family and because the new company offered [ Some sort of technical reason ]
#4:  I'm looking to move because [ think again of some technical reason that makes you look good ].

Don't EVER bash your past employers.  At least not until the new job is secured.  I'd be looking for a job you'll be at for a while too.  3 years at least.  You want to show staying power to future employers.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2018, 11:08:51 AM »
4 jobs in 7+ years is not job hopping. I doubt this will even come up. Job hopping would be like 6+ jobs in 7 years...

All you have to do is explain that your goal has always been want a stable, full time position with a bit of room for growth. You don't have to get into the details unless they press, and you can then tell them that in every case, the ~1 year jobs did not have steady full time positions. Period. The one you stuck around 4 years? That's nothing to be concerned about at all. You left after 4 years due to a move. "I really enjoyed working at COMPANY, but I needed to move and landed at CURRENT COMPANY."

I can't imagine any company scheduling a lunch meeting and not paying for their interviewee. It's a business expense. I hate because it's awkward to eat and talk unless you're buddies tho. So that's annoying, but very unlikely you'd need to pay. If you're super paranoid, you could just make sure you brought enough money to cover, but if they make you pay, that's a pretty shitty move on their part and not at all standard. I personally usually order something small and light because I don't want to be shoveling in mouthfuls of food during the questioning process, but just eat neatly and take reasonable bites, chew with your mouth closed and be personable. Ordering what others order is generally good, but don't go fussy (ask for lots of adjustments) unless you have food allergies. Be super, duper nice to any wait staff.

See this extremely helpful Ask A Manager post for details:
https://www.askamanager.org/2013/03/my-interviewer-wants-to-meet-over-lunch-and-im-freaking-out.html
 

Smile, be confident, make decent eye contact and use short, factual, non-negative answers.

Example Question: Why are you looking for a job now? What's happening with the place that you're wanting to leave.

You: I really love what I do, but I am looking for a strong and positive company environment, I would like a full time position that can give me room to learn and grow. I've really appreciated the opportunity I've had at "current company" but it seems like there's not much else I can do there due to size/limitations (and say it is because it is a small family owned operation with limited long term potential for you). They are nice people, but I really think I'd fit better with "whatever this new company is like."

What is the dress code like at the company? If it is tee shirt/jeans, then wear business casual for an interview. Nice dress pants, button down long sleeve tucked in, nice tie, hair and overall appearance as neat and smart as possible. And wear NICE SHOES. I HATE it when someone dresses business casual and ruins the overall look with crummy shoes or sneakers (happens more than you'd think). If it is business casual, wear a NICE version of that, and a full suit wouldn't be bad either. Generally default to one step up from the overall dress code for interviewing but never lower than "business casual" dress. Even if a full suit would be "overdressed" for the office, this is an interview where you're putting on your best demeanor and selling yourself. The packaging should be really nice and smart looking.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2018, 11:11:46 AM by Frankies Girl »

hhehe45

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2018, 11:30:39 AM »
Excellent advice, thank you all. Iím a bit insecure about the job history because my last disaster of an interview they grilled me about it. They said it appeared I had changed jobs a lot. At the time I didnít think of it as ďa lot.Ē It really caught me off guard. Plus a lot of people in my field tend to switch jobs often.

Sibley

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2018, 06:41:32 PM »
In general, go read Ask A Manager. she's got interview advice, cover letter, resume, etc.

Telecaster

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2018, 07:40:48 PM »
If it does comes up at the interview, should I one by one give my reasons for leaving each place or just try to come up with a nice statement like, "well my job history is extensive but I've learned a lot from each place...." that kind of thing?

Back in the day, if you had a resume' like that you were seen as a "job hopper."  But that's not really the case anymore. If it comes up, and that's unlikely, frame it like this:  I was an company XYZ for a period of time, then I wanted new challenges so I moved to company ABC so I could continue my professional development."

Classic turn your weakness into strengths ploy.  But these days jumping from job to job is seen as aggressive and a positive.  Use that. 


Michael in ABQ

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2018, 10:29:41 PM »
I just participated in reviewing a dozen resumes, selecting the applicants, and phone interviews with the top four. My boss took the lead but the person she hires will be working with me and I might be supervising them at some point in the future. This was my first time ever participating in hiring and it was interesting seeing the variety of resumes. This is a federal job, GS-11 (decent position, just below management typically). Some were pretty terrible, huge blocks of small text that were hard to parse out what they actually did and their accomplishments.

