Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps

August 9, 2010 at 12:01 am 111 comments

There are many criteria that recruiters and HR professionals use to eliminate job applicants after screening their résumés. Recently I posted an article here on that topic [“The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated.”] That blog article became one of the most widely read postings on Recruiter Musings. Obviously, I touched a nerve there!

One of the potential problem areas I wrote about is job turnover. If your résumé’s job history shows too many short stints over a limited time period, the person screening it can read it as a negative: you might be a job-hopping flight risk … you seemingly can’t hold down a job … perhaps you don’t get along with others well … there may have been performance issues that got you fired – the imagination creates all kinds of possible scenarios! Likewise, significant unexplained gaps between jobs can be red flags that will get you eliminated. And finally, if you are not currently working and you’ve been out of work for a long time … well, I don’t have to tell you how awkward it is when someone asks you: “So, what have you been doing since you left your last job?” I thought it might be helpful to suggest some strategies that can be used to overcome those issues.

Too Much Job Turnover

There may be perfectly valid reasons for having a lot of jobs within a short period. I would advise briefly listing the reasons for those short job stints right next to the dates on your résumé to avoid this obvious red flag. The idea here is to be pro-active, and answer their questions about why you left each job before those questions are even asked. It’s a simple thing, and yet very few people do it. You don’t need to go into long-winded or detailed explanations. All you need is a brief phrase, in parenthesis, following the dates of each short-lived position. For example: “Laid Off Due To Economic Circumstances” … or “Position Was Eliminated” … or “Company Went Out of Business,” etc. What this does is provide the screener with a perfectly valid explanation for the short stint, and eliminates the possibility that they will imagine something much worse – i.e., that you were fired for cause, poor performance, etc. (Of course, if you actually were fired for cause … well, that’s another story!)

Unexplained Gaps Between Jobs

Unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to you to decide what to include or not include. Here’s a suggestion: the dates listed next to each job do not have to include the months – instead, you can show them as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. For example:

Likewise, if there are jobs in your work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to your main industry or niche … there’s no reason you can’t leave those off the résumé. You only need to feature your most relevant positions – and usually only go back about 10 years. Many people take positions outside of their industry while between jobs as a temporary way of maintaining an income until they find something in their field. Others have jobs earlier in their chronology that are also outside of their current target industry. Listing those “side-trips” can sometimes be distracting to a screener who is only focused on looking for experience in one particular field.

The one caution I’ll add here, is that sooner or later almost every company will have you fill out an official job application form. Unlike your résumé, that application is actually a legal document that you must sign … so don’t leave anything off of that one. Be sure every job, employment date, salary, and educational degree that you list is accurate. It’s better to leave something blank, than to guess or make something up. Background checks will inevitably uncover incorrect information … and inconsistent or false information on an application will look like you’ve intentionally lied. That almost always results in the applicant being eliminated. I’ve seen job offers withdrawn for things like candidates listing the wrong dates of employment or school graduations, exaggerating salary histories, fabricating educational degrees, etc. Just tell the truth!

Currently Not Working

Believe it or not, there actually are companies out there who have made it known that they won’t consider hiring unemployed candidates!  I know – it sounds outrageous … and that’s a topic for another blog. [See “’Unemployed Need Not Apply’ – Working Around This Scary Message.”] Nevertheless, it’s obviously in any job-seeker’s best interest to not appear to be unemployed. So, if it’s been a long while since you left your last full-time job, how do you handle that? Different people handle this issue different ways on their résumés. Here are three common solutions:

Volunteer Work:  Many job-seekers turn to volunteer work as a way of staying busy and feeling useful while unemployed. Besides the obvious personal benefits that come from the act of giving of yourself, sharing your time, helping others and upping your “karma” score, volunteering can often get your “foot in the door” with a company that might potentially hire you in the future. Showing people what you can do, how well you can do it, and demonstrating your exceptional work ethic – even if it’s not in a paid position – can bring you to the attention of professionals who notice such things, and reward them when opportunities open up. If you are volunteering somewhere, then list that volunteer position on your resume as your current position. However, do NOT use the term “volunteer!” Simply list the organization and your title or role, describe your function, relevant skills used, and any accomplishments there just as you would with any of your other jobs. Let the fact that you are not being paid wait for an interview, where you should then disclose it.

Consulting (Contract) Work:  Depending on your field, many job-seekers choose to take temporary assignments, contract work, or other “1099” (non-employee) jobs. People who engage is this type of work often refer to themselves as “consultants.” Very often, those contract jobs have the possibility of turning into full-time positions. Again, list those temporary “consulting” positions on your resume … and highlight the relevant skills you used, and any accomplishments achieved at those temporary assignments. If your period of “consulting” was not long-term or consistent, list it as one long job period (from the last full-time job till the present) and under that “Consulting” heading list some individual assignments without specifying dates. Again, leave the exact details of when and for how long you actually worked at each assignment for either an interview or an official job application. The goal here is to look like you’ve been keeping busy and working in your field. [Read: “Contract / Consulting Jobs Explained … Available in Three Different Flavors” for more information on this topic.]

Self-Employment:  These days, more and more job-seekers are turning to starting their own businesses. There’s even a media-coined term for this phenomenon: “Entrepreneur by Necessity.” If you are in that category – by all means list it on your resume as your current occupation. Whether or not you’ve actually earned any income from your company or had any actual success in your venture, listing a self-owned company on your resume is much better than having a large gap of current unemployment without any explanation. And, of course, it’s the perfect answer to that question: “So, what have you been doing since you left your last job?”

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111 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christine Francois  |  August 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Excellent advice Michael and the videos made me laugh…great way to start ANY day!

    Reply
  • 2. Karin Moss  |  August 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Hello, Michael –
    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Not only is it evident that you are a “mensch” but the information you provide is extremely valuable.

    Thanks for your insights!

    Karin Moss

    Reply
  • 3. Nancy Patterson  |  August 9, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    A quick comment on this excellent subject…

    I am one of those applicants who has gaps and short employment history. It’s not what I planned, it just turned out that way. During my last 6-month search, I was often asked why was I still available. I would politely smile and say:

    When the right fit, location, and compensation all line up, I’m looking forward to accepting that offer. It just has not happened yet.

    For me, that answer worked. I found I was more receptive to a company that was more interested in what I could do for them today and moving forward vs where I had been. You cannot change history. Just learn to skip around it confidently.

    Going into any interview I wanted to know if my skills could fix their problem, not get me a job.

    Reply
    • 4. Pooja Mishra  |  September 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Hey Nancy,

      I agree with your point. I believe that employer should focus on present that what value i can add to their business rather than focusing on past and making the judgments without knowing the reasons. They can also confirm through reference check the reasons for a candidate’s leaving the job.

      Thanks for posting.
      Best

      Pooja

      Reply
  • 5. Pegg Milroy  |  August 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the answer to resume employment gaps-I especially like that your opinion of not using the word “Volunteer” matches mine. You can say it in the interview- but do not put it in writing in the resume.

    Although I know I am guilty of it also- one of the best ways to shoot yourself in the foot in job seeking is TMI (Too Much Information.)

    You have one of the best blogs out there- proud to be a fellow Clevelander.

    Pegg Milroy

    Reply
  • 6. TK  |  August 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

    What about the opposite side of the fence. If you have been with the same employer for 10 – 15 years, is that a positive or negative?

    Reply
    • 7. Michael Spiro  |  August 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

      TK:
      I don’t think a 10-15 year job stint is necessarily either a negative or a positive. It all depends on how one looks at it. There is certainly something to be said for job stability and employee loyalty. The more important issue would be whether or not you had increasing responsibilities within that one long job time span … and if you did – to show that on your résumé. And, of course, how much your particular skills are in demand in today’s market.
      – Michael

      Reply
  • 8. David P  |  August 11, 2010 at 9:17 am

    With today’s economy and so many people consulting, is this as much of an issue as in previous decades? Most companies have a strict time limit on consultants thereby forcing a job change every 9-24 months depending on the length of the contract. There are also numerous cases where someone obtains permanent employment only to have the company go through a restructuring or actually go under shortly thereafter. In my opinion, as long as you are not truly job hopping, being upfront in a job interview is the way to go. A hiring manager would have to be ignorant of the current job market to not take these conditions into account when reviewing a resume or a candidate.

    My two cents.

