Job Interview Tips Professional Development

How to Answer “Why Have You Had So Many Jobs?”

Written by Kate Lopaze

You’re sitting in the interview, and things are going fine, when the hiring manager looks up from your resume, eyebrow raised, and asks the question you’ve been dreading: “You’ve had an awful lot of jobs, haven’t you? Can you walk me through that?”

DO understand why this is a potential red flag.

You probably had reasons for every job switch on your resume. The interviewer doesn’t know that—all he or she knows is what’s printed in black and white on that fancy cream-colored stock. He or she doesn’t know if you’ve been fired from every position you’ve ever held, or if you’re a serial quitter when a shinier new opportunity comes along. Before they can hire you, they need to get a solid sense of your employment history to help determine whether you’re a good bet for this company. If you look like a flight risk, the company might not be willing to make that investment in you.

DON’T assume this makes you look bad by default.

The fact that the interviewer is calling attention to your, uh, varied history is not meant to make you feel ashamed, like some kind of job floozy. If you’re asked to clarify (or even just given an opening to do so), take a deep breath and make sure you have an elevator pitch-style explanation.

DO make sure you have context for all of it.

A shoulder shrug or a long, awkward pause is the least helpful response you can give here. Be prepared to talk about why you have a variety of jobs listed over a short(ish) amount of time.

DON’T make stuff up.

If you’re asked about the jobs you’ve listed on your resume, be honest. You don’t have to give every gory detail about why you left a particular job, but if you stick to the broad outlines you should be okay. For example: I was let go due to a company restructuring at XYZ Corp, and it wasn’t until I landed at the Elite Agency the following year that I felt like I was back on track, professionally.

It’s okay to admit that you left jobs in the past because they weren’t a great fit for your professional goals, but be sure to reiterate that you see this current opportunity as having long-term potential.

DO consider revising your resume to edit out some job change details.

Do you really need every single one of your jobs on there? If you have entries on your resume that lasted less than a year, think about whether that job really adds relevance to your history. If you’re not using anyone from that job as a reference and it wasn’t a major cornerstone of your relevant experience, then consider dropping it.

For example, this block of your resume… Marketing Coordinator, March 2010 – February 2012
Whirlwind Inc. Marketing Coordinator, February 2012 – November 2012 Social Media Director, November 2012 – June 2014

…could be narrowed down to this: Marketing Coordinator, 2010 – 2012 Social Media Director, 2012 – 2014

This way, you’ve smoothed over an interim job that looks like an odd blip, without leaving a gap. This can also avoid awkward explanations about why you left that middle job so soon.

If this question comes up in your interview, take heart—it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker. It’s a conversational opening to give context and explain how those jobs turned you into the stellar candidate you are today.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.