I regularly come across a resume where the candidate has held numerous positions of short duration. Positions lasted one to four months, and not contracted, short-term positions where these durations are expected. The typical definition used to address these professionals is job hopper.  If you have this on your resume, be aware of what the hiring manager is thinking when he/she sees this on your resume.

  1. How long will they stay with my company if I hire them?
  2. Could they not get along with their team(s)?
  3. Were they let go for incompetence or poor decisions?
  4. Was there a problem with showing up to work or showing up on time?
  5. Was substance abuse involved? Something worse?

If you don’t want your resume to raise any red flags like this, stay at each position for at least a year, or have as few short-term durations of employment on your resume as possible. In today’s market, you can explain the once-in-a-lifetime, huge opportunity that came along and you had to take. Just be ready to explain any job you held under 12 months. Keep in mind that your resume is your opportunity to market yourself and your abilities.  If you worked somewhere for less than three months, should you put that on your resume?  There are some valid explanations for occasional short-term employment. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Contract loss
  2. This was a short-duration contract job
  3. Poor health
  4. Family emergency

Be aware that employers are looking for competence and consistency.  Review your resume with a critical eye and address perceived shortcomings.  Keep in mind that perceptions ARE reality until they are proven incorrect.  If you do have short-duration work engagements in your resume, try and showcase them in a way that does not raise any red flags.  Provide detail without giving the recruiter or hiring manager anything to be suspicious about.

  • Group contracted positions together under one period of employment, or maybe a period where you were working for yourself or doing freelance work. This allows you to highlight the skills and expertise you performed/gained while also showing dedication and consistency, even broad experience.
  • Be ready to answer questions from the hiring manager about each position and your reasons for leaving.

How Recruiters Can screen a Job Hopper

As a hiring manager or recruiter, what do you do when you have a resume like this? Make sure the candidate is able to answer questions about his/her reliability and competence. Be fair and comply with existing rules and laws governing employee selection. Document everything as you normally would. Like anything else, balance the need you have with the risk you may incur, and make your decision.

Some folks just can’t keep a job, or have a rough patch in their job history. This does not mean they can’t or won’t be a great employee for you. If the short duration work was earlier in their career, but recent jobs show a longer duration, that is a good sign that whatever the problems were, if any, they appear to have been corrected.

How Long Should Employees Stay With Each Company?

You may wonder how long you should remain with any one employer.  I recall hearing years ago that if your goal is salary increases, the optimal time to remain with any one company is 2-3 years.  There may be some truth to that.  For example, let’s say you are hired as a technician out of the military. A couple of years later, you obtain a degree in your field. Will your company promote you to higher levels of responsibility? If they do, will they also give you a salary that reflects your degree and level of experience, or will you need to change companies in order to achieve fair compensation?

I always tell my guys that I will take care of them when it comes to things like this. In fact, I say that your job is to do what is best for your career and family. My job is to make sure that you see staying here at this company as the best way to satisfy those goals.  It is always the responsibility of the employee to be their own advocate or agent.  Not every company will do this for you.  In fact, in my experience, most do not.  Be your own agent.  Be responsible for keeping an eye on your own career progression.  Talk with your supervisor or manager about career progression.  Annual reviews are a great time to do this. Plan your career – don’t let it just happen. Like the Army slogan, ‘Be All That You Can Be.’ Just don’t be a job hopper.

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Todd Keys is a Program Manager at Cantada, Inc. He has been in the intelligence Community for 30 years, as a member of the military (USAF), and as a contractor for top 100, top 10, and small business federal defense contractors. He has held multiple roles, CONUS and OCONUS, ranging from technician to executive, providing site O&M, system administration, engineering, supervision, contract management, and Capture/BD for the DoD and multiple intelligence agencies.