    Reply
    • 9. Michael Spiro  |  August 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

      David:
      If someone is “consulting” (1099 contract jobs) then this is a non-issue. Those types of jobs are, by definition, temporary assignments that do not require further explanation. It’s when a person has a series of short-lived permanent positions that the red flags go up. Yes, with today’s economy there are many valid explanations for short stints. I’m simply suggesting that it’s better to provide those explanations on the resume to avoid being eliminated during the initial screening stage. “Being up front in a job interview” is all fine and good … but that only works if you get past the initial review and get invited to actually have an interview!
      – Michael

      Reply
      • 10. Al  |  August 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm

        This is an interesting discussion and you both make excellent points. As a 20-year consultant, I think it is still important how it is presented regardless of the time. Yes I have had many project for many clients over the years but all of which was operated under a few major firms (ie, E&Y, Fujitsu, IBM), thus technically not much change at all. I think it is reasonable for a consultant to average 2-years at a position is ideal, which is longer than the average cio term. the fact is most projects are 3-6 months vs those that are 12-18 months. So yes, there are dangers to showing too many short term jobs, for all the reasons previously stated, but also issues with those that have been with a single firm for 15 – 18 – 20 – 25+ years, as they may have trouble adapting to a new enviornment, organization, corp culture, etc.. The net net is that there needs to be a balance and how you spin it, but always be truthful to prospective employers, clients and most importantly yourself…

  • 11. Mike Perry  |  August 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Michael –

    Just started reading your blog and love it!

    I’ve been a hiring manager for over 30 years, and do a lot of pro-bono job search coaching along with presentations at job seekers groups. Your comments and suggestions really “hit the mark” and address very well many of the questions and concerns I continue to hear from job seekers.

    The people who put the effort into incorporating your ideas into their job search strategies will find it much easier to differentiate themselves from the dozens or hundreds of other candidates seeking the same position.

    Thank you..!!

    Reply
    • 12. Candice  |  January 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      I was in an abusive relationship for 25+ years and wasn’t allowed to work. I am finally out of that relationship and walked away with nothing but my life. I was wondering could you help me with advice as to how I can reenter the work force. .

      Reply
      • 13. Michael Spiro  |  January 30, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        Candice:
        Your situation is similar to a new college grad who, as a job-seeker, is faced with the challenge of having little or no actual recent work experience in their targeted field. I suggest you read: Advice for Recent Grads and Career Changers. There are several practical suggestions in that article on how to position yourself in such a situation.
        -Michael

  • 14. shebamarx  |  August 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    So, what do you think is a short stint? Is it 2 years? One year?

    Reply
    • 15. Michael Spiro  |  August 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

      That’s a very good question … and I don’t have an exact answer. I think it depends somewhat on how many jobs you’ve had over a period of time. For example, 5-10 jobs over a four or five year period (and I’ve seen that scenario many times) seems like a red flag. On the other hand, a single short job (one-year or less) sandwiched in between two multi-year stints is less problematic, and probably easier to explain. There is no hard and fast rule.

      Reply
  • 16. Nicola James  |  August 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Good stuff, Michael, and spot on. Very relevant and as another recruiter, I heartily agree with your points.

    Reply
  • 17. Sarah  |  August 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Michael – saw your comment on LinkedIn (and looked back at some of your “musings”) and found it very helpful. I worked with the same company for about 8 years and have now been unemployed for over a year (only recently seeking employment). One of my biggest fears is explaining that gaping hole on my resume. I recently signed up for 2 volunteer positions and I’m glad to see that as one of your suggestions for people who are unemployed. It’s nice to know I’m doing something right!

    Reply
  • 18. Pooja Mishra  |  September 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Just loved your blog. I have a question.

    I have done my MBA-HR in 2009 and as you know it was a recession year so though i got a job but not what i wanted. So, i left my first job after working for 11 months and joined an HR consultancy. I loved this job but i had to leave again b’coz of some family issues i had to relocate to other city where they dont have any office. Here, i worked for 4 months. Now, i am unemployed and looking for a job and finding it very tough to get a call for an interview.

    As you said, we can write the reasons briefly in the resume itself, but would employers accept the fact that in the initial year of one’s career somebody can leave job for family issues?

    Would it be a good idea to write in my resume?

    Pooja.

    Reply
    • 19. Michael Spiro  |  September 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm

      Pooja:

      That’s a tough one. I guess it depends on the nature of the “family issues” you mentioned. Simply saying “left due to family relocation” might be sufficient. Just be prepared to explain it further when asked.

      Michael

      Reply
  • 20. John Golby  |  August 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

    As an illustrator and having worked in the Social Services I too have gaps in my employment but I just don’t see what the gaps have to do with anyone else.I recently signed with an agency who wanted to know what I was doing for three months in 2006 – no wonder there is unemployment and the fact that I was in Hong Kong is my own business, as long as my CRB is in the clear that should be good enough.

    Reply
    • 21. Michael Spiro  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

      John:
      I agree that a 3-month gap between jobs is very insignificant — and any recruiter who focuses on such a short period of time is probably very inexperienced. On the other hand, it would be naive to assume that longer gaps between jobs will not be a problem for you as a job-seeker. You many not think they are a important … but as I said in my blog article, significant unexplained gaps absolutely do raise red flags for recruiters, HR professionals and company decision-makers. Without reasonable explanations, people often assume very negative things about why you were out of work for so long, and may consider you a hiring risk. Like it or not, fair or unfair … that’s just the way it works. You might be passed over for job opportunities because of such gaps without ever knowing why. And as to your trip to Hong Kong — I’m not sure what that’s all about, but if it was a personal trip unrelated to your job history, then it should not be on your resume at all — and should certainly not be a topic of discussion with a recruiter. Having your CRB (Criminal Record Bureau, right?) be “in the clear” is an unrelated issue, and has nothing do to with any employment gaps on your resume.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 22. Nancy P  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I have had many ‘gaps’ in my employment history. During an interview, I address the gaps quickly and work to bring the conversation to my strengths and what I can do for the employer today. If I have yet to find the perfect role and there is a lengthy timeframe my standard answer is: when the location, finances, and fit line up, I’m ready to accept an offer. One cannot erase the past and if an employer is really all that concerned about a gap, they’re not the best fit for me. Too many rules ;)

    Reply
  • 23. Robert  |  March 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I, for the first time in my life, have been employed with two different companies in a period of 14 months- 1 job for eight months and was recruited for a job I accepted for only six months-these certainly define a short stint of employment I would imagine.

    If this is considered a red flag, does a previous history of longer employment over shadow these?

    If during a short stint there are considerable accomplishments that are shown on the resume does this also help lessen the impact?

    Reply
    • 24. Michael Spiro  |  March 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Robert:
      Showing a prior history of long employment, and also listing significant accomplishments are both good things that may or may not counter-balance the potential negative impact of two short back-to-back job stints that follow. The more important question you need to address (not mentioned at all in your comment to me) is WHY you left each of those two jobs after such short periods. Deciding to leave a job simply because you found a better opportunity after only 8 months could be seen as a red flag to some. (What’s to prevent you from leaving your next job quickly if a better offer comes along?) And then, why did that second job last for only 6 months? Did you quit? Were you let go for cause? Was it an unexpected lay-off? The explanations you provide are key to how those short stints will be perceived by anyone reviewing your job history. No one wants to hire someone who might be a flight risk.
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 25. Robbie  |  March 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        Understood.

        The explanation simply is for the eight month stint is the company misrepresented the area-geographically disadvantaged & insufficient housing, crime, etc.I was expected to relo (at my expense) however, during the time my family was trying to sell our home (I had an apartment) I realized I could not move them to this place.

        The six month term was one in which I’ll forever hang my head in embarrassment-I violated a company policy (A minor one-but none the less) and was released. Their feet were held to the fire on this one as there was an employee who was making a big deal of why a member of mgmt was not being held accountable-regardless I have to own my mistake.

        I’ve enjoyed a successful career w/out blemish and full of accomplishments, however, this last job is (with a company for which I have great respect) will personally forever haunt me.

