Are you dating yourself out of a job?

interviewI guess this question could mean a couple things. I think the obvious one is about showing too many years of experience and thus potentially disqualifying yourself from consideration because the company is going for youth (not that they would ever say that because it is ILLEGAL) but we all know it happens.  That’s a discussion for another day – I actually have an interesting story about that from a personal experience as a candidate, but let’s table it for now.

What I am talking about is something less obvious and seemingly innocuous to most people who write their resumes. It is a HUGE RED FLAG for potential employers.

Dave from Washington State wrote me and asked: “I had a period of time where I changed jobs quite a bit, is it better for me to include in the start and end dates of my employment month and year, or just put the year as to not arise any suspicions of job-hopping?”

This is an interesting dilemma, Dave. The answer is easy. While you think that omitting the months will not arise suspicion, we in the resume scrutinizing business actually pick right up on this and assume you are hiding the truth. For those of you not sure what I am talking about, someone who worked at a job from December of 2007 until January 2009 might put they started in 2007 and left in 2009. This looks like a solid 2 year stint when in truth, it’s just a hair over a year.

Without reservation, I advise people not to do this. Most hiring people will see it and say: “this person in trying to hide something, what else are they trying to hide?” Most job hunters think: “well, let me get in the door and I can clarify things.” Nope, sorry. Yes, some people will overlook it if you are a dead on match to the job, but don’t roll the dice. Recruiters and hiring managers look at work history and other “non-technical” aspects of resumes as much as the skill match.

So, what’s the solution? If you feel like there is job-hopping concern, address it head on. One way is one or two sentences at the end of each job mentioned with a short and sweet explanation. [Company decided to outsource development to Khazikstan] or [Lost funding] or [was recruited for a better opportunity]. Don’t ever badmouth the company or your supervisor.

If you left under less than amicable circumstances, it obviously gets trickier. If it was performance related, and you felt it was unjust you can put something like [company and my career goals were going in different directions]. If it was because of criminal or “against company policy” actions that you are guilty of, I don’t have a good answer for that except coming clean with a separate document explaining how you have taken drastic measures to change your ways. We all make mistakes, some are forgivable to employers and some are not.

So, be up front about the exact dates you worked at a job. Most companies do background checks now and it will come out anyway. Employers are much more comfortable working with people who are up front with them and are usually more forgiving.

Thanks for your questions, if you have a question please email me.

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