Not too long ago, it was common for people to work for one company for a lifetime. The lucky ones would retire after 30 years with a gold watch and a pension. Times have changed. That kind of commitment is difficult to imagine now—today's workers switch jobs frequently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average number of jobs in a lifetime is 12 for the baby boomer generation.
While switching jobs is largely considered acceptable, there are exceptions. If your resume is dominated by short-term stints exclusively, and you have a pattern of leaving positions regularly, hiring managers may see you as a job hopper. That's a label you want to avoid—companies generally don't like to hire job hoppers.
If you have moved from company to company frequently, staying only a short time in each job, here is how to make sure your resume looks strong and how you can avoid the dreaded job-hopper label.
Why Companies Want to Avoid Hiring Job Hoppers
One thing hiring managers look for is patterns. A good pattern is someone who's been promoted at every company. Not so great? Regularly departing jobs yearly. For hiring managers, this type of pattern indicates that a candidate won't stick around, and they'll need to rehire for the position quickly. On the flip side, staying too long in a job can be an issue too.
Companies often avoid job hoppers because hiring and onboarding new employees is expensive.
From time spent interviewing to training and onboarding, adding a new employee takes up a significant amount of time and company money. Why go through all that effort to replace someone in six months or a year? Hiring managers are eager for candidates who have the necessary skills and background and will stay in positions for a significant amount of time.
7 Strategies to Downplay Job Hopping on Your Resume
Your resume is your best opportunity to tell a story about your career, so make sure you're telling a good story, one that makes you look like a loyal, dependable candidate. Here are some ideas for ways to have your resume deemphasize frequent job switches.
Have a Strong Summary Statement
At the top of the page, your summary or objective is a great—and prominent—way to tell your story. You can say things like "X years of experience as a marketer" or "looking for a long-term position where I can grow" to emphasize your length of experience and desire to stay in a position for a long time.
Don't Include Everything
If you worked for two years at one job, two months at the next, and then two years at the next job, it's totally acceptable—and advantageous—to leave off the position where you only worked for a few months. That way, you won't have to discuss it during interviews, and hiring managers won't see the potential red flag while reviewing your resume. As well, consider omitting jobs that aren't relevant to the title you want next, or positions held many years ago.
Consider omitting jobs that aren't relevant to the title you want next, or positions held many years ago.
Look for Opportunities to Combine Jobs
Did you work as a contractor for a period, employed in short-term blocks with a few different companies? Group these positions together. This strategy is helpful for freelancers or folks who work in fields that have an ebb and flow to the work rhythm, such as TV producers.
Make It Clear When the Job Hopping Was Involuntary
An employer may look upon job hoppers who leave positions for more money or a better title negatively. That's not generally true for people who leave involuntarily because of layoffs, restructuring, or a company that goes out of business.
Leave Off the Months
Often, resumes make dates very prominent. But it doesn't have to be that way. The eye sees what's called out, so rather than emphasizing dates by aligning them in an easily scannable column, move them to the end of the job description. Consider using the years worked only, which can make it seem as if you've had longer stints.
Make Your Contributions Clear
One of the main concerns about job hoppers is that they leave before they make the company's investment worth it. Hiring a new person—from interview time to background checks to training—isn't cheap. Yet if you were at a job for only a year, but were able to do something transformative, play that up. You can even consider formatting your resume to include an accomplishments section — this will put the focus on your achievements, and off the time you spent in different roles.
Try a Functional or Hybrid Resume
Probably the most commonly used resume format is chronological. But it's not the only option: you can also create a functional resume, which emphasizes your skills and accomplishments. A combination resume (also sometimes called a hybrid resume) marries the two formats so that employment history is listed chronologically, but accomplishments and qualifications are also prominently highlighted.
Sample Resume for a Frequent Job Changer
Check out this example of a resume that deemphasizes the candidate's frequent job shifts by grouping together a series of temp positions, explaining that one position ended when the company shuttered, and deploys objective and qualification sections.
Download the job hopper resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Sample Resume for a Frequent Job Changer (Text Version)
300 5th Avenue
Middletown, CT 12345
To obtain a position as an administrative assistant or office manager and help shape and stabilize a company's operations.
- Strong communications and problem-solving abilities
- 5+ years of experience in support, coordination, and scheduling for busy companies
- Proficient in Microsoft Office, content management systems, Adobe Photoshop
ADMINISTRATIVE AND OFFICE MANAGER EXPERIENCE
ABC COMPANY, Middletown, CT
OFFICE MANAGER (2020-Present)
Oversee onboarding for new employees, including welcome lunch, training, and introduction to staff benefits.
- Supervise administrative assistants, order supplies, and coordinate all in-office meetings and staff training sessions.
SMITH COMPANY, Middletown, CT
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT (2019)
- Answered phones at reception desk in lobby; oversaw the meeting room schedule.
- Primary customer-facing representative, responsible for resolving or escalating problems and concerns.
TEMP ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT (2019)
Worked with various temp agencies to fill in as an administrative assistant. Had several long-term placements, including as a maternity leave fill-in. Quickly adapted to office systems, making improvements as necessary.
XYZ CLOTHING STORE, Middletown, CT
SEASONAL SALESPERSON (2018-2019)
Assisted customers; worked at the cash register and helped with inventory and stocking new merchandise.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY, B.A. in English and American literature, 2018