        The glimmer is that I will get great recommendations from the company officers, which I hope will minimize the damage…

        Thanks

  • 26. Sarah  |  April 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I have a question.
    I’m on the younger end of the job hunting spectrum. Most of my jobs have been short tenure, but explainable (I left one to relocate to the city where my fiance lived, one was a summer contract position). One however, I left because the job was not at all what I expected and I was not equipped to handle the working environment, or what I felt like was a lack of training and support.
    While the first two are explainable, I’m not sure how to explain the last (and most recent) one.
    If it helps, I also do freelance work and have since 2009. (I have recommendations from past clients).
    How do I address this on my resume?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • 27. Michael Spiro  |  April 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Sarah:
      That’s a tough one. I would not try to explain that last one on your résumé. Depending on how you portray your “freelance work” section, you may not have to even list that last job at all — especially if it was a short stint. Freelance work (much like “consulting”) can serve as an umbrella on your resume to cover a long period of time during which you may have done work for multiple clients. Save your explanation of why your last job was a bad fit for an interview. Trying to explain it on your résumé the way you did in your question will raise too many red flags.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 28. John  |  May 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Great post, Michael.

    I have a question for you. I “rolled” a short team employment, 6 months, into my next long team job, 6 years and 8 months. So, in fact, I only worked at my present job for 6 years and 2 months. But my resume stated month/year. How should I address this issue on my resume?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • 29. Michael Spiro  |  May 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      John:
      I don’t really understand what you are asking. Do you want to know if it’s OK to combine the short stint with the longer job? (Sometimes that makes sense — for example, if it’s a contract job that falls under the umbrella of a consulting period of work experience, if it’s a different position at the same company as the job that you are combining it with, etc.) How should you “address this issue” on your resume? I’m not sure what that even means. If you are asking me to tell you how to explain the short stint — I have no idea! Only you know the answer as why you left that job after only 6 months. Oh, and why not simply change the format of your entire resume to using only years and not months at all. Would that solve your problem?
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 30. John  |  May 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

        Sorry about the confusion.

        Say I worked at company A from Jan to Apri in 2005. Then I started at B from May 2005 until now. So officially I work at B for 7 years. However, I put down 7 years and 4 months on my resume for company B under the advice from my wife.

        So, the question is how do I explain the “gap” when an employment verification is done and if my future employer finds the gap.

        Thanks

      • 31. Michael Spiro  |  May 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        You should re-read the two paragraphs in the blog above under the heading: “Unexplained Gaps Between Jobs.” As I explained there, a resume is not a legal document, and does not have to list EVERYTHING you’ve done. Just list years, and not months. Don’t include the 4-month job at all if it was not significant. (Your wife’s advice was well-intended, but wrong — you should not combine unrelated jobs or change employment dates.) On the other hand, filling out a formal job application is another story. That must include everything, and it must be accurate — including the actual start and end dates of each and every job you’ve had. A background check will, indeed, include employment verification which must match that application you fill out. Discrepancies between your application and your actual job history will kill your chances of getting hired. The only “gap” you should have to explain is if you had an extended period of unemployment.

  • 32. Cyndee  |  June 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Great info!! I recently had a job and was let go. It lasted less than a year and I’ve now been unemployed about as long. I am really concerned as to the negative connotation and want to just leave it off my resume. Will this “bite me in the ….” if I do? In over 30 years, I have had many, many successful work experiences, but lost 2 jobs (after all, how can you go through life and not make any enemies, especially in senior management of politically charged companies) – but they seem to be “cursing” me in moving forward. I could really use some advice here. Thanks

    Reply
    • 33. Michael Spiro  |  June 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Cyndee:
      It seems to me that if you leave off your last job, you’ll end up appearing to have a 2-year period of current unemployment instead of just one. Obviously that would not look too good! Better to offer up a simple explanation of why that last job ended — if such an explanation exists.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 34. Mary  |  June 14, 2012 at 1:08 am

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your great advice! After over 8 years of working with the same company, I recently had two short stays in new companies which are hurting my chances for a job.
    I’ve an excellent record of accomplishments at my 8 year job. The short stays were not what I planned for at all and were unexpected. The first stay was 4 months at a well known firm. I was being given greater responsibility but got let go when I noticed my supervisor underbilling clients and naively brought it up to management. There was some internal politics (half the firm was let go during this period) and I was asked to resign. The 2nd stay I found 6 months later. They paid me twice the market salary but it lasted 1 month.

    How do you advise I cover the period after my 7 year job on my resume? Should I leave these two short stays off and state I was consulting?
    My stay of 4 months is in a firm relevant and well known to what I currently seek. I’ve learnt to be really careful about a good fit with the firms I join. These events are really hurting my chances for another position.

    Reply
    • 35. Michael Spiro  |  June 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Mary:
      Based on what you’ve written, I’d say you should list the 4-month job (especially if it’s relevant to your niche) and leave off the 1 month stint — that’s probably too short to put on a resume, and it might raise more red flags than you can explain. If you just list years, and not months, then the shortness of that 4-month job will not be so obvious. I would not say that you were “consulting” unless those jobs were actually contracts as opposed to permanent direct-hire positions. I’d also try to list brief, neutral-sounding explanations for why you left the 8-year job as well as the 4-month job. Something like “company-wide layoffs” might work. Save the more detailed explanations (your underbilling boss and the politics, etc.) for a live interview. Hope that helps.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 36. ana jade  |  September 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Hello Michael,
    I have resigned from two jobs this year (the first one after 4 days and the second one after 4 months). I recently resigned from a job after 4 months because the job was not at all what I expected and I was not equipped to handle the stressful environment with absolutely no training and no support/guidance from management. Before that, I was unemployed for another 4 months because the company I’d been with was acquired by another company and my team was moved to another city. I was able to find another job and resign a few weeks before the acquisition; however, that job did not work out and I made the decision to leave after four days because, again, it was not what I expected. I’d stayed with the company that was acquired for a year and a half and another company before that for around two years. If I leave off both short term employments from my resume (4 days and 4 months), I will have around 8 months of unemployment on my resume. In the meantime, I have gone back to school for additional training in my field and and hope to earn a certificate soon (I already have a master degree). As you can imagine, I am not getting any responses to my job applications. Is there still hope for me? Should I leave these two jobs off my resume? Include only the 4 months one? Please help.
    -Ana

    Reply
    • 37. Michael Spiro  |  September 27, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Ana:
      I’m not sure what to tell you. You are right — two 4-month stints in a row do not look good to most reviewers. (The 4-day stint is a no-brainer … leave it off!) Saying that the one company was acquired as a reason for you leaving is very much acceptable … but the second one where you left because “it was not what you expected,” etc., is a tougher one to easily explain. Leaving one or both jobs off your résumé is certainly one option — and you could legitimately say you were in school during the 8-month “gap.” That might get you in the door for more initial interviews. But sooner or later those jobs will need to be revealed and explained. Good luck!
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 38. jovy  |  October 25, 2012 at 5:02 am

    how about when you just work at a bank for two months, do i need to put it in my resume? because i don’t know if my future employer will eventually know about it if i will not put it in my resume, then would think that i’m hiding something and would be the cause of my disqualification from the position. or if i’m going to declare that two-month-job, if that will be my disadvantage in landing a job. pls help

    Reply
    • 39. Michael Spiro  |  October 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Jovy:
      Leaving a 2-month job off of your résumé is not a big deal. Résumés are not legal documents, and there is no requirement that they include every job you’ve ever had. However, at some point you may be asked to fill out and sign an official job application for a potential employer which includes a complete job history. You will certainly have to disclose that 2-month job on such an application, since unlike the résumé, that application form is a legal document. Background checks will uncover any discrepancies on such a job history, and anyone can disqualify you if you lie by omission. The more important question for you to answer/explain to any prospective employer is why you left that bank job after only 2 months?! Sooner or later you’ll need to have a satisfactory answer to that one!
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 40. ash  |  December 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Hi…
    I resigned job 6 months before. i worked on executive level in commercial dept. I don’t get a job from last six months similar to my job profile. Now i have 6 months gaps in two jobs. Pls advice me how i justify to employer with good reason .

    Thx in advance.

    Reply
    • 41. Michael Spiro  |  December 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      As I wrote in the blog, you need to explain WHY you “resigned job 6 months before” … and what you’ve been doing between jobs (other than looking for work.) I cannot advise you further based on the minimal information you wrote here.

      Reply
  • 42. dev  |  February 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    My first job is 3 years and did my masters degree and had a job for 1.5 yrs, coz of fiancee i moved and got a job n stayed der for 3.5 yrs. Now i am in a diff job for 2.5 yrs. Is this considered as a short stint, coz one of the VP asked me this question in an interview “looks like my average tenure is only 3 yrs, so vl u leave the company after 3 yrs”. Do u think this is normal?

