A reader writes…
I know one of the things that stands out in a résumé (besides skills) is how long you have been with a company – (working somewhere for 5 or 10 years, for example, shows stability). I also know it is professional to put all your jobs on the résumé, but when I do, I am often asked during interviews, “How come you have so many different jobs within a two year period?” I haven’t been able to find a stable job but have been getting calls from contract and temp jobs that last 4 months, 2 months, 6 months and I accept them (because when you need work, you accept it to pay the bills).
There are great employees out there that have skills that make them the perfect candidate but because of their job history, employers don’t trust them to stay with the company.
So my question is this, how can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?
You have brought up an issue that probably impacts a good majority of my readers… and certainly warrants a full post!
How the heck do you “sell yourself” in a résumé as a dedicated employee, when your work history is full of short term temp assignments and/or contract work? Jumping from job to job doesn’t exactly say, “I am a stable person who will stick with your company for years and years to come!”
It does say, however, that you have been working consistently and are versatile; yet reveals the fact that you just haven’t found that position or opportunity where you can commit long term. For some people, temporary work is ideal for particular lifestyles. Perhaps you’re a new parent wanting to earn extra income while tending to a child. Maybe you’re a full-time student, just looking to make some extra cash. Then there are those that have been laid off from a previous job and are simply exploring new industries and opportunities before deciding on their next career path.
All in all, I think hiring managers understand the reality and importance of temporary work, more than ever. Rather than viewing it as “instability,” they know that people are simply trying to make ends meet during difficult times. In fact, many employers have been faced with hiring freezes themselves. Their companies are either cutting full-time staff, or are battling budget cuts left and right! Keep in mind; this also explains why job hunting is so competitive. When companies are finally given the trigger to hire someone… they’re going to be ultra choosey and basically search for the pick of the litter. (This is why, as a job seeker, you need to be on top of your game, have a flawless résumé, and be ready to shine in that interview.)
Now back to your question, “How can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?”
You don’t want a two page résumé that includes the days, weeks, or months, of each individual temp assignment you’ve ever had. At a glance that will surely be a turn off to any hiring manager.
Here’s what I suggest:
Below your name and contact information that appears at the top, begin with a section called, “Summary of Qualifications.” There you will highlight 5 or 6 bullet points of key skills or experiences that directly pertain to the job you are seeking. Maybe one sums up “’X’ number of years working in the ‘Y’ industry overseeing…. Or developing… Or assisting with….” <insert whatever applies>. Another bullet point may include specific computer skills, or industry/ trade specific knowledge. Here is where you may list whether you’re bilingual (for example)… you get the idea?
Next comes the chronological list of “Employment” or “Work Experience.” If you have been doing various temp jobs for the past two years, simply group all of that together as a single listing with the header, “Contract Work” (or something like that) – Then just list the years (NOT months or specific dates). The key is, you’re still being completely honest… but you’re redirecting the focus from short intervals to a long period that included a variety of positions.
Now, within the section you’ve called “Contract Work,” use bullet points to outline each position in a single sentence (use present tense as what you’re really dong here is drawing attention to your various skills, responsibilities, and attributes). For example:
Contract Work – (2010 – 2012)
- Accountant / Bookkeeper (insert company name) – Data entry, accounts receivable, and records management of a $X budget. (NOTE: it’s always good to include quantitative figures wherever you can… gives more substance to your résumé)
- Customer Service Representative (insert company name) – Inbound / Outbound calls, up-sell to customers, demonstrate product features and benefits of over ‘X’ products and services.
Directly below the “Contract Work” section (that now gives the allusion it was a long term commitment… by bundling your short-term projects), you will list whatever you did before that. If you were laid off from somewhere after working for 3 years (for example) you will list the date range in years. Then do the same for next job, etc. – No need to go back 40 years… keep it relevant.
End your résumé with your education, certifications, any awards, and/or accomplishments.
While your résumé must be honest and should include as much pertinent detail as possible to attract the attention of a hiring manager, it is in your cover letter or during the interview that you will have the opportunity to explain things further. Try to keep the focus on your skills that will contribute to the job at hand more than concentrating on dates and time periods. Trust me… listing a duration of temporary assignments in your résumé (whether it’s a period of 2 months or 2 years) looks much better than having gaps in your work history.
Don’t hesitate to be honest about your situation. The way you openly explained it to me in your question made perfect sense and shows your determination and work ethic.
I hope these tips help and wish you much success in landing that long-term position in 2012!