Career

Here’s How To Handle Being Asked About Job Hopping in an Interview

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Joanne Poh

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So you’ve given your boss the shaft one time too many, and now your resume reveals what can only be politely called a “chequered past”. If your last two or three jobs lasted no longer than a year or two, you’re in danger of being questioned by potential employers about your apparent job hopping habit.

The good news is that in Singapore, changing jobs fairly frequently is an accepted practice, and at any one time an estimated 71% of workers are on the hunt for a new job. If you can deal with an interviewer’s probing questions with finesse, your chances at getting hired won’t be damaged too badly. Here’s what to say.

 

Got a good reason for leaving a job? Make it known

If you have a legitimate reason for leaving a job within two years, make sure it is known to the interviewer. If possible, communicate the reason on your resume, and be sure to tell the interviewer if you are asked for more details.

Basically, any reasons that were beyond your control and do not reflect badly on your performance at work should be communicated to a potential employer. These include the conclusion of a contract and retrenchment. If you were working in a contract position, it’s always a good idea to put the word “contract” in brackets after the name of your post on your resume.

 

Emphasise that you performed well at work

While some employers are worried that a job hopper won’t demonstrate loyalty to a company, most are really just concerned about the fact that you left your previous jobs so quickly because you were incompetent or couldn’t get along with others. To allay such fears, it is imperative that you impress upon your interviewer that you did well at work.

When asked to talk about your past work experience, be sure to give examples of instances where you performed well, such as by exceeding sales targets for a certain number of months. Using numbers to quantify performance is always a solid way to remove any ambiguity as to how you “exceeded expectations within your job scope”.

 

Don’t badmouth your previous employers or colleagues

No matter how much of a jerk your former boss was or how uncooperative you found your colleagues, never, ever badmouth them to an interviewer. It doesn’t matter if you feel wronged by some injustice they inflicted upon you. If you’ve demonstrated a history of job hopping, prospective employers are going to be concerned that you might have left due to an inability to get along with people.

For this reason, it is in your best interests to give them the impression that you got along with everyone at your previous jobs. Never badmouth anyone you worked with, and when questioned about your previous working environment try as hard as you can to sound positive or at least neutral. You’ll be surprised how many people aren’t able to do this and inevitably mess up a good job opportunity just because they get overly negative.

 

Give reasons why you wanted a next job rather than reasons why you wanted to leave the previous one

It is generally considered acceptable to leave a job for better opportunities elsewhere. Job hopping in order to escape a job you hate, on the other hand, is not. Bear that in mind when crafting your answers to questions about why you chose to ditch a former job. Focus on the positives of the new opportunity that awaited you rather than the negatives of the preceding job.

If you left a job because they were doing badly and you weren’t receiving enough work, talk about the greater opportunities afforded to you by your next job rather than harping on the shortcomings of the first. If you complain too much about jobs you left, you risk sounding like a bitter person who’ll leave their employer in the lurch at the first sign of trouble.

Have you ever been questioned about job hopping? Tell us how you dealt with it in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.