    Reply
    • 43. Michael Spiro  |  February 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

      Dev:

      No, I do not think that two or three years at different jobs necessarily looks bad. That’s probably more the average than longer stints. I’d be more worried if there were multiple jobs that lasted one year or less.

      And by the way … I certainly hope that you don’t use those lazy text abbeviations (“coz” instead of “because” or “u” instead of “you”, etc.) in normal business communications. It makes you look extremely unprofessional, and can be a huge turnoff for potential employers.

      Michael

      Reply
  • 44. Nicole  |  March 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Hello,

    Thank you for such a great selection of information. I am attempting to re-enter the work force after an extended absence. I haven’t worked for approximately 5 years. I left my previous employment because my husband needed to move for work and then we had several children. I was wondering how to handle this big gap in either a resume or cover letter. Prior to our move, I had worked for the same company for approximately 7 years, advancing from an entry level position to VP.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 45. Michael Spiro  |  March 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      Nicole:

      There are several ways to approach your situation on a resume and/or a cover letter. On way would be to simply not list anything after your last position, and hope you are not eliminated before you have the chance to explain it. Of course, the danger in that approach is that someone may like your prior background, but might be wary of the “red flag” of the missing last 5 years. Personally, I’d advise simple honesty. I’d explain that 5-year period for exactly what it was. Say: “Took time off to raise a family.” Then just be clear about the fact that you are now ready to re-enter the work force — and explain why, if possible. Sooner of later that truth will come out. I think it’s better to be up front about it and let the reader decide if such a scenario is acceptable to them. You may not land at the same VP level you left … but you also need to state that you are OK with that (if you are) and shoot for a realistic re-entry point in your field. You should also anticipate, and be prepared to overcome the objection you’ll probably get that your skills are not “current” after being away from the work for so long.

      I hope that is helpful advice.

      Michael

      Reply
  • 46. Hannah  |  March 23, 2013 at 10:30 am

    hi michael i am currently looking to return to work after a year and a half out after being pregnant and having my son i am writing my resume and i am struggling with how to include this. thanks in advance

    Reply
    • 47. Michael Spiro  |  March 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Hannah:

      My answer to you is about the same as the one I gave to “Nicole” a few comments back: There are several ways to approach your situation on a resume and/or a cover letter. On way would be to simply not list anything after your last position, and hope you are not eliminated before you have the chance to explain that recent gap in work time. Of course, the danger in that approach is that someone may like your prior background, but might be wary of the “red flag” of the missing last year and a half. Personally, I’d advise simple honesty. I’d explain that recent period for exactly what it was. Say: “Took time off to raise a family.” Then just be clear about the fact that you are now ready to re-enter the work force — and explain why, if possible. Sooner of later that truth will come out. I think it’s better to be up front about it and let the reader decide if such a scenario is acceptable to them. You should also anticipate, and be prepared to overcome the objection you’ll probably get that your skills may not be “current” after being away from the work for so long.

      I hope that is helpful advice.

      Michael

      Reply
  • 48. shache  |  May 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Hello Michael,
    Thanks for your information, very helpful. Below is my situation, need your further advice if possible.

    I have been working under one company for 12 years and in 2010, I decided to resign and went to pursue a degree. After almost two years, I graduated and managed to get a job in May 2012 but I worked only for about 5 months as I found a higher pay job and joined another company in Nov 2012. But never expected, after 5 months, I resigned again due to the boss not really appreciate my hard works & still claim my performance not to their expectation.

    If I include these two short term employments in my resume, it will reflect a two 5-months stints in a row in my resume, so should I include both ? If yes, what’s the best way to present in my resume and what to state for the reasons of leaving for both jobs ?

    Reply
    • 49. Michael Spiro  |  May 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Shache:
      Leaving both short jobs off your resume would give you a 10 month gap to explain. That will be a problem. And neither of the two reasons you gave for leaving each of those jobs after only 5 months sounds very reasonable. Leaving the first one because you found a higher paying job will raise a red flag to any recruiter or potential employer: if they hire you, won’t you just leave again after a short time if you find something better that pays more? And leaving that second job because your employer claimed your performance was not up to their expectation is an even bigger red flag! Past performance issues will always be a huge concern to anyone considering hiring you, no matter how long you worked somewhere. I would advise you to leave such explanations OFF your resume, and wait until you are asked in an interview to provide the details. Good luck.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 50. alishea  |  May 9, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Hello,
    I have question on how to explain a gap of 10 months where I was a part-time student and it also include the summer months. During this time I went to school and was very actively looking for employment. I was having difficulty because of my limited availability wasn’t as open as the companies wanted. Also, I have a couple of short gaps 2 and 3 months that occur at times that I am having difficultly explaining. One gap (2 months) was just after being let go and I was simply looking for employment. Another 2 month gap was just after working during the holiday season for 2 months. I was a a student as this time and also very actively looking for employment. The last 3 month gap was just this last year after graduating from college. I was vary actively looking for employment it just took longer than I expected mostly because of the economy and so many other job seekers also applying to the some position. Thanks.

    Alishea

    Reply
    • 51. Michael Spiro  |  May 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Alishea:
      I wouldn’t worry about short stints that occurred during your college years. Most employers understand the nature of college students’ schedules and work-study, part-time, summer or holiday jobs, etc. Those situations should not need further explanation. Likewise, spending a few months after graduating looking for a job is also very understandable, and should not raise concerns.
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 52. alishea  |  May 10, 2013 at 1:01 am

        Thank you. This helps a lot.

      • 53. alishea  |  May 10, 2013 at 1:19 am

        I have another question that is not related to employment gaps. I worked as a nanny for a lady. The end was very messy and I am unsure if I should put that I quit or that she let me go. Both things happened at the same time and I didn’t find employment again for 10 months due to being a student. How is the best way to explain this on an application?

        Thank you,
        Alishea

      • 54. Michael Spiro  |  May 10, 2013 at 10:36 am

        Alishea:
        Unless you plan a career as a Child Care professional, your work as a nanny for an individual family probably does not need to be on your resume at all. I don’t know what your career goals are, but I imagine you should be creating a professional resume aimed at the business world. Only include things that directly relate to the field in which you are pursuing employment. Don’t focus so much on gaps during your student years or jobs outside of your field. Think more about what you want to do, career-wise — and then try to fill your resume with things related to that career … things that would demonstrate your skills and attract an employer in that field.
        -Michael

  • 55. shache  |  May 9, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks for your advice, Michael.
    One more question, can employer’s find out our job history if we omitted from a job application?

    Reply
    • 56. Michael Spiro  |  May 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Shache:
      An omitted job may or may not be discovered if the employer does a background check on you. It depends on how thorough the background checking company’s methods are. It is always safer to be honest and complete on any official job application.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 57. Leigh  |  June 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I was laid off in 2011 from a company that I was employed with for 19 years. I was called back after 6 months to do some contract work for them which lasted about 4 month. Then I have another gap of 9 months of unemployment, during that time I helped my mother care for her husband who had cancer and went back to school. I have been in my current position for almost 6 months and really want to change jobs. I have two reason’s I want to change jobs, (1) I want to go back into the industry I work in for over 19 years and (2) I was told that the new job would be “occasional” nights and weekends. The reality is I work full days plus multiple nights a week and some weekends. It is difficult to juggle work, family and school. So I would like to find something that has more consistent hours in my old industry. I understand all jobs will require some overtime and I am willing to jump in and make sure I get the job done. However I don’t know how to address this if I get an interview.

    Reply
    • 58. Michael Spiro  |  June 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Leigh:
      In an interview situation, I would simply be honest. Tell a brief version of your story — and I do mean brief! (Don’t make the mistake of dragging it out into a long detailed saga of your persoanl history — simply saying what you wrote in your comment here is plenty.) Most people would be understanding of your situation where caring for a family member takes priority. And pursuing additional education is also a very understandable reason for being out of the job market for a period of time. Finally, having a job that now requires that much night and weekend time that was not disclosed when you were hired is also something most people would understand — especially if it’s outside of your prior industry. Those 19 years spent at one company should be evidence enough that you are not a “job-hopper.”
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 59. Ben  |  June 12, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Michael,

    I recently discovered your blog-site, and am very thankful! Your insight and advice is helping me get properly focused.

