Short-Term Job: Leave it off My Resume?

Software engineers, by the very dynamic nature of the industry in which they work in, sometimes end up looking for a new job only a month or two after beginning their last one. Perhaps they made a mistake and only realized it after they started. Perhaps, after the fact, there was a change in the position, responsibilities, employer or the new company’s fortunes changed quickly and a layoff occurred. Whatever the reason, it’s not an ideal situation, and candidates often ask if they should even list such a position on their resume.

While this is one of those times when there’s not a “one-size-fits-all answer”, it’s usually best to be up-front with future employers and add the position to your resume, particularly if it’s a one-time occurrence.

Let’s look at the pros and cons…

Certainly, the biggest reason software developers are reluctant to mention their short-term job is they feel it will hurt their chances with a prospective employer, and yes, there can be hiring managers who look at this negatively but in my years of experience as a software recruiter, I think that these circumstances represent a small minority of all the potential hiring managers you’ll encounter. In most cases, if there’s a reasonable explanation for making a switch so soon, a good manager will understand and take the circumstances into account, and knowing this information won’t jeopardize getting the interview or landing the new job. Most managers will appreciate the honesty and with all the facts in hand are able to make an informed judgment call.

On the other hand, let’s say you omit this experience from your resume. Perhaps you think “no one will ever know”, or you think you may have dodged a bullet. The software community is such a small world that you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk if this job comes to light later on, especially when references are being checked, and someone inadvertently mentions that you were employed for such a short amount of time. Or your new company will interview or hire someone who briefly worked with you at the short-term company. If this happens, your new employer may now have concerns with your level of honesty and transparency, and may wonder what other things you haven’t divulged. Over the years, I have seen a number of instances where a company has discharged someone, or rescinded a job offer, because of inaccuracies in the resume, job application or reference check. In virtually every one of these cases, the crucial issue wasn’t even the discrepancy itself, but rather the way the discrepancy was handled.

Now maybe you’ll have two short-term jobs to worry about!

Honesty is really the best policy. Besides the practical reasons I’ve outlined, ask yourself an important question; would you really feel good knowing you had to hide who you are or where you worked in order to get hired? In twenty-five years as a software recruiter, I’ve encountered only a few situations where an honest and reasonable presentation had a negative impact with a hiring situation.