Debate: How to explain a short stint on your resume
Yesterday my colleague Peter wrote that you should omit short term jobs or jobs where you were fired from your resume. He called it ‘lying’, but I think it’s a grey area. (See: The lies you should actually tell.) Well with all due respect to the opinion of our editor-in-chief, I think there’s other, less murky, ways to go about explaining short term stints.
Gaps in a resume are one thing but how, in an interview, do you explain leaving a job after a few months, or worse, getting fired in short order?
It’s a very rare occasion that someone starts a job only to be let go a few hours after the fact, but it happens. It recently happened to a new employee at an independent record label. On his first day he wrote what the company deemed was an inappropriate response to a customer complaint. Regardless of all the circumstances, who’s right or who’s wrong, the now ex-employee has a resume decision. Do you include being hired for a cool job on your resume when it ended in you being fired on day one? In this particular case, it’s a relatively easy decision. I’d agree with Peter and say don’t include the experience. But, what if you’ve put in more time than just the one day?
Quitting a job after a few months is a big decision. You always want to leave gracefully and with respect. However, explaining a short stint can be tricky when interviewing down the road. A future employer will inevitably ask why you left, and will want to know or get a sense of whether or not you were fired for some reason or if you’re a job hopper who will similarly leave them.
Including a position on your resume which you held very briefly, can be a red flag for employers and hiring managers; particularly if it has happened more than once and you’re not a contract worker. Unless you were only with a company for a week or two, it’s worth including short-term employment. Even if you worked a month or two you most certainly learned something only if it was to realize that the job or company wasn’t the right fit.
There are a number of ways to explain a short stint when interviewing. The key is to relieve concerns that this is common practice, that you are in fact reliable and to place a positive spin on why you left.
It’s fine to leave a job if, after a few months you realize the work isn’t what you had expected, or the position isn’t moving in the direction you’d been led to believe it would. Leaving for these reasons reveals you’ve learned valuable lessons and demonstrates a level of awareness and maturity about the direction you are interested in taking your career–good things for a potential employer to know. It is also fine to leave if the environment isn’t a good fit.
Explaining a short work stint can be daunting. It is generally best to refrain from telling a potential employer you left because you were offered something better. Focus on skills you learned while working and be positive about the experience. Moving on for a better fit, or to further round out your experience is good information for a potential employer. Just remember, the goal is to relieve concern, not to create more.
And always, regardless of the past situation, speak highly of former bosses and colleagues.