    I’m currently “in transition,” and trying to figure out how much my last couple years are hurting me. I was in the US Air Force for 7 years, and then worked three years as an IT contractor/manager in Afghanistan – broken up (after the first year in Afghanistan) by a year-and-a-half stint trying to break into the residential construction business (right before the recession, not the best move).

    As a pretty young guy, I was quickly promoted several times and became the overall manager for over 100 highly-paid, highly-skilled IT contractors. High visibility, high stress, long hours (72-90 per week), etc. I was very successful, but left that job after two years to go back home, get married, and spend some time being “normal.”

    After that my wife and I tried to go back international, which took a year. I ended up following her to Australia, where I only worked about 6 months as the IT Coordinator and chaplain for an Aboriginal school. During that entire time I was a full-time bachelor’s student (2010-until now). We just got back to the US, and I just finished my degree. Does that time hurt me, and if so, how do I unpack that in my resume to show that I wasn’t just goofing-off?

    I’m sure that being currently unemployed, even though we just got back to the US (long story, there), isn’t doing me any favors. I’m looking into volunteering, but not sure what kind of volunteer work to do (job related, or stuff I’m passionate about). Also, I’m planning on getting some part time work that is outside of my industry, until I find something more permanent.

    Do you have any thoughts or advice?

    Thanks, again, Michael!

    Cheers,
    Ben

    Reply
    • 60. Michael Spiro  |  June 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Ben:
      I’m glad to hear that my blog has been helpful to you! Your story is quite unique, and very interesting. Certainly, military service should be something that looks great on any resume. And time spent in school pursuing a degree should not be a problem either, and should not be viewed as a “gap” in employment that requires further explanation. As far as all the other experiences you described — well, what you choose to show (or not show) on your resume, and how you characterize those things depends on exactly what type of job or career you plan to pursue now. Don’t feel that you have to list everything you’ve ever done. For example, being a chaplain for an Aboriginal school sounds fascinating … but would be an irrelevant distraction on a resume aimed at an IT career path. Just concentrate on filling your resume with things that directly relate to your chosen career — whatever that may be. And as to volunteering — ideally you should be “passionate about” job-related volunteer work. If you are not, then perhaps you should consider trying to pursue something that you actually are passionate about. Just my two cents.
      – Michael

      Reply
  • 61. John  |  August 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Michael,

    thanks for the great blog. I’ve had 3 jobs with probationary period and didn’t passed any of them.

    1. I was a consult and my boss said I did not identified myself with the position I was given. And shortly after that the company down sized and many employer was cut loose.

    2. I was also on a probationary period at this job and it was ended at the same time the CEO left the company. I was given the reason that they would outsource the job I was doing and they were looking for someone more senior in a similar position and they don’t think I can fit the profile since I was junior in my field and it was in a similar field they were searching for people.

    3. I was also on a probationary period at a start-up company. I was cut loose and was first given the reason that my performance was not good. So I argumented about it showing my performance met the bonus goal so it must be quiet good performance at least. And they owner admitted that it had to do with one of our customer did not pay the bill and it was economic reason.

    I am planning to tell next employee that I have had unfortune to find stable company financially and a value same as me. Do you think it’s good idea? Or should I do as you mention and just add to the cv that I was laid off, with 1. “economic circumstances”, 2. “job outsourced” and 3. “economic circumstances”.

    Regards,
    John

    Reply
    • 62. Michael Spiro  |  August 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

      John:
      In general, I think it is best to say as little as possible about short stints. The more you explained about each probationary situation you described, the worse it made you sound! As long as it is truthful, I would stick with the short answers you listed.
      Michael

      Reply
      • 63. John  |  August 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

        Then I should not list the reasons in the cv, but instead tell them when they ask?

      • 64. Michael Spiro  |  August 7, 2013 at 11:50 am

        If the jobs are listed on your cv, then you should provide the short explanations there also.

  • 65. Candyce Marsh  |  August 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Michael,

    As a young adult, I was a very poor worker. The jobs I had were menial at best (Target, Walmart, etc.) and didn’t last long, both because of the workplace and because of my own shortcomings. Now that I’m all grown up and I’m trying to reenter the job market, how can I overcome my past? My resume is skill-based with previous employers listed below, very briefly, because I hope to put my best foot forward rather than have them disregard my resume from the beginning. Is this an acceptable way to go? Thanks.

    Candyce

    Reply
    • 66. Michael Spiro  |  August 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Candyce:
      It’s difficult for me to comment without actually seeing your resume. Remember — you don’t have to list every job you ever had … only the ones related to your future career focus. If, on the other hand, every single one of your prior job experiences was “menial” and has no connection to your current path … well, that will be a huge challenge for you in writing an effective resume, to say the least! You could try lumping them all together under the heading “Prior Work History” and call them something like “Retail Positions” without listing actual names of places you worked. Hope that’s helpful.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 67. Amanda  |  August 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Michael,
    I’m so glad I came across your blog today, it has been very helpful! I would just like a bit more clarification and advice. I am about to rewrite my resume. In 2005, I received my Associates Degree in Radiography and immediately secured a job, with a rotating schedule. I had twin babies, and being single, the rotating schedule was difficult with finding childcare. One year later I took another Rad Tech job which offered a straight shift (mid nights). Although it was not a perfect answer, it was easier to handle childcare. After 4 years, the midnight shift took a toll on my health. I developed a sleep disorder and after several tardies, I was let go (in spite of glowing evaluations for 4 years). One month later I was hired by a clinic. That job lasted 8 months and ended with a company-wide layoff in December 2010. The recession was in full swing. The market for Rad Techs in our regional area is completely flooded.

    I took a job as a cashier/cook at a local retail convenience store, at minimum wage, to be able to provide for my family, and have been there 16 months. Two Rad Tech jobs have now opened up at two nearby hospitals.

    I have always used a chronological résumé. In this case, the present job (retail) will be right at the top of experience! Are you saying that I can completely leave this job off my résumé (I will include it on the application of course). Then I would have to explain what I’ve done for the last 16 months. Or, would it be advisable to place the Rad Tech positions at the top under “Professional Experience,” and add the retail job under a title of “Prior Work History?” I just want the interview… I know I will have to be forthright during an interview about the firing as well as how I ended up taking a menial, minimum wage job. I AM a Rad Tech, and a darned good one. I won’t give up until I’m employed in my field again.Thank you for any advice you can give me.

    Reply
    • 68. Michael Spiro  |  August 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Amanda:
      Your situation is rather complicated. My gut reaction is that your last suggestion is correct: you should list your Rad Tech positions at the top, and minimize the retail job somewhere near the end under a heading like “Other Work History” — or simply don’t list it at all, and wait for the question to come up about what you’ve been doing for the past 16 months. You might also consider calling your main work section something like “Relevant Work History” to indicate that it’s not a complete chronology, but rather a listing of jobs you’ve had that are connected to your chosen career goals. If you are pursuing Rad Tech jobs, then let that experience be the first thing anyone sees on your resume — front and center. And by the way … don’t list months in your chronology — just years. That tactic tends to disguise gaps without being untruthful. I hope that’s helpful advice.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 69. Kelly Duda  |  August 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Michael,
    I stumbled upon this post due to my Internet search to deal with two short employment gaps in my recent job history. The first was from 10/11 to 1/12. I am currently unemployed and was in the position for less than a month. In both circumstances I had left my previous employ which had been two or more years for a promotion and salary increase. My profession is an early childhood educator so not your typical business environment. On my resume I already list my tenure in years only, however when I am required to complete an application, always online, I am required to list both the month and year. I also do not include these short term positions on my resume or on the application. On the application when asked why I left the longer term positions I list “job opportunity” which turned out to then be the short term position. In the first circumstance I left the position because of poor management. The program director did not possess the necessary skill set to be effective in all aspects of her position. I was the fifth person to leave in less than 2 1/2 months. This was a Head Start federally funded program. I found out a few months later that the program was in violation of several federal laws and had to recompete for federal funding. In my recent circumstance the position was working for a privately operated early childhood learning center. Again, I found myself in a similar situation and the owner did not have the most appropriate skill set to have the knowledge needed to be effective. Also, similarly the employer was in violation of state law in how she expected me to handle state funding for qualified children and in violation of best teaching practice in handling a situation with a young child. In both circumstances my supervisors were in violation and since I decided it was in my best interest to resign I did. These circumstances lead me to several questions. Should I go ahead and add the short term positions? If not, what should I put on an application for leaving longer term positions since the short term positions did not work out leading to a short term gap? Experts advise that when answering questions about previous employers to not “bad mouth” them. How do I handle these sticky circumstances? Do you have any other insight to add?

