Intelligence @ Work

Interview

How To Address Frequent Job Changes During Interviews

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career change

IvyExec is proud to introduce a new addition to our blog: Bradford Agry, of http://www.careerteampartners.org. Brad will be taking your questions that you can submit in the comments box.

Question of the week:
If I have changed jobs frequently how can I effectively address this in interviews?

A participant wrote me after a recent webinar I delivered on how to be effective during formal interviews. She shared with me her concerns: “I have changed jobs often during my career and wonder how one can address this positively in an interview. Is there a good way in which you can do this so not to be labeled a “job-hopper?”

I will start by suggesting that in summarizing the arcs of our careers even though there may be a number of entries on our resumes, we need not explain in detail every juncture or change. Interviewers initially want to get a “bird’s eye” view of whether you have the skills to do the job they have in mind. Generally, when an interviewer poses a kind of “ice-breaker” question like “tell me about your work history” it is a good idea to have a succinct statement (often called an “elevator pitch”) prepared which communicates where you have been work-wise and where you are looking to go next. If, in fact, you have had several jobs of shorter duration or changes in career there is no need to dwell on this but merely mention them in passing as part of your “whole story.”

An example might be: “I previously worked in advertising for several leading firms such as X and Y. At one point, I segued into public relations seeking to build my corporate communication skills, before realizing what I really wanted to do was client-side marketing which is what I have been doing for the last 6 years at S and T. At this point, I would like to transfer this client-side experience in package goods to the financial services arena.”

Often, you will encounter people who will want to look at every job and “drill deep” as to why you made frequent job changes. My best advice is to be honest as to what caused the changes in jobs. Even if a job was not a good fit or unhappy experience, find some positive aspect of it that you have learned from it. Perhaps it may have given you a new skill but the culture was not a good fit. Don’t be afraid to show the pluses and minuses of these past experiences in a balanced and direct manner.

If you have tried a new career and it was not what you planned for, use this same technique of succinctly stating why you went into it, what changed from your initial thinking and what you learned from it. The focus in your conversations with your potential employers should always be on the future : what you, based on the full picture of your career, can do for them.

brad

About the Author

Bradford Agry is Founding Principal of CareerTeam Partners, a New York City career management consulting firm. Agry works with individuals in industries ranging from finance to marketing to communications helping them identify and actualize career transitions. He also functions in the role of executive coach and corporate trainer, working to improve leadership and management skills of individuals within their various organizations. He has been retained by Columbia Business School as an external coach as part of the school’s Program for Social Intelligence.

  • Jason Sanders

    As an executive recruiter, this is one of the trickiest issues that my candidates face. In my experience there are three reactions to frequent job changers: 1) show-stopper, 2) doesn’t matter, 3) explain it to me so that I can get comfortable.

    A job seeker will never win over #1, so it’s better to just move on. With #2 the question either won’t come up, or it will be tangential to the discussion, so won’t need to be addressed. #3 is the tricky one and I would advise a candidate to address the question, but not dwell on the answer or defend every point, as Brad suggests.

    Almost everyone joins a company with the idea of staying for a while, and so I think job-hoppers are generally looking for a home, and not intrinsically motivated toward frequent moves. In that case, the trick is to find the right fit so that the employer and employee can both be happy. If you take that point of view, it may be easier to have confidence in your track record and try to solve the question of whether there is a good overall fit, instead of a narrow focus on specific changes.