How to Explain “Job-Hopping” on Your Resume during an Engineering Job Interview

How to Explain “Job-Hopping” on Your Resume during an Engineering Job Interview

If you are one of those engineers that has had 3 or 4 jobs over the past 6 years, you’re not alone.  I have spoken to many engineers who are either unemployed and looking for a job or currently working but looking to switch employers and they are dealing with the same obstacle.  How do you explain all of the different jobs you have had over the course of your engineering career?

Here are a few tips based on my various experiences hiring engineers and providing career coaching to engineers in transition.

1.  Never leave a job that you have worked at for less than a year, unless it is unbearable.  This is more of a pre-emptive measure, but an important one.  Believe me, I’m the guy who preaches to engineers that you absolutely must love what you do or it’s not worth doing, but you have be smart about your overall resume and reputation.  If a job isn’t what you thought it was going to be, stay as long as possible and learn as much as you can from the position.  Unless there was an extreme circumstance like the company going out of business, a job where you worked less than a year on your resume can basically be replaced with the words DO NOT HIRE ME.

2.  Use the economy as an excuse only if it’s a legitimate one.  If you have had several jobs in the last few years, you can’t just attribute this pattern to the economy – period.  You must give a more detailed explanation than that.  Consider the financial health and age of the industry that you are in.  For example, if you work in the energy sector, it’s still a young sector; companies die and new ones start every day.  Mention this in the interview and detail your specific situations.  If the company you were working for went out of business then explain why and how you have grown by going through that experience.

3.  Give at least one reference from each company that you worked for.  This may be difficult depending on how many jobs that you have had, but giving a reference from the companies that you worked for (especially the ones where you worked for the shortest period of time) will help boost your credibility with a prospective employer.  If you left a job after 6 months, yet you have 2 references from the company, than maybe it wasn’t you after all; at least let’s hope they think that.

4.  Address the topic of “job-hopping” before they ask about it.  If you are prepared to speak about your employment history by using some of the strategies above, come out and do it before they ask.  Be on the offensive rather than the defensive.  Say something like, “I would like to address my job experience over the past few years.  As you probably saw on my resume, I have had 3 jobs in the past 5 years and I would like to take a few minutes to explain why this happened and give you some details of each situation.  This is not something I am proud of, but I assure you my explanation will make you feel more comfortable about my capabilities and potential value to your company.”  Remember, offensive NOT defensive.

5.  Make it clear to them how you can fill the specific need that their company has.  They are most likely interviewing you because they have to fill a certain position and if you are a “job-hopper” and they called you for an interview, be assured that they love something about your resume.  Find out early on in the interview what the specific need is that they are trying to fill with this hire and tell them every single reason why you are the PERFECT fit to fill that specific need.

Again if you have been job-hopping in your engineering career, you are certainly not alone, but make no mistake this will be an obstacle to finding a new opportunity.  I hope that these 5 tips will help you to overcome this obstacle and find a job where you can settle down and create an extraordinary engineering career!

This is a guest post by Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success. Anthony found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website and subscribe to the top 3 resources Anthony has used to become a partner in a firm at the age of 27.