How to explain job changes is a critical piece of being prepared for an interview. Even if you haven’t had a lot of job movement (which in this day and age means staying 5 years or longer on average at each employer), you need to be prepared to explain job changes. If you have a jumpy history and change jobs ever 3 years (or less), then you REALLY need to be prepared to explain your job changes. Here are some basic guidelines:
- Be Prepared – you should have rehearsed answers prepared about why you are looking to leave your current job, and why you left previous jobs. This is interview 101 level advice, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people aren’t thoroughly prepared for these questions. Script out answers and rehearse them!
- Be Honest – you may have some difficult to explain job changes. You may have some very easy to explain moves. Be honest about reasons for making moves. If your employer went out of business, relocated, sold the business, etc., these are honest answers that basically absolve you from a potential red mark on your resume. If your reason is a bit more delicate (unreasonable boss, you were fired, personal issues with colleagues, etc.) you may have to prepare for a difficult conversation. Tell your side of the story, but don’t misrepresent facts.
- Sell Yourself – when discussing reasons for past job changes, put on your salesperson hat. Reasons for leaving past jobs can be used to “sell” yourself to the current employer. For example, if you left a employer due to the stagnant performance of the company, you can make that into a reason why you want to work at the new company (if they are in fact growing). Another example would be moves due to company size or industry. If you are trying to crack into a new industry space or larger/smaller company size, you can explain job changes this way. Make prior job changes tell a story about why you have been building towards working for the type of company you are currently interviewing with.
- Don’t Be Too Negative – if you’ve had a really bad experience at an employer, explain the bad situation, but be careful not to sound too negative. Additionally, if you seem to have had multiple “bad experiences”, you need to be really careful when explaining these as multiple “personal reason” moves might send up a red flag.