A history of unexplained brief job tenures can raise a red flag during the job search process. Let’s look at how to explain short-term jobs on your resume and during job interviews, so you can smoothly move past the issue to more positive subjects.
Handling Short-term Jobs on Your Resume
First, let’s be clear that by “short term jobs,” we’re not talking about temp jobs or contract roles. We’re talking about jobs that were intended to be long-term, but ended after less than a year.
Include the months if the job spanned fewer than three calendar years. Although it isn’t always necessary to specify the months you started and ended each of your jobs (and often it’s best not to, in order to reduce clutter and cover gaps), it’s different if you started and left a job within the same calendar year, or within adjacent calendar years. Why? Because “2019-2020” could mean anything from a tenure of one month–from December to January—to two full years. For clarity, include the months for any jobs like this.
If the job was extremely brief, think (carefully) about leaving it out. 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. Some reasons for including the brief job might include the following:
Would your resume show too little experience if you left off that job? This may be the case if you have very limited work experience.
Did you accomplish something impressive during your short tenure?
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 took place within the past few years.
Handling Short-term Jobs in Interviews
Be truthful but tactful. If asked why you left a job off your resume, you might say “Since it wasn’t a significant amount of time, it didn’t seem relevant to mention it. I’d be 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 about that question will be helpful, and also my post about handling sensitive and negative issues in job interviews.
Handling short-term jobs on your resume and in interviews is a difficulty you can overcome. Even if your work history isn’t perfect—as is the case for most of us—you can still do an excellent interview if you focus on communicating your skills and accomplishments effectively.