How to handle short-stint jobs on your CV and at interview

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Here, we’ll look at how to go about explaining short-term roles on your CV and at an interview with honesty and transparency.

Whether it’s because the company has been forced to downsize, you’ve realised you aren’t the right fit for the role or some other reason, there’s a chance you might have had tenures at organisations that were shorter than expected.

If you quit or were let go, then these short stints can often have something of a stigma attached to them. Though the average person makes seven career changes in their lifetime, a CV stocked with itinerant, impermanent positions is still viewed negatively. However, it’s important to take note of the fact that there isn’t a right amount of time to spend at a company. Every scenario differs from the last.

Much like gaps in your CV, short-stint jobs are just a small part of a bigger picture. Here, we’ll look at how to go about explaining these short-term roles on your CV and at interview with honesty and transparency.

Prepare for questions ahead of time

Look at your CV from a recruiter or employer’s perspective. Assuming such a frame of mind lets you see whether any short stints stand out. If these periods do look conspicuous to you, then look to answer the questions you might be faced with beforehand.

smartly dressed male shaking hands with female employee

What’s key is that you’re comfortable with things; short stints in a job aren’t necessarily a bad thing, though a recruiter will likely want to know more. You might have reservations about what the recruiter thinks about your short stints, but don’t jump to conclusions. If you assume they’re judging you, then here’s where answers can get vague and unsatisfactory.

While it can be tempting to cover things up with excuses and avoid answering the awkward questions, it’s better to answer things calmly and honestly. A clear approach is far better than attempting to sugar coat things; the last thing you want to find yourself doing is lying to the hiring manager.

Be diplomatic in the face of negativity

It could be the case that your short stint was due to the negative culture of the company, which prompted you to leave. If you bring this up at an interview, then be sure to handle the topic with care. Sure, it may have been an awful place to work, but speaking poorly of former employers is always something of a red flag for recruiters.

It’s far better to be diplomatic if the question arises. Accentuate what positives there were while noting that it was time to move on because progression lay elsewhere.

Young Indian business executive having job interview

Try not to make it an issue

Though it might seem like a big deal to you, the hiring manager or recruiter may not have given your short stints a second thought – they wouldn’t have decided to interview you if it was a major concern for them, after all.

Only talk about it if you need to. If your interviewer broaches the topic first, then, by all means, explain if it’s necessary. But there’s no need to make a bigger deal than it needs to be.

Emphasise your experience

No matter how short your employment was, there’s a chance you still learned something valuable that can be of benefit. Rather than emphasising the amount of time, turn your attention to the valuable things that you learned. Was there anything you worked on that could be applied to the job you’re interviewing for? Did you gain experience in a new field?

Recruiters like to see how you made the best of a negative situation, so show them how you turned your short tenure into a positive by focusing on results and experiences.

Graduate at job interview

Additionally, mention what the job revealed about your career goals too. Perhaps you realised that you prefer small businesses over big corporations, or that you favour a certain management style over others. Stressing the importance of what you learned is always a good idea, especially if you can link it to how it led to the particular job you’re interviewing for.

Is there a journey towards commitment?

Perhaps you’ve had a series of short stints, but there is a noticeable pattern that points to commitment and progression. If this is the case, then these individual periods might not matter to the hiring manager.

Providing you can explain your transitions, then show that these multiple short stints add up to a longer commitment. Remember, these incremental transitions are not necessarily noticeable on a resume chronology – make it clear on any kind of cover letter and expand on them further at interview.

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