The top few candidates definitely stood out. Good relevant experience and skills, education, etc. One guy almost made the cut because he was actually in the exact same job with a different federal agency across the country. What did him in was that he listed literally every single job he's ever had since the 1970s. It seemed liked every year or two he'd change jobs and it was stuff like security guard, painter, truck driver, etc. Some of them were less than a year. Does he have a drinking problem and couldn't hold down a job? Is he just unreliable? Don't know but at the end of the day we decided he was too unstable.

Another guy we did interview had a couple of gaps in the last few years and was currently unemployed. Felt a bit bad for him but he came off as really nervous and definitely finished at the back of the pack. I didn't notice the gaps when I initially reviwed his resume but the other two people who were looking at them did.


To the OP, you got to the interview - that's the important part. Most people don't want to interview a dozen candidates so you're already in the top 3-6 probably. If they specifically ask about the multiple jobs or short times then explain it succintly as you did in your post. If they don't bring it up and it doesn't benefit you to mention it, then don't. I think a pretty typical question would be "why are you leaving your current position". Make sure you have a good answer prepared. Frame it in a positive light "I'm looking for opportunities to grow and my current position is limited". Saying that the company is going under isn't a terrible answer either, but don't come off as desperate.

Lanthiriel

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2018, 01:49:16 PM »
It looks like we're at about the same places in our careers. I started job #5 in 9 years a couple of months ago. My employment history is 3 years (company went bankrupt 6 months later and laid everyone off), 2 years (was worked to the bone for no $$), 3 years (loved the job but had to move states after husband lost his job), and 1 year (the worst job ever). I thought for sure I was shooting myself in the foot looking for a job after a year. It never came up. I got a ton of interviews and a strong offer at the job I really wanted. If you're a good candidate, can clearly articulate your accomplishments, and are polite and well dressed at the interview, you're fine. You don't want to work for someone who grills you about your employment history anyway. Good luck!

Lady SA

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2018, 02:40:23 PM »
For lunch interviews, I usually eat a good snack before the interview and then order something small and easy/not messy to eat during the actual interview. I am much better on my game if my stomach isn't rumbling, and I'd rather concentrate on talking with the interviewer than stuffing my face. So the more you can help keep the focus where it should be, the better! Don't order anything you have to eat with your hands if you can help it, using utensils will keep you looking/feeling neater.

I totally agree with brushing off those questions about the short stints by saying "those companies unfortunately didn't have steady full time positions, so I had to move on. I have always been in search of a full time, stable role that I could grow roots with." or something like that.

Relax, try to view this as more of a discussion than a high-pressure interview, and be sure to come prepared with your own questions -- this is your time to interview the company as well! Ask about the management style, growth opportunities, team structure, etc. These can help signal your genuine interest in the position and paint you in a good light because you are appearing to do your own due diligence.

GuitarStv

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2018, 03:04:31 PM »
So you've been in industry for 6 years and had 4 jobs.  Not terrible, but not great either.  The trick here is to stay positive and truthful and spin it to improve yourself rather than knock your employer.

#1: You left to seek more applicable work to your profession and grow your practical knowledge
#2: Was not as good of a fit for you as you thought it would be because of [ something other than because you weren't getting enough hours ]
#3: You left because you wanted to be closer to family and because the new company offered [ Some sort of technical reason ]
#4:  I'm looking to move because [ think again of some technical reason that makes you look good ].

Don't EVER bash your past employers.  At least not until the new job is secured.  I'd be looking for a job you'll be at for a while too.  3 years at least.  You want to show staying power to future employers.

+1

Although for #4 I'd say that the reason I was changing jobs is that the opportunity they're offering looked like a great match for my skills (and then launch into why you're perfect for the job.

hhehe45

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2018, 06:37:01 PM »
Thanks again!! I'm not feeling quite as stressed about it as before. Maybe it won't even come up but I'll be more prepared if it does.

nick663

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2018, 06:50:13 PM »
Only thing I didn't see mentioned was why you went back to the first company.  I would acknowledge that when describing your career trajectory (if it comes up) and make sure it meshes well with why you left the first time.

