How to explain a short tenure

You’re looking for the job of your dreams. But you’ve not long been in your current role, or your CV has a number of short job stints. What should you do?

Don’t worry. There is probably a perfectly good reason why and that is what you need to focus on.

Just follow these four golden rules:

1. Write a skills-based CV, which focuses on results. The first trick is to focus on your skills and achievements in your CV. This is ideal if there are gaps. The plan is to grab the employer’s attention with your great skills – listed before your education and list of previous jobs - and play down the fact that there were some short stints in your work history.

If you think the employer will want to know more you can explain in the CV why you left each job. Try these explanations: head hunted to new position, made redundant due to recession, company closed its New Zealand (or town) branch, the company’s venture capital money dried up or temporary consulting / contracting assignment and so on.

2. Be ready to tell the truth, but in a polished way. There are ways and means of telling the truth in an interview in a way that reflects positively on you. Even if you are leaving the job from hell say something positive about yourself without being directly negative about the company. That could be: I prefer to work in a collaborative environment and the company culture didn’t tend to encourage that. If you can add what you learned from the experience you’re doing even better.  

Positivity is key, says Sharn Rayner, managing director of Pod Consulting. Ensure you come across with lots of enthusiasm and ideas for the new business, rather than dwelling on the fact that you’ve had X number of jobs this year already. Focus on what you did get out of each experience.

3. Have an answer up your sleeve should you be asked about your job hopping. If you’re going to be asked about your tenure at the interview then stock up on a plausible answer or two to use at the interview.Try practicing these explanations – if they fit your situation:

  • I want to deliver high quality work, but don’t have the opportunity where I am currently.
  • The company is in a state of change and that means that I can’t deliver on the projects as quickly as I would like to. 
  • I prefer an environment that is focussed and committed where I can get behind the organisation I work for.
  • The job role wasn’t well defined and my skills weren’t being used. I’ve learned (explain what) from the role.
  • I’m looking for a position that is a better fit with my experience. The type of culture I thrive in is...
  • I was one of 150 employees made redundant as a result of a merger.
  • This job was short, but I learned A, B and C from it and accomplished X, Y and Z.
  • There’s not much to tell. The job had challenges and I accomplished a lot in my short time, but the fit wasn’t right.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare for the interview. The more time you spend preparing your explanation the better. If possible practice a mock interview situation where you’re asked these tricky questions.

Finally, you’re not the only person out there who has had short jobs. Many employers understand that even great employees sometimes get made redundant or have taken a job that turned out not to be a perfect fit.