Interview Prep

Here are some tips for helping with interview prep. This is crucial if you want to get a job fast. Why have you changed jobs so frequently? The Real Question: Will you leave this job

Here are some tips for helping with interview prep. This is crucial if you want to get a job fast.

Why have you changed jobs so frequently?

The Real Question: Will you leave this job mere months after we hire you?

Top-line Tactic: Explain each move in terms employers can sympathize with.

In the past, a person would often stay with a particular company for decades. This is not so common today. Thanks to economic uncertainty, redundancies and the greater instability in our early careers, times have totally changed. One recent survey found that 91 percent of young people expect to stay in their jobs for less than three years.

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But while “job hopping” may be the new normal, that doesn’t stop interviewers from being nostalgic for the good old days of long stints of service. Many continue to view frequent job changes (say less than a year for those early in their career and less than two on more than one occasion later on) with suspicion. The more you’ve moved around, the more they’re likely to wonder whether you’ll abandon ship mere months after they hire you, leaving them stuck paying the considerable costs of your recruitment without accruing much benefit. Alternatively, but just as bad for you, they could conclude that it’s your shoddy work that’s forced you to move on repeatedly.

Therefore, you need to take this question very seriously. What sort of answer is unlikely to reassure the interviewer? Certainly anything that makes you sound simply flaky (“I was bored”), mercenary (“Another company offered me a bit more money”) or incompetent (“It was clear I wasn’t going to get a promotion” or, worse, “There just wasn’t anything for me to do for some reason”).

So what sorts of explanations will an interviewer usually sympathize with? There are several:

  • Short-term contract/project-oriented work: The job was never intended to be long-term in the first place.
  • Relocation: Obviously you couldn’t keep working in city A if you needed to move to city B for personal reasons.
  • Career advancement: If you were unable to grow or develop your skillset with one employer (perhaps due to its size or market niche) and an opportunity to learn and grow at another came up, it’s understandable that you would seize the chance. Employers will appreciate your ambition.
  • Change of employer type: Some people who work at large companies yearn to join a small firm. Others find themselves in a lone-wolf position when they want to work with a team. If you needed to make a switch to find the right working environment, explain that decision with confidence.
  • Structural changes at the company: Did a particular client pull their business unexpectedly? Did a cost-cutting exercise result in the merging of departments or the closure of an office? Interviewers understand that these sorts of changes are beyond the control of most people and may mean you have to move on. Be warned, though, they might ask why you specifically were the one to take the fall. Hopefully you can give them a good reason that has nothing to do with the quality of your work or interpersonal skills.

However, explaining your various job moves in a way that owns your missteps is only half the battle. Once you explain why you left those other jobs, you also need to spend a little time reassuring the interviewer why you definitely won’t be leaving this one.

If you explain a lateral move by saying you had a strong desire to gain international experience, for instance, it’s important to then note either that the global scale of the company you’re currently interviewing for makes it a perfect place to continue in that direction, or, if that’s not the case, that the travel bug is now out of your system. If you go into detail about why company X wasn’t the right fit, make sure you spend some time explaining why this company most assuredly is.

Framed this way, your many jobs can be sold as a long, qualification-building quest in search of the perfect position, a position that you’re thrilled to be interviewing for now.

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