Dealing with Jobs Left Early

Recruiters and employers generally like to see candidates who have a steady work history. That being said, nobody's perfect and many people have had to leave a job early for one reason or another. This week's job searching tip deals with methods you can use to get over an employer's concern about leaving a job early.


I was recently told in an interview that I have shown no loyalty to any of my employers and that it would be difficult to sell me to potential employers. I left two jobs in less than eight months because they were not a good fit. Is there another way I can describe the two jobs in an interview?

- B.T.

Dear B.T.,

Let's first take a look at why employers are hesitant to hire someone who has left jobs early:
1. Wasted training time and money - if an employer has to train you for the job and you leave early, resources spent on training were wasted
2. Hiring costs - Often, an employer will have to pay a recruiter a placement fee that can be around 20% of your first year's salary. Most recruiters provide the employer with a 3-month guarantee. That is, if you leave before 3 months are up, the employer gets their placement fee back. However, if you leave after 8 months, most recruiters' guarantees have expired.
3. Opportunity Costs - Sort of as a follow on to #2, if you quit and the position is open again, the employer has to once again divert management attention to the recruiting issue. It will probably take time to start reaching candidates with recruitment advertising, etc. Position vacancies are costly both from the perspective of the work for the position not being done, and from the distraction caused to immediate managers of that function.
4. Loyalty/Values - The employer is likely going to be concerned that you lack loyalty and don't appreciate the burden it places on them to have to hire someone else. Yes, looking out for yourself is important. But it creates a credibility problem that you will need to overcome.


Helping the Companies you Left Early

If you're going to leave a job early, even if you were unhappy with your boss or the work environment, give some thought to how you can leave without leaving the company high and dry. Maybe you know someone with a comparable skillset who could take the job. If you can do something to ease the company's burden of having to recruit a new person, this will leave them with a much better impression. It also gives you a better story to tell in interviews for new positions. Even if you didn't leave the company recently, it wouldn't hurt to visit with them again and find out if there is anything you can do to help.

Get References

If your resume isn't great or doesn't paint a very positive picture of your career background, look for other things which can bolster the impression you can create with potential employers. An ideal situation would be to get references from the employers you left early. This is where helping these former employers can help you -- they'll be more inclined to write a good reference for you if you help them out. It also helps if you had made a positive contribution at the former employer before you left. It would be great if you could get a reference in writing (i.e. a reference letter) which you could bring with you to interviews.

One way to ease the process of getting reference letters is to offer to write the letter for the reference, and to ask them to simply sign their name to it. Of course, they will only agree to do something like that if you have a positive relationship with them. See this article on references for more information:

Even if you don't get a reference letter, there's a chance the recruiter might know someone there or might call for a reference. If the company has positive things to say about you, you'll be better off.

Get Inside Help

In addition to getting references from former employers, references from the prospective employer can also be powerful. This can help to illustrate that you really want to work for the company, and it can be helpful to have someone on the inside vouch for you. You can network thru friends/associates to find someone who works there. Career expert Jerry Crispin goes as far as to recommend people go out to the parking lot of a company where they want to work and offer someone who works there $20 to use their name when applying (i.e. I was referred by Joe Smith).

Hit the Ground Running

Employers are generally concerned about someone leaving a job early if they have to invest time in training you up front. If you already have all the skills needed to do the job and understand the company and the industry BEFORE you start working there, that can help alleviate that concern.

You can visit the JobSearchInfo Education and Training page for resources to help with raising your skill level:

Optimizing your Resume Presentation

Professional resume writers deal with presenting peoples' career histories in the best possible light every day. You may want to consider hiring one if your situation is especially tricky to present.

About the Author

Scott Brown is the author of the Job Search Handbook ( As editor of the weekly newsletter on job searching, Scott has written many articles on the subject. He wrote the Job Search Handbook to provide job seekers with a complete yet easy to use guide to finding a job effectively.