Complex Made Simple

Make short employment stints on your CV work for you

Our CVs are often dotted with instances of short stays at workplaces where you only lasted a year or less. How do you explain those to recruiters?

The best answer is to always be truthful It’s not uncommon to have a gap of 90 days or less on a resume Emphasize how the experience of working alongside different leadership styles has accelerated your learning

Does having short employment stints on your CV always come up in interviews? Our CVs are often dotted with instances of short stays at workplaces where you only lasted a year or less. How do you explain those to recruiters? Do you not mention them in the CV and hope HR departments never find them?

Let’s start with career coaches on LinkedIn who shared their advice on this.

Experts on LinkedIn say…

Be honest

Kerene Strochnetter said: “The best answer is to always be truthful. Shape your answer honestly and succinctly. So long as you take responsibility for your career decision or circumstances and can explain how the experience helped you grow, I don’t see a problem with short career stints, no matter how brief.”

Kate Morton: “I think it shows courage to be honest about your experiences. Not everything works out and often it is better to cut your losses and move on than stick out something that wasn’t for you.”

Be proud, it’s the modern way

Sarah Felice: “One of the key trends of 2020 and 2021 is people, including senior executives, being offered contract roles. In today’s market, I think the greater danger is staying at an organization for too long. It’s important to stay nimble and versatile.”

Jane Jackson: “As the gig economy is something that everyone is familiar with now, short stints are not unusual. Professionals may choose to take on short-term contract roles which may be six weeks, six months or longer.”

Consider changing the format of your CV

Lois Freeke: “Grouping shorter stints together and indicating when it was a contract or short-term role on the resume will help the reader understand it is not necessarily a red flag that the applicant is a ‘job-hopper’.”

Sarah Burgess: “If it’s very short, like a couple of weeks and then you left because it didn’t work out, I’d probably suggest not adding that to the CV. At an interview, you could mention it.”

Sophia Poulos: “The key thing to discuss or put on a cover letter is what was achieved in the period of work, rather than focusing on what is missing.”

Remember, look after yourself first

Andy Agouridis: “Employers should understand that anyone may find themselves in a job that isn’t the best fit once in a while. If this is the case, feel free to move whenever you need to. If a minority of recruiters don’t like this, it’s their issue, not yours.”

Job gaps and short jabs  

Red flags can call into question a candidate’s commitment, performance, and reliability. But it’s not uncommon to have a gap of 90 days or less on a resume, as employers can assume you were in transition. If the job was 90 days or less, you could consider leaving it off. 

And companies are typically willing to move past short job stints as long as what really matters is there: applicable skills, strong work ethic, a track record of achievements and a history of delivering value, the right attitude, and motivation. 

Regardless of how short the job was, the odds are you likely obtained some new skills or knowledge that is beneficial throughout the rest of your career. Be sure to address this on your resume as well. 

Employers like to see that you were able to make the most out of a short stint.   

When you are asked about a short job stint, it’s important to display confidence and professionalism and keep your explanation short and concise. If you ramble, don’t make eye contact, or come across as negative or defensive, this may lead the interviewer to believe you’re not being completely honest.

Explaining short stints

If you think the employer will want to know more about your short stints,  you can explain why you left each job directly on your CV. 

Try these explanations: I was headhunted to a new position, was made redundant due to recession, the company closed its branch, the company’s venture capital money dried up, had to go on paternity leave, was hospitalized for some unknown disease and you were eventually cured. Even better is if you say you took time off for education or reskilling, but there is always the ‘I was made redundant due to recession’  or shifted to a consultant or contractor role.

Red flags can be raised for those of us who’ve had multiple jobs over a short period of time. This can raise a couple of concerns with interviewers: Will this candidate struggle to sustain a commitment to a single role or organization? Does this candidate have chronic performance issues?

Given these considerations, there are a few key strategies you can use to preempt your interviewer’s concerns if you’ve hopped between multiple positions:

  • Emphasize how the experience of working alongside different leadership styles has accelerated your learning and professional growth.
  • Highlight how the experience you gained by working across industries and the exposure you acquired to best practices in different types of organizations increased your breadth of knowledge and competence.
  • As for unplanned departures such as being fired, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind when thinking about how you’ll explain the situation:
  • Instead of focusing on the problems with your last position, do the difficult work of finding the positive aspects of your experience with your former employer: What did you learn? What relationships did you build? What goals did you accomplish?
  • If you were fired, address it head on.  Explain that the company/environment/role was not the right fit, or that there was a change in leadership or direction that changed expectations/dynamics, etc. Always emphasize the lessons you learned.