How to Explain Job Hopping in an Interview

It’s nice to see job hoppers have found acceptance in America and Europe. But here in Asia, job hoppers are still the target of scorn and distrust. The notorious “hopping vampire” of Chinese film is a metaphor for job hoppers here. Or maybe I just made that up. But whatever the case, job hoppers here have a problem in interviews; Singaporean employers are big on loyalty, and the following excuses are a must-learn:

 

Person filling an application form

“I’m taking a month off to fill in 400 job application forms. It’s totally not because I’m job hopping again.”

 

What’s Job Hopping?

Job hoppers are people who rotate jobs frequently, about once every 18 months. In Singapore, most job hoppers are between 22 – 32, although some continue well into their 40′s. If you have five or six jobs on your resume, none of which last longer than two years, you’re in this category.

Job hoppers aren’t discriminated against because of skill. In fact, job hoppers tend to have above average performance. That’s why they can change jobs so often: If your work stinks, you wouldn’t dare file that many resignations.

But that’s also why companies loathe job hoppers: They’re assumed to be arrogant, mercenary, and demanding (mostly true). So what can a job hopper do to get around it?

 

Pogo Stick

“Certain tools are essential to my career choice.”

 

1. Say You Took The Initiative

You didn’t job hop because you sucked at those jobs. This is the first and most important thing to clarify. You must emphasize that you chose to leave, due to factors you could foresee.

Every other point on here hinges on this one. Mention how quickly you informed your employer, and emphasize you foresight. For example, you could say:

“This is a competitive field. To get my edge, I needed to grow my skills. I made a decision to move around and build experience.”

 

Police cars

“I have heaps of initiative. I was writing my resignation long before the police arrested me.”

 

The functional words are “I made a decision”. You don’t want to come off as a victim, who had to be ejected like snot out of a nostril. It’s better your prospective employer wonder “Why does this guy keep leaving?” instead of “Why does this guy keep getting sacked?”

A warning: Even if it’s true, never state that you left because your ex-boss had the IQ of a Lima bean, or because the company was less organized than an asylum breakout. Never criticize or bad-mouth your previous employers.

 

2. You Wanted to Apply Your Knowledge

If you’re like many degree holders (over half our graduates in 2010), your first job was as relevant to your degree as shark hunting is to flower arrangement. Sometimes, this mismatch continues into the second or third job.

State that you were seeking a job “more in line with my qualifications”. First, because it explains your continuous job hopping. Second, you want to clarify that your problem is opportunity, not competence. Some employers will assume that: “Hey, this guy has a finance degree but has never worked in banking. Maybe he just sucks at it.”

Local employers are wary of paper-chasers; people who did well in school, but have no real passion or understanding of the subject. By saying that your job hopping was to move to the right field, you’ll dispel that notion. Emphasize that you job hopped because you want a specific career; one where you can apply what you learned.

 

Martial artists in military camo

For example, I was trained to kill a man in 7 seconds. So naturally, I found a job involving property agents.

 

3. You Want To Make a Difference

A variation of this is “I want more responsibility”. But frankly, that’s as believable as your nine year old son saying: “I would like more homework”. The following are easier to accept:

  • I would like to apply my expertise, by being in a decision-making role
  • I want to fully realize my potential
  • I want to make a difference in this industry

 

Tech support guy

“I said I wanted to make a difference in the world of home telemarketing. That’s when he stabbed me.”

 

Stress that you job hop because you’re ambitious. You’re not looking for a job where you paperclip documents and whine about the coffee-maker all day. And even though your last jobs were well within your capabilities, you didn’t feel challenged.

Why do this? First, it suggests that you’re seeking advancement, and you think the interviewer can provide. This is the interviewer’s cue to discuss how promotion works. Second, it demonstrates that you’re assertive and energetic.

 

4. Changing Financial Situation

If you had student loans or medical bills, job hopping is easy to explain. You just need to assure the hirer the problem has been settled. The way you phrase things will make all the difference. For example:

  • If you chased money as a student, say “I supported myself while studying”.
  • If you had medical bills, say “I was able to pay for $X medical treatment for many years.”
  • If you simply chased money, say “I was pursuing the financial security I now enjoy.”

 

Marked, destroyed bank money

“My financial situation was variable back then. It depended on how quickly the bank called the police.”

 

All those reasons say the same thing: First, that you won’t need to job hop any more. Second, that you are a competent and flexible worker. Be on the lookout for a follow-up question; if they ask how your current financial situation is, say that: “My finances are now stable, and this afford me the opportunity to find more permanent work.”

Image Credits:
jamestruepenny, woodleywonderworks, Gamma Man, DVIDSHUB, mikecogh, colin.brown,

Do you job hop? Comment and tell us how you handle interviews!

Get more Personal Finance tips and tricks on www.MoneySmart.sg

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