How to Talk About a Short Job Stint in Interviews
What a world it would be if we could all strut into interviews feeling completely confident and qualified. But, if you’ve ever job hunted before, you know this typically isn’t the way things work.
Instead, there’s usually at least one pesky, negative thought that keeps echoing around in your brain, causing you to feel as if you aren’t quite good enough to land that position.
Maybe you only have three years of experience when the requirements ask for five. Perhaps you consider yourself proficient with Excel—but, you don’t exactly fill the “expert” shoes the description is asking for. Or, maybe you have a really short job stint hanging out on your resume that you think sticks out like a sore thumb.
That last one is definitely enough to plant seeds of doubt that can quickly undermine all of your self-assuredness and cause your interview to be a total flop. After all, you’re convinced that a ridiculously short employment period only makes you look like a flaky, undependable, noncommittal job hopper who hits the road when things get tough—and, who would want to hire that person?
But, rest assured, you’re not alone—plenty of people struggle with how to address relatively brief jobs when interviewing. I know it can be complicated, but it’s definitely not impossible. In fact, implementing these five key tips will help you talk about that short experience in a way that actually makes it seem like a true benefit.
1. Don’t Make It an Issue
Have you ever had a blemish on your face that made you feel completely self conscious? As a result, you probably went around to everybody saying, “Oh, gosh, please ignore this giant pimple!” And, the funny part? They might not have even noticed, had you not come right out and broadcasted it to everybody.
Think about your short job stint this same way (well, it’s not a pimple on your resume, but you get the point). It might seem like an earth-shatteringly big deal to you. But, it may not even be a slight concern to the hiring manager—especially since he or she decided to interview you anyway.
So, don’t barge right in there and lead your entire interview with, “Alright, I know that really short job looks really bad, but let me explain!” Instead, wait for your interviewer to bring it up and then explain if necessary. The important thing to remember is this: You don’t want to make it a bigger deal than it needs to be.
2. Emphasise Your Experience
Regardless of how short that employment stint was, chances are you still learned something valuable that can benefit you throughout the rest of your career—that’s the silver lining.
Resist the temptation to place all of your emphasis on the amount of time you were there, and instead focus on what you learned and experienced during that time. Did you get to work on a project that sparked your interest in the type of work you’re applying for now? Did you gain experience in a completely new field or industry? Or, maybe what you learned is something as simple as figuring out how to make the best of a negative situation.
Find the positives associated with that brief job, and then highlight those—rather than shining a spotlight on your short tenure. Focusing on results and experiences when discussing your previous employment can make a world of difference, no matter what job you’re discussing.
3. Explain Your Reasoning
If and when your interviewer explicitly asks about that short job on your resume, you’re free to provide the reasoning behind it. Remember, this doesn’t mean you’re making excuses—you’re answering a question.
Whether you were laid off due to restructuring, had a better opportunity fall into your lap, or simply couldn’t stand that job or the company, go ahead and explain why you didn’t last long there (politely and professionally, of course).
You undoubtedly have a reason behind why your employment period was so short. And, sometimes the hiring manager just wants a little added context to better understand you and your qualifications.
4. Share What You Learned
Alright, so you might’ve already mentioned the specific skills you picked up during that experience. But, when asked, it’s also beneficial to mention what that job revealed about your career goals and preferences.
Did that experience illustrate that you needed to find a completely different field? Did you realise you’d rather work for a small business than a large corporation? Did you discover that you prefer a more trusting management style, rather than being micromanaged constantly?
Every single one of your jobs (regardless of how short) illustrates something important that you can use to shape your future choices. So, remember to speak about what that experience taught you and—even more importantly—how it led you to this particular job you’re interviewing for.
5. Be Honest
Ultimately, there’s one more important thing you need to remember: This is another case where honesty is always the best policy.
Yes, it can be tempting to try to cover up that job, shirk the necessary questions, and sugar-coat the entire experience. But, your best bet is to take a deep breath and address any necessary questions head on.
Attempting to push it all under the rug without so much as a second glance simply won’t end well for you.
There’s no denying that a short job stint can cause you to feel less than confident when heading into a job interview. But, it’s definitely not the be-all and end-all.
Instead, make sure you use these five key tips when talking about that position, and you can spin it into a positive, beneficial experience—rather than looking at it as a blemish on your otherwise flawless resume.
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