For lunch interviews, I usually eat a good snack before the interview and then order something small and easy/not messy to eat during the actual interview. I am much better on my game if my stomach isn't rumbling, and I'd rather concentrate on talking with the interviewer than stuffing my face. So the more you can help keep the focus where it should be, the better! Don't order anything you have to eat with your hands if you can help it, using utensils will keep you looking/feeling neater.
Agreed, especially if there is more than one person you're eating with.  3 vs 1 results in 2 of them having a break to eat while the other asks a question so it's hard to keep up.

MilesTeg

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2018, 10:06:13 PM »
Hmm 4 jobs in and of itself is not a problem. Sounds like you stuck with #3 quite a while and #4 is something you are being let go from. If asked just say the truth, that you've been notified you are being let go in the latest round of layoffs. May sure you mention latest round, as often 'being laid off' really means 'got fired' but not if there are multiple rounds of it.

fuzzy math

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2018, 09:19:55 AM »
Research the company and have some stats to quote. I don't think it's a bad thing to state if your former job was cutting hours or the current one is doing layoffs, as long as you are able to turn it into a positive. "I'm searching for stability, a place to settle into to hone the following skills etc _____"
Remember you are also looking for a good fit, so it's easy to ask questions that make them talk about their experiences or the company etc. A lot of times people don't even remember what they talked about or even if you were asking the questions and they were answering instead of the other way around. They're probably looking for ease of conversation and whether you seem like you'll get along with the group.

Agreed with a previous poster that you don't even want to be working at a place where they'd harass you about being a job hopper. That's old school thinking.

Cali

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2018, 09:42:07 AM »
Four jobs in 7 years is not job hopping.

MustacheAnxiety

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2018, 12:54:03 PM »
Lots of good advice already.  I am with the camp the 4 jobs in 7 years is not too many.  Have a short, positive response ready for why you want to leave your current position.  Personally, I would leave out that you are "next" on the layoff list, but you can say although current company has given me a great opportunity to ____, they have gone through a few rounds of layoffs and I am looking for a place with long term growth opportunities. 

Other stuff:
If you have anyone that can be a good reference from your first 3 employers make a list and offer it up as evidence that you were a good employee.  Just make sure to notify references in advance.
Come up with a bunch of questions to ask and bring them in your portfolio (along with extra copies of your resume)?
 - Include a mix of general questions (e.g. what qualities make people working her/for you most successful?), questions from your research about the company, and questions from your research about the people interviewing you.  If you don't know who is interviewing you ask your contact to provide a list.

It is generally a good idea to have breadth (know a little about everything) and depth (know a lot about one area that interests you) when researching a company?
Make sure to ask questions about your role, advancement, opportunities, etc. both to show you are interested and to give you an opportunity to make sure this is a place you want to work.  Also people love to talk about themselves so your interviewer will enjoy answering your questions.

People generally believe what you tell them.  Give confident, succinct answers and you will be fine.

catccc

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2018, 10:10:03 PM »
I had 6 jobs in 6 years followed by a 1 year of unemployment.  The unemployment was my choice, I had decided to stay home for a year with our first baby.  4 jobs in 7 years will be fine.  It's really not a problem, and if they think it is for some reason, they will overlook it if you are the right person for the job. 

When I returned to the workforce with my job hopper resume in a terrible economy (late 2009), I had contract work within a couple weeks and two offers for permanent employment within a couple of months.  I was personally worried about my ability to stay put, but it turns out I was safe to take a bet on... the job I took had me for 4 years.  I moved on to greener pastures in 2014 and I've been at my current employer for 4 years and counting now.

Cwadda

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #18 on: August 28, 2018, 10:16:59 PM »
Quote
I was planning to offer to pay for my own meal...
I think it's pretty standard for the employer to pay for the meal. However, in these situations I always offer to leave a tip. It's very classy IMO.

Altons Bobs

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Re: Job history is. lengthy, how do I explain to potential employers?
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2018, 10:36:49 PM »
I don't think your job history is going to be a problem. Just be honest. I had 5 jobs in 4.5 years after I graduated college. I don't remember if any of them asked me why I job hopped. The 6th employer came looking for me, I wasn't looking for a job, I ended up staying there for almost 6 years.

Just be confident and be honest, you'll do fine. Good luck!!