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Handling Short-Term Jobs on Your Resume

Posted On05/17/2017

ContributorNelson Jobs

Should you Include Short-Term Jobs on Your Resume?

It happens to just about everyone at some point in their careers. It’s likely happened to you, as well. You conduct research, actively search for jobs, go to multiple interviews, and finally land a job that seems to match your key requirements. Yet several months or even weeks into the gig, you find yourself at odds with your new employment situation.

Maybe you and your new boss don’t see eye to eye on your role at the company. Perhaps the job description and your actual duties are worlds apart. Or maybe the role requires a higher level of skill or experience that you don’t quite have yet. As you decide what to do next, you must consider how to represent this mismatched short-term job on your resume and how to discuss it in future interviews.

What is a Short-Term Job?

What an employer considers to be a short-term job may depend on many factors. There is no standard length of time that qualifies a job as short-term. Companies whose employees are very tenured may seek new hires with a track record of 5+ years at each job and consider a two-year stay short term, while other companies may look for new hires with more variety in their backgrounds and be more forgiving of multiple six-month roles. However, if you’re with a company for less than a year, it is important to address why to maintain a good impression throughout the hiring process with other companies.

There are generally three types of short-term jobs:

  1. Contract or temporary positions. Contract positions or roles found through a temporary staffing agency are not expected to be permanent. Hiring managers and recruiters understand if you’ve had these types of positions and say these types of jobs will not reflect negatively on you as a candidate, so don’t worry about explaining these jobs other than pointing out they were contract roles.
  2. Positions that were short term because you left. It can be a gamble to decide to leave a role after a very short time. On one hand, this action can show decisiveness and an unwillingness to settle for mediocrity. On the other, it can signal an inability to follow through on commitments. This type of position doesn’t have to be detrimental to your hiring potential if you address the situation correctly.
  3. Positions that were short term because the company let you go. More challenging situations occur if the short-term nature of the position wasn’t your decision. Mergers and buyouts can lead to job changes. Businesses may also let good employees go for economic and performance reasons.

Whether or not leaving was your choice, you still need to consider how to best approach short-term jobs on your resume and effectively discuss them with hiring managers. You need to be able to explain what happened, what you learned from it, and why the same thing won’t happen in your next role. Here are a few resume tips and interview tricks to help you navigate this topic with ease.

Leaving a Job off Your Resume

Many career experts and recruiters will advise a job seeker to leave a short-term job off their resume, particularly if that person has a solid work history and the job offers minimal value. If you have 10 to 15+ years of progressive work experience with one not-so-hot, four-month gig that tarnishes your otherwise impeccable career history, then it’s advisable to leave the job off your resume.

Recruiters and hiring managers are human, too. They understand that few people have a perfect career history. Wowing a recruiter with your experience and accomplishments makes it more likely for them to overlook or forgive a three- to six-month gap in employment.

If you do include the short-term gig on your resume, consider offering a brief description of why the position was so transitory – especially if there was an external factor that led to your tenure being brief. Simply list “company restructuring” or “company was sold” in parentheses. Brevity can work in your favor to prevent recruiters from assuming the worst-case scenario.

Including a Short-Term Job on Your Resume

On the other hand, if the short-term gig proved worthwhile, you might consider including it on your resume, after all. Consider what you’ve gained from the larger experience. What new skills did you learn in this short period of time? What did you accomplish or take away from job? Will these add to your viability as a candidate for another position? It’s all about perspective, so try to gather as much useful information as you can to list in your resume. There’s no rule that a short-term job can’t offer value.

Recent college graduates or entry level professionals might also find it better to include positions that lasted less than a year, as gaps in employment history can be more noticeable.

The Interviewing Conundrum for Short-Term Gigs

The above resume tips for addressing short-term jobs on your resume will help you get started with your job search. But when you land a job interview, what’s the best way to address a short-term role? Here are a few interview tips to help.

Be Brief and Move It Along

If an in interviewer brings up a gap in employment or asks why you were in a position for such a short time, then focus on what you learned from the short-term experience to present it in the best light. Though you want to be positive, you still want to be truthful.

For instance, politely and professionally reveal that you and your boss had a different vision of the position and its responsibilities. The two of you were at an impasse, and you left the company with a much better sense of what’s important for you to look for in your next role . If you had another role after the short-term one, share what you learned from your mistake and how you applied that to finding another position – and why the next position was a better fit. This can help you transition away from the negative and back into positive conversation about your work history. Resist the temptation to lambast your former jefe; calling him or her an inept, micromanaging you-know-what will only make you look bad.

Don’t Focus on The Short-Term Role

Though you want to have a concise answer at the ready to explain that short-term gig, it is not necessary or advisable to offer it up unless directly asked. There’s a chance your recruiter might not care enough to bring it up, particularly if the rest of the interview is going swimmingly.

Practice Makes Perfect

Hopefully, you know you should always be prepared when you walk into a job interview. Practicing ahead of time what you’ll say about that short-term job can help you feel prepared to address it in a real interview. Try role playing with a friend to get the feel for explaining it live so you’re not caught off guard if it does come up in an interview.

There’s no need to get overly concerned about short-term jobs on your resume. By using these interview and resume tips, your dream job could still be within reach!

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