Explaining short stints on resumes

Over on the MSN career site, there's an article about explaining to a hiring company the short term positions (contract or full-time) on your resume. While I would enforce the importance of truthfulness (or truthiness, if you will) in your explanation I believe that thinking through exactly how you will respond when asked about these positions will alleviate a lot of anxiety. In any stressful interview situation I've been in, I've always tried to anticipate questions and think through how I would answer.

You certainly can't anticipate everything. But if you have some short stints on your resume, you should definitely expect an even minimally experienced interviewer to ask about them. It pays to be prepared.

Comments (5)

  1. Margo says:

    THANK YOU.  I have found it so hard to explain these, even though I have "INTERN" listed.  

    I recently had a company turn down my resume because of no steady work history.  I had to explain to them that while I was employed, and sometimes with two jobs, the Intern position would take precedence over something perhaps like "Old Navy Sales Associate".

  2. Tim says:

    Working for a staffing company, we get asked this all the time. I think he gives a lot of good suggestions that cover bases I didn’t want to think about (i.e., software piracy). I wholeheartedly agree you shouldn’t badmouth former employers. Who wants to hire someone with 30 minutes worth of complaints about their last company? It get you thinking, "Maybe it wasn’t the company, maybe it was the employee."

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Tim-exactly. Plus, if there was something wrong with the company, there are good ways to say it. I have used "Culturally, that company was not a good fit for me. I stayed until I was sure that I didn’t want to be there long term and then I looked for another company that was a better fit for me. I learned what kind of questions I needed to ask during the interview to assess the cultural fit." Hey, anyone can make a mistake selecting their next company (and let me be clear, I’ve made that mistake before and then I fixed it).

  4. Brian says:

    I found the article interesting.  However, one of points he makes is, Don’t lie on your resume.   But then further down, he talks about leaving short stint jobs off your resume and says "If asked about the gap in employment you can say that you worked a short-term contract job that did not contribute to your overall experience and you did not want to record it on your résumé."

    So, is he saying don’t lie, unless you have to?

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Brian-I think he was recommending saying that *if* it were true, but that you don’t have to put the short-term contracts on your resume if they are inconsistent with your overall career focus. I think you could also put minimal info like "several contract roles in marketing communications", group them together or something. Put enough that the recruiter has an idea what you were doing and would ask more questions about the situation so you woul;d have an opportunity to explain it to them in person (or on the phone).

    And as you all know, I always recommend erring on the side of honesty. If you get caught being dishonest, the interview proess pretty much ends there.

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