Illustration by Sarina Finkelstein for MONEY; Getty Images (1)
By Caroline Ceniza-Levine
October 11, 2016

A reader asks: If the start-up company I was working for just closed down, should I put that in my CV? I was there for 5 months and I wonder, would it look weird? – Andrea

There are many reasons that you might find yourself leaving an employer faster than you expected. Perhaps, like Andrea, you joined a start-up that closed. One of my clients was at a profitable start-up, but it still closed after failing to raise its second round of funding. Or maybe your role disappeared shortly after joining – this is common in professional services, where an advertising firm or consulting company staffs up in anticipation of a major client that fails to materialize. Or maybe you left earlier than planned, when the workplace culture turned out to be different from what you experienced in the interview process.

When you work only a short time period, sometimes it’s better to just leave it off the resume. But sometimes it makes sense to keep it in. Here are some pros and cons to consider when including short-term jobs on your resume:

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How short is it?

If you worked somewhere close to or just over a year, I would almost always include it because a gap of 12 months or more will catch a recruiter’s attention. Some recruiters question gaps starting at six months (especially if you have fewer years of overall experience) so you may want to include a job even at the six-month mark. Your resume reader may just assume you were inactive during this time, rather than gainfully employed. So I would include short jobs of six months or more on the resume. For jobs less than six months, the employment gap is less of an issue, and you don’t want to call attention to a short job unnecessarily, so you can leave it out. The one exception: if you are specifically asked in an employment application to list all the places where you worked, and you were a full-time employee at a company for less than six months — even just one day — then I would list it. You can more easily explain why you only stayed somewhere a short time rather than why you omitted something on your application.

Is it a blip or a pattern?

You might be afraid to list a short-term job, as it might call attention to what you perceive as a failed experience. If this is one short-term job out of several others where you stayed much longer, then this will be seen as a blip in an otherwise solid resume. If you have more than one short tenure on the resume, it starts to look like a pattern, and prospective employers will question your commitment, staying power, and even work quality. It could be that you just hit a patch of bad luck (I have met candidates who have had multiple, consecutive layoffs). In that case, see if you can recast your series of short-term jobs in a more positive pattern – pointing out how all jobs are in a specific area (e.g., same industry or type of role) or expertise (e.g., turning around failing units and then leaving once they’re performing or sold).

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Does it add to your overall story?

Don’t assume a short-term job only detracts from your profile. If you worked even for a short time in a different industry than the rest of your background or in a different role or at a different type of company (e.g., a start-up when you’ve historically been at Fortune 500 companies), then your short-term job adds variety. If you’ve historically been all media and your short-term job is the one non-media experience you have and you want out of media, then you want to keep that non-media job in your resume. Sure, you’ll need to position your exit so that it doesn’t appear like you couldn’t hack it in a different industry, but if you have strong references and a reasonable story behind why you left, spinning this positively shouldn’t be a problem.

There is no one answer to whether or not you should include a short-term job on the resume. Several factors come into play. What you ultimately need to consider is how including the job will look in combination with all of your experience, skills and background. This is actually how you need to look at positioning everything you do (short-term jobs, extra classes you take, volunteer activities and everything else but the traditional permanent, full-time experience).

You always want to brand your experience and activities as part of a comprehensive whole – your unique value as a candidate.

 

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