Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Multiple brief jobs and related resume problems

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 10, 2010

I have been receiving feedback emails from a number of people who have read my postings on employment gaps, to tell me that in a way they have the opposite problem. They have jobs and work assignments they have held that they can add into their resumes so they do not necessarily have any significant gaps, but they have so many short term positions to list that they see this as raising red flags for resume reviewers.

This is the classic conundrum for job seekers – when they cannot find a longer term position they seek out what they can get to keep busy and keep on the market, and to bring in needed income. They are active and industrious and work very hard at keeping up their skills so these are the people who in a more rational world, hiring managers should most want to find. But the questions still come up as to whether they moved on and on and on through these positions because they did not fit in for problems with their interpersonal skills or other issues.

This problem is in effect very similar to that of having employment gaps, as touched on in two earlier postings:

Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems
Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems, part 2

insofar as it can lead to the same basic outcome of being screened out from hiring consideration. I would recommending reading those postings if you have possible problems or issues in your work history, as many of the basic principles for effectively writing a resume are the same regardless of detail as to why your work history could raise questions. But having too many short term work positions does raise some specific issues and the goal of this posting is to cover some of them here.

To repeat a crucial point from the above two postings as a starting point I stress that:

• It is vitally important that what you put into your resume is true and that you can discuss it with confidence in an interview.

The goal here is to:

• Present your work history in a way that is accurate, but that at the same time is easier for the reader to follow.
• And you want your resume to effectively tell your story as to what you would bring to the table in an interview and as a new hire.

One important tool that you can use is to manage the details by leaving out extraneous material that would not relate to the position at hand that you are applying for – and I write this in terms of sending a focused resume to a specific employer. But you do not want to create the types of issues covered in the employment gaps postings by leaving out indication of you’re having worked when you did.

• Consolidate similar positions and assignments to make your resume more readable.

If you have a consecutive series of positions and assignments that you can legitimately claim to have been consulting work, group them together under a single heading in your resume as such. If some were temp work, you can change the heading to something like “Consulting and Temporary Assignments” or “Consulting and Short Term Assignments” though a shorter label like “Consulting” is probably easier for the reader to follow.

The key to this is in what you put under these headings, and here you want to group a short set of bullet points that highlight not just what you did, but how effectively you did it, and what value you brought to your employers for being there.

• Think about what you did in this group of shorter work assignments and put together a list of tasks done.
• Don’t be concerned about making this list too long, at least at this stage, but focus on areas that would be important for the job you are seeking, where at all possible.
• Definitely include tasks you worked on where you can convincingly argue that you had a positive impact on your employers for having been there.
• Select out and quantify the points you can, as to issues like number of people supervised, size of budget managed, revenues brought in, money saved and so on. Show that while you may have been working for individual employers for shorter periods, you were still adding real value and making a difference for them.
• Now filter out the points you would want to include, limiting to six or so if possible. But put in enough details to capture interest. The results should look more like the bullet point details for a single longer term job you have held.

There are actually two types of question that a resume can raise. The questions referred to above in this posting are the concerns-based negative questions like “Why were you out of work for so long?” or “Why do you seem to have so much trouble holding onto a job?” These are the questions you want to avoid raising for the people who screen and review resumes for the positions you apply to. The other general category is the positive interest-driven question like “how did you do that?” or “could you tell me some more about __?” You want to write and format your resume to limit the negative questions and the likelihood that any would come up while increasing the odds that the positive questions will come up as they will prompt the hiring manager to meet with you so they can get the answers. And in this case these questions all come down to a single positive question.

• “I see in your resume that you did A and B and C. Can you do that for us (for me as your supervisor) here at this company too?”

Beyond that, they will also want to know:

• “Do you really want to do this here? Will you be an effective, enthusiastic member of my team?”

But first you have to get to that first positive question, and that is what this posting focuses on, in getting your foot in a door.

My next posting in this series on job search and career development best practices will focus on knowing when to switch to a Plan B when your resumes just don’t seem to be working, and how to organize and develop that new plan.

2 Responses

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  1. […] Gaps and Related Resume Problems, Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems, part 2, Multiple Brief Jobs and Related Resume Problems and group and organize your specific positions and employers accordingly if need be. Otherwise […]


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