Dear Sam: My concern is the number of jobs I have held over the past several years and the gaps of up to six months that occur between two of the jobs. My wife has the primary job in our family, and due to her work we have had to move between three states within a three-year period. I have tried to place an explanation of what has occurred in my cover letter, but the response I received in my last interview was concern that I would be moving again. My wife enjoys her work here and seems to be at a place that does not have layoffs in their future, as was the case in the previous moves. I feel lost as how to handle this issue and want to have the ability to have my resume considered for positions that will be steps up in my career. – Timothy
Dear Timothy: The best way to overcome potentially disqualifying factors such as frequent job hops or gaps in employment is to demonstrate the value you added while you were an employee of each organization. From looking at your resume I see employment from 1994-2007, 2007-2009, 2009-2011, and 2011-present. This doesn’t immediately concern me, nor does it present you as an extreme job hopper. In today’s market it is very common to see just one or two years of employment with each employer, typically due to no fault on the employee’s behalf. Also, the six-month gaps do not present an issue when only displaying years and not months of employment. Having said that, I do think you can minimize the appearance of having moved around a little in recent years by changing the format of your resume.
Instead of presenting your experiences in a traditional reverse-chronological format, present using a combination format, pulling accomplishments out on page one under each employer. This will ensure your “value” is sold on page one—the page that will get the most attention during the screening process—leaving your responsibilities and dates of employment to fall to page two. When you organize experience in this manner, disqualifying factors related to dates and places of employment immediately take a back seat and allow the focus to remain on what you really want the hiring manager to know about your candidacy.
Additionally, by reformatting in this way, you will be distinguishing accomplishments from responsibilities, something your current resume does not do. It is absolutely imperative to separate day-to-day responsibilities from accomplishments on a resume, as where you went above-and-beyond is what predicts your value to a hiring manager. In the current format, duties and achievements are intermingled and actual areas you provided extra value are lost in the mix.
Lastly, regarding your resume format, I feel you need to create a more unique look. Your resume lacks visual appeal, which when a hiring manger is faced with hundreds of applicants, is critical in gaining a little more attention.
As for your cover letter, I typically advise not to note a potentially disqualifying factor. The hiring manager will likely figure out there is a reason for your recent moves, and highlighting it as something outside of your control, only raises a red flag as to your ability to stay in a job for more than a couple of years. Even when this does come up in an interview, at least you have your foot in the door, can really sell your value, and can reinforce that your wife has settled into a long-term role. I hope this helps you reorganize your resume, secure more interviews, and hopefully land that career position you are seeking. All the best.