    Thanks So Much,
    Kelly

    Reply
    • 70. Michael Spiro  |  August 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Kelly:
      I would advise you to be as complete as possible on an official application form, since that is the document that will be used by any background checking company to verify the truthfullness of your work history. Whether or not to include those short stints on a resume is your choice. Personally, I’d leave off both of those jobs you described that are under 3 months. As far as what to say about your reasons for leaving (without “bad-mouthing” your former employers) … the less you say the better. Try something general and non-descript like “Managerial Restructuring” or “Staff Reorganization,” and save the more detailed explanation for a live interview situation. Even there, tread carefully when describing those prior situations. Again, the less you say the better. Just stress that your leaving was your own idea, and not due to any performance issues on your part. Hope that is helpful.
      Michael

      Reply
      • 71. Kelly Duda  |  August 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

        Michael,
        Thanks so much for your feedback. I didn’t consider the fact that since I have worked for a state licensed profession that previous background checks may show up on a search. I will make sure to include my shorter job positions on any future applications. In the past when interviewing I have adhered to saying as little as possible about why I left the situations I did so I suppose I was already doing something correctly.
        On a side note I have taken the time to explore other posts and have gotten a lot out of your insights. Thanks for sharing your valuable expertise for those who are searching for employment.
        Regards,
        Kelly

  • 72. Ganesh Dev  |  August 28, 2013 at 3:19 am

    HI,

    I have an experience of about 11 years in engineering I have changed two jobs last year (both within 4 months) due to family issues. I do not wish to highlight one of the 4 months stint anywhere. Is it acceptable. If the employer comes to know about it, then what can be their reacion?

    Reply
    • 73. Michael Spiro  |  August 28, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Ganesh:
      You can certainly omit either of those 4-month jobs from your resume … however, you will need to include them both as part of your work history on any official job application you are asked to fill out. And you should be prepared to explain why you left those two jobs after only 4 months — a question that may or may not come up either on the application you fill out, or during an interview. As to what the employer’s reaction may be when they see those short stints … I have no way of predicting that. Reactions could range from not-asking/not-caring to eliminating you from consideration, and anything in between! Their reactions will certainly be affected by how reasonable your explanations sound.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 74. MIMI  |  November 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Hi,
    I am a legal immigrant and have one & half year job gap in my resume handling immigration cases (getting my work permit, bringing my wife from home country). How do I explain this case?
    Thanks,

    Reply
    • 75. Michael Spiro  |  November 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

      MIMI:
      My advice is to not try explaining it at all on your resume. Just list your jobs by years (not months) to minimize the appearance of the gap. If asked about that time period during an interview, just be honest and explain it exactly as you did in your question to me.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 76. Paul Seters  |  November 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I have been on a job for only 5 1/2 months. I am at risk for losing this job. Should I include it on my resume? I have had 6 jobs in the last 5 years due to this unstable economy. I am in outside sales.

    Reply
    • 77. Michael Spiro  |  November 17, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Paul:
      That’s a tough call. 6 jobs in 5 years is generally a big red flag. If the reasons you skipped around so much were related to your sales performance (vs. company troubles that were out of your control), then it’s even worse. Looking for a job while still employed is usually a better position to be in than when you are unemployed. Based on that, I guess I’d list the current job … but only if you can explain why you want to leave after such a sort time in terms that don’t make your own performance the issue.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 78. Rashid  |  December 6, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Hi Michael,

    I left a job 3 months ago where I worked for about 6 months. I joined a company in my home town and found that company to be a haunted house. I am so stressed out on a daily basis,I think that that I will compromise on my mental health here. I am planning to look for another job and relocate to the same old city I worked.

    the gap here is 3 months, which I don’t want to show in my resume. But, I would like to know what to tell when asked about this 3 months gap to my prospective employer.

    I would really apprecaite your comments on this.

    Regards,
    Rashid

    Reply
    • 79. Michael Spiro  |  December 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Rashid:
      A 3-month gap is not significant enough to worry about. And, as I explained in the blog article, if you list the dates of employment on your resume by year only (without the months) it will probably mask that gap. Finally, I strongly advise you to NOT use the “haunted house” explanation with any prospective employers. I’m not sure if you were joking when you wrote that, but I can guarantee you that no one will hire you with that story! You need to come up with a more reasonable and professional-sounding explanation for why you left your last job after only 6 months.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 80. Robert  |  January 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Hi,
    I am having 7 years of experience in software industry. My employment history is as:
    Employer A – 2.8 years
    Employer B – 5 months(left this job for preparation of bank PO exams)
    then Gap of 2 months
    Employer C – 3 months(Got opportunity to work with reputed Employer D)
    Employer D – 4 years
    Now, I have got an offer from another Employer where i hided my employment (Employer C) and shown a gap of 5 months between B and D.
    Could you please suggest, was it ok to OFF this small tenure employment from my resume. How can my prospective employer know about my this gap? And if they catch it some how what could be my explanation?

    Thanks for your time

    Reply
    • 81. Michael Spiro  |  January 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Robert:
      As I wrote in the blog article, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to you to decide what to include or not include. So, yes it’s OK to leave off short job stints, and if it comes up later all you have to say is that it was so short that you didn’t think it needed to be on your résumé. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember that if you are asked to fill out an official job application, unlike the résumé — it must be complete and accurate and include ALL your jobs. Mistakes or omissions on such an application could easily be picked up by a background-checking service and be the cause for a job offer being withdrawn. Short stints may be hard to explain, but lying on an application has no excuse.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 82. Eric  |  February 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Hi Michael,
    Your writings (nay, teachings) have been invaluable to me, and to others in my field (software development). Thank you for taking the time to create them for the benefit of us all.

    After being employed steadily for thirteen years at my most recent employer, I decided to take a sabbatical. During this time I took relevant university classes for professional development, did some volunteer work, and generally improved and recharged my life. This period lasted for one year.

    I then decided to see if I could make a career out of being an independent consultant. Financially, it turned out to be not quite what I had hoped, so four months in I took a position (full-time) for a very well known software company. This turned out to be a mistake, however, and I left after three months to return to my independent work.

    Now, two months removed from that experience, financial concerns are forcing me to reevaluate my overall plan, and I will likely need to return to the corporate world to survive financially.

    My question then is should I include this 3-month job on my resume? Possibly as an item under the independent work heading? Or include only the skills I gained there, and not mention the job?

    I am leaning toward including it under the independent work era, since it makes sense chronologically, and it was significant from a skill-gaining, financial, and name-recognition perspective. But I would not represent it as a consulting position, since it wasn’t, leaving the details of that to an interview. This would also preempt any future job application content issues.

    Your opinion on this course of action or an alternate one would be greatly appreciated!

    Best Regards,
    Eric

    Reply
    • 83. Michael Spiro  |  February 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Eric:
      I think you instinct is correct. I would list that 3-month job under the broad heading of your Independent Consultant work, and let the fact that it was actually a short-lived direct-hire job come out in an interview.
      Michael

      Reply
      • 84. Eric  |  February 10, 2014 at 4:56 pm

        Hi Michael,
        Thanks for the response and advice. I will go with that, and let you know how it works out, which may help others in a similar situation.
        Best Regards,
        Eric

  • 85. Shalini  |  August 3, 2014 at 2:45 am

    Hi Michael,
    I am a fresher just completed my graduation in engineering i information technology. I have been applying for job from October 2013 to April 2014. But have not been placed yet. That time though i was a student and graduated on April 2014. After that since then i have not been placed yet. There is 3 months passed in between. And i have not done any consulting or neither any gone through any training in this period. Can you please tell me what to tell my interviewer what i did for 3 months after my education. Please help.

    Reply
    • 86. Michael Spiro  |  August 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      3 months is a relatively short period of time. I don’t think you need to worry about complicated explanations. Just be honest — simply say that you’ve been searching for the right job opportunity.

      Reply
  • 87. Happy  |  August 16, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Hey Michael,

    I worked for 7 months in my previous organization and have spent 1 yr in my current organization. I am looking to move back to my home town…. however not sure about the reason that I should give to the recruiter as why I left the previous job only after 6 months and why I m leaving only in 1 yr. Though I have 1 reason but not sure if anyone will buy that… Family reason, specially parents ill health.
    What you suggest? Please Advise.

