A history of brief job tenures can raise a red flag during the job search process. In this post I’ll tell you how to explain short-term jobs on your resume and during job interviews, so you can move past the issue smoothly and quickly.
What do I mean by “short term jobs”? I’m not talking about contract or temporary roles. This post is about jobs that were intended to be permanent, but ended after less than a year.
Dates of short-term jobs on your resume–should you include months?
For jobs that spanned fewer than three calendar years, include months in the dates. Although it isn’t necessary to specify the months you started and ended each of your jobs, it’s a different matter if you started and left a job within the same calendar year, or within adjacent calendar years. Why? Because “2022—2023” on your resume could mean anything from one month (from December to January) to two full years.
If you were only on the job a month, “2022—2023” would be a little deceptive, wouldn’t it? When the truth came out in the interview, you’d lose credibility and trust.
On the other hand, if you were there for two years, “2022—2023” doesn’t make that clear. By including months, e.g. “Feb. 2022—Dec. 2023,” you’ll get credit for nearly two years of experience.
Should you put short term jobs on your resume?
Let’s say you took a regular, permanent job but left after several months. Should you include it on your resume? There are various factors to weigh in your decision. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Would your resume show too little experience if you left off that job?
- Did you accomplish something impressive during your short tenure on the job?
- Would omitting the job leave a major gap?
- Might prospective employers feel deceived if they later discovered the omission? (Some wouldn’t but some would, especially if the short job was fairly recent.)
After weighing your answers to all of these questions, make a judgment call. But do realize that while it may be acceptable to leave the job off your resume, you probably won’t be able to leave it off of job applications, which generally ask you list all past employment.
Handling short-term jobs in interviews
Be truthful but tactful. If asked why you omitted a job from your resume, you might say “Since it wasn’t a significant amount of time, it didn’t seem relevant to include it. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my time there.”
Then, be ready to answer the question “Why did you leave so soon?” My post “Why Did You Leave That Job?” will be helpful, and also “Handling Sensitive and Negative Issues in Job Interviews.” Interviewers may also ask questions to probe whether you had good relationships with co-workers and your manager, what you liked and didn’t like about the job, your weaknesses and mistakes, and so on.
To explain short-term jobs on your resume and in interviews is quite possible once you’re prepared. Even if your work history isn’t perfect—as is the case for most of us—you can still do an excellent interview. Prepare for the tough questions, but don’t obsess about them. And above all, focus on drawing attention to your skills and accomplishments.