    Thanks
    Happy

    Reply
    • 88. Michael Spiro  |  August 16, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Happy:
      If I understand it correctly, it sounds like you have two short stints to explain — not just one. Leaving a job early to care for a sick parent is certainly a valid reason. I would think you could tell that to any recruiter, HR person or prospective employer, and it should not be a problem. Not sure what your other reason might be. You didn’t really explain that one in your comment.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 89. Kathy Petersen  |  August 19, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Hello Michael, thanks, great article: You said “What this does is provide the screener with a perfectly valid explanation for the short stint, and eliminates the possibility that they will imagine something much worse – i.e., that you were fired for cause, poor performance, etc. (Of course, if you actually were fired for cause … well, that’s another story!)”

    I’m sorry to say that I was given one month’s notice on the last day of my probation period and told by my manager that things were not working out, I was not performing to the levels he required and that he was giving me a month’s notice. So my total employment is 4 months. In over 28 years of employment (12 years, 12 years, 2 years, 2 years at four companies), I had never had a complaint and had been comfortably employed, I was retrenched twice, I moved city once and the one 2 year stint was a contract. This boss went through 4 PA’s in 6 months but I was happy to be leaving to be honest, because I have never been so unhappy. Now my problem is what do I put on my CV for the reason for leaving this position which lasted May 2014 – August 2014?

    I have been on some interviews and actually told the truth but came away thinking I should not have done that as it completely bombed out my chances..

    It’s an awful situation to be in. I was thinking of approaching my manager to ask him whether we should agree that I can state it was a 4 month contract.. but I hate to do that.. its not the truth. Please help!

    Thanks
    Kathy

    Reply
    • 90. Michael Spiro  |  August 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Kathy:
      No matter what explanation you give, it’s likely that the truth will come out when they check your references. Being truthful up front is probably the best tactic. Saying something like you left after 4 months because you mutually “realized it was not a good fit” is often a vague but acceptable way of explaining an isolated short stint. I’d advise offering as few details as possible. If pushed for more detail, you could say “I’d rather not talk negatively about a prior employer.” Without spelling it out, that’s a politically correct way of shifting the blame and making it sound like it was more about them than you. The main thing is to emphasize your prior solid work history. One short stint is much more forgivable when your prior positions were so much longer and so successful.
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 91. Kathy Petersen  |  August 20, 2014 at 4:35 am

        Thank you very much Michael, great advice! Sorry — I wanted to ask you, on my CV, what do I put as reason for leaving?

      • 92. Michael Spiro  |  August 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Given the circumstances, I would not put any explanation on your CV. Save that for an interview.

  • 93. Wendy  |  August 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Glad to find your blog here. Great article and advice.

    Here is my situation:

    I worked for a job for 2 years and 3 months from 2008 to 2010. During 2010, I knew that I would move to a farther county after getting married and had to change job. My original plan was to quit my job after getting married. However, I could not handle the stress due to my demanding boss and my wedding preparation. I finally decided to resign from my job 4 months prior to my wedding.

    Since I didn’t want to tell my boss that I was so stressed out due to him and my wedding preparation (not want to burn the bridge with the company), I simply told him that I went back to school for full-time study and had to quit (this reason looks more reasonable). This is also the reason the HR put on my personnel file during my exit interview. After my resignation, I continued on my wedding preparation, then getting married, moving, and looking for jobs. I finally had one year gap.

    Now I want to look for a job again as I recently moved to another farther city. I have questions when I’m preparing for my resume and job application:

    (1) How should I list my work experience on my resume? If I list my work history like this, there may be a red flag to HR recruiters as there’s one year gap. They may wonder what I was doing during that one year (from Job B to Job C).

    Job A – May 2005 to May 2008
    Job B – May 2008 to Aug 2010
    Job C – Aug 2011 to Present

    (2) On official job application form, how should I explain my one-year gap since I didn’t tell the real reason of my resignation to my previous employer? Will background check / employment verification ask the reason for leaving a job? If I put “getting married and moving to another county” as the reason, it will not match the previous employer’s personnel record. On the other hand if I say “going back to school” as the reason, I have no proof to provide. Is there a way to say something like “original plan was back to school and somehow plan got changed and need to return to workforce?”

    Please advise. I have been applying for jobs for 4 months and still no luck. Not sure if my one-year gap brings a red flag to recruiters.

    Thank you.
    Wendy

    Reply
    • 94. Michael Spiro  |  August 29, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      First of all, change your resume to list years only, and not months: Job A: 2005-2008, Job B: 2008-2010, Job C: 2011-Present. That helps mask the 1-year gap without lying. As for explaining why you left Job B, and why you didn’t work for a year … the truth is best, and should not be a red flag. Leaving a job to get married is not a reason to eliminate you from consideration — especially since you’ve now been working since 2011. The much more important issue is whether or not you are qualified for whatever job you are applying for, and how your skills compare to other applicants. If your skills are marketable and in demand, that gap won’t matter. On the other hand, if many others are more qualified than you, then you will have much more of a challenge finding work no matter what your work history looks like.

      Reply
      • 95. Wendy  |  August 31, 2014 at 3:38 am

        Michael,

        Thank you for your great advice.

        I would like to tell recruiters that the true reason for leaving Job B was to get married. However, I am worried that this reason would not match Job B’s company record when future employers do background check. It’s because when I resigned from Job B, I told Job B’s company that I would go back to school.

        Now I have to fill out the reason for leaving Job B on all job application forms, should I need to match the reason of what I gave to Job B’s company when I resign (i.e. back to school)?

        Thanks,
        Wendy

      • 96. Michael Spiro  |  September 2, 2014 at 8:49 am

        Just tell the truth: you left your job to get married, and intended to return to school — but later changed your mind. I think you are making too big a deal of this issue. As I said before, the much more important issue is whether or not you are qualified for whatever job you are applying for, and how your skills compare to other applicants.

  • 97. Wendy  |  September 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Michael,

    Thank you again for your great advice.

    My current job is a full-time permanent job (Aug 2011 to present). But I started it as a contractor status at the first three months (Jun 2011 to Aug 2011). Job title and duties remain the same after I was converted to full-time employee status. When I list this job on job applications forms, do I have to list them separately?

    Data Analyst at ABC Company – Aug 2011 to present
    Data Analyst (contractor) at ABC Company – Jun 2011 to Aug 2011

    In my company’s payroll system, my official date of hire is Aug 2011. I was not on their payroll and they only issued a non-paycheck to me
    during my contractor status.

    Please advise.

    Thanks,
    Wendy

    Reply
    • 98. Michael Spiro  |  September 2, 2014 at 11:23 am

      List them as one long job on your resume, but as two separate jobs on official application forms. (On the application, the contractor job should show the staffing agency as your actual employer, and the company you did the work for as their client. That way, a background checking company will be able to correctly verify everything.)

      Reply
      • 99. Wendy  |  September 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

        The contractor status was on my own, not hired via staffing agency. My current employer issued 1099 directly to me for those 3 months of work. Should I still need to list the contractor status separately on the application forms? If yes, how to put the job title?

        Thanks.

  • 100. Patai Gutom  |  September 20, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Hi,

    First, your article is soo informative and enjoyable. Moving on, I am currently employed in a distributor company as a Logistics Supervisor from May 2014 to present.. However, I am not enjoying the job as I am working from 8:00AM down to 10:00PM Monday to Saturday, no work life balance. And on weekends, I commute around 2 hours to go back home since I work out base. I found those routine uncomfortable. And I really feel like I do not click with the company’s overall culture. I do not feel any inner drive or push to go on with the daily job. Now, I would like to seek advice from you coz I felt you are the right person who could provide invaluable advice for me. Here it is, I am planning to resign with my current job but my problem is how to tell to the management what my exact reasons are. Do I have to tell a lie or give them any alibi? Or it is better to to tell them frankly and honestly the reasons I mentioned? I will appreciate your opinion on this regard.

    Reply
    • 101. Michael Spiro  |  September 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      Patai:
      I would NOT advise telling lies to your employer! When resigning, you should either say nothing at all about your reasons for leaving, or say something general like you are leaving for “personal reasons.” There is no need to provide any explanation. Being frank and honest about the reasons you mentioned (which, by the way sound to me like good reasons to leave!) would not serve you any good purpose other than to get it off your chest … and could potentially cause you harm if things were misinterpreted. You might want to read this article: The Proper Way to Quit a Job.
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 102. Patai Gutom  |  September 24, 2014 at 9:08 am

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate. Question: What if my employer ask me what is/are my “personal reasons for quitting my job? Is there a need for me to answer it?

      • 103. Michael Spiro  |  September 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

        Saying that you are leaving for “personal reasons” usually implies that you want those reasons to remain private. It would be somewhat rude for an employer to then ask you what those reasons are … but if they do, you could simply say that you’d rather not discuss your personal reasons.

      • 104. Patai Gutom  |  September 27, 2014 at 6:50 am

        I am a bit undecided on which type resignation letter to use. I mean, I just read another article regarding resignation which suggests to write down your reasons(but in a professional manner). Unlike your suggestion that I should not discuss to them my “personal reasons”.

        Here is an article I stumbled upon http://ph.jobsdb.com/en-ph/articles/resign-without-hurting-professional-network

        Draft your Resignation Letter

        “Write a draft copy of your resignation letter with a detailed list of your reasons for leaving. Keep your tone professional and your message direct. Don’t talk about what happened in the past too much. Focus on your future plans and explain how this decision is important in helping you achieve them. Writing a resignation letter is similar to preparing a resume. Writing several drafts and re-reading what you’ve written as many times as possible will help ensure the document serves its purpose. If you see words you’re not comfortable reading yourself, rewrite it. Print it on quality paper and hand it over to your boss instead of emailing it out, it’s more appropriate and of course, the right thing to do.”

      • 105. Michael Spiro  |  September 27, 2014 at 8:33 am

        That is TERRIBLE advice! That website you found is based in Manila, and the author is not credited. Always consider the source.

  • 106. Nicko D. Vizcarra  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:21 am

    I just wanted to ask if I should put my 3 month work experience on my resume? I left the company(banking industry) last September 11 this year due to some circumstances, and I’m now looking for a job. I’ve printed my resumes, the ones that I include my work experience and the ones are not. Someone asked me, why did I left the company and I said to her that I’m looking for a company that has better compensation and I want to help my family to raise our present status. Up until now, I haven’t received any calls or texts on that company. I’ve also passed my resume (without experience) in a bank, and I told them that I have no bank experience (but I do have). Then, they told me that I should wait for 2-3 weeks and they’ll inform me if I would be scheduled for final interview. After that, I felt bad because I didn’t tell them that I do have an experience in banking. The next day, I was about to tell them the truth, but before that, I asked for some advice if I should tell the truth. Some say that I should not, because they’ll have a bad impression regarding on my application with them, Some say that it is best to tell the truth because “Honesty will make you feel better.” And I became confused and didn’t go to that company. Up until now, I felt bad about it and still confused. As of now, I’m passing my resumes in different companies with no job experience written on it. Am I doing the right thing that I should not include the 3 month job experience on my resume? And if they called me for final interview, what will I tell them if, and only if, they found out that I do have a job experience?

    -Nicko

    Reply
    • 107. Michael Spiro  |  September 27, 2014 at 8:46 am

      Your story sounds confusing. You left a 3-month banking job “due to some circumstances”? (Red flag.) Your reason for quitting is you want better compensation? (Another red flag.) You have no other experience to list? (Huge red flag.) My question would be: Why should anyone want to hire you??? You need to explain your value proposition. Sell yourself! What do you offer to a prospective employer that they would want or need?

      Reply
  • 108. Patai Gutom  |  October 21, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Hi,

    How would I answer interview question “Why did you leave your last job?”

    Reply
    • 109. Michael Spiro  |  October 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

      I have no idea why you left your last job, so I cannot possibly supply you with an answer. Each person’s situation is different. There is no standard one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Were you fired for poor performance? Did you leave for a better opportunity? Did the company go out of business? Was your position eliminated? Were you laid off due to the weak economy? Only you can answer those questions!

      Reply
  • 110. bigeasycrochet  |  November 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Have found many useful things here except for a clearer answer on a couple of things.
    One, been with current employer for 12 years. Previous to that I did 6 months at a job completely outside of my expertise (desperately needed a job). Previous job was 5 years and left that due to him retiring. (He is now deceased.) Do I list the 6 month job? skip it and just move on to the 5 year job? or leave off both since I’ve got the 12 years at my current?

    Also, what about reason for leaving? Within the last year and a half I’ve gotten a new boss and he and I don’t see eye to eye on things. I’m concerned that 1, he’s going to fire me, or two I’m going to get fed up and leave. If #1 happens how do I answer the “why’d you leave” question and still look favorable to potential employers?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 111. Michael Spiro  |  November 21, 2014 at 11:57 am

      I would leave that 6-month job off your résumé, mostly because you said it was outside of your area of expertise. Whether of not to include the prior 5 year job is your call. Either way, you certainly don’t have to worry about appearing to be a job-hopper. Two long-term stints like those are impressive. As to the reason for leaving question — it sounds like you are anticipating a hypothetical situation that has yet to occur. If you do get “fired” … I would simply say something general like: there was a change in management causing you to seek other opportunities. Just tread lightly regarding the “not seeing eye-to-eye” thing. It’s OK to tell a prospective new employer that you didn’t mesh with your new boss’s management style, or that you disagreed with the new direction the company was going in … but you don’t want to fall into bad-mouthing your prior boss or company. That’s just bad interview form. Try to keep it positive, and dwell on your accomplishments and capabilities.

      Reply

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, and Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, a professional services firm that deploys professionals with at least 25 or more years of experience. Prior to that, he worked for two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule: Never
         Burn Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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Job Opportunities:

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Blog Visitor Count:

  • 528,442 hits

Recent Posts:

Previous Posts (by Date):

►  Are You "Overqualified?"
      Handling The Age Issue ...

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 4

------------------------------------------
►  "Unemployed Need Not Apply" -
      Working Around This Scary
      Message

------------------------------------------
►  Explaining Short Stints and
      Employment Gaps

------------------------------------------
►  The Lost Art of Customer
      Service: Unreturned Phone
      Calls & Emails

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 3

------------------------------------------
►  The Résumé Test & Checklist:
      Does Yours Pass?

------------------------------------------
►  The "T" Cover Letter -
      The Only Type Worth Sending

------------------------------------------
►  The Brutal Truth on how
      Résumés Get Eliminated

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 2

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Exposing
      Inconvenient Truths

------------------------------------------
►  The Double-Whammy of
      Rejection and Isolation

------------------------------------------
►  Is Your “Elevator Pitch” Taking
      You UP or DOWN?

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 1

------------------------------------------
►  Warning: That Rant You
      Posted Just Went Viral!

------------------------------------------
►  Using Social Media to Enhance
      Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Avoiding the “Black Hole
      of HR”

------------------------------------------
►  “In Transition” and Other
      Awkward Euphemisms

------------------------------------------
►  Getting Un-Stuck from
      your Rut!

------------------------------------------
►  Time Management: Recipe for a
      Well-Balanced Job Search

------------------------------------------
►  Face-to-Face Interviews:
      Secrets, Tips and Tricks

------------------------------------------
►  Counteroffers: Just Say No!
------------------------------------------
►  The Proper Way to Quit a Job
------------------------------------------
►  The Real Truth About Working
      with Recruiters

------------------------------------------
►  Phone Interviews:
      Secrets, Tricks and Tips

------------------------------------------
►  The Golden Rule: Never Burn
      Bridges

------------------------------------------
►  Candidates Gone Wild:
      Recruiter Horror Stories

------------------------------------------
►  Following-Up: An Essential
      Key to Success

------------------------------------------
►  Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing
      Technique

------------------------------------------
►  New Year’s Resolutions for
      Unemployed Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  How to Network: A Step-by-
      Step Guide for Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Helpful Things for
      Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Annoying Things
      for Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Secret
      Conversations Revealed!

------------------------------------------
►  The Art of Giving: The Key to
      Effective Networking

------------------------------------------
►  Targeted Networking: How to
      Effectively Reach Out

------------------------------------------
►  Why Job Hunting is a
      Consultative Sales Position

------------------------------------------
►  The Power of a Positive
      Attitude

------------------------------------------
►  Looking for Networking in
      All the Wrong Places

------------------------------------------
►  Answering the Dreaded Salary
      Question

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