Some companies will see a short-term or recent job on your resume and will immediately wonder why you are applying. It can create warning signals about you as a candidate as a job hopper or that there is something else going on that makes you a risky pick. This is where the cover letter can be an effective tool to explain what is going on and why you want to make changes now.
Here is what you need to know to explain the situation in the cover letter to avoid being viewed as unemployable.
The cover letter should proactively address the obvious questions about why you are looking now with a recent job change or a short-lived job in the recent past. In doing this, you need to be honest. Do not claim things that are simply not true like you are consulting or took time off for family reasons. Instead, you should simply say that the job isn't or didn't work out. If you don't then you risk the potential employer finding out what did happen and you will lose the offer for failing to be honest in the hiring process.
You should say why you chose to take the job and what you thought it would be or could be. You should also be clear about any mistakes that you made at the job. Employers understand that no one is perfect and they typically care more about what you learned and how you will use that going forward. Focus on your lessons in the process and what you did in this explanation. This is important as you are the one that is being considered for their open job - not people at the other company.
Always stay positive in your cover letter and never talk negatively about a former employer, boss, or colleague. Even if the company or person did something wrong, it won't matter to the potential employer. The potential employer reviewing your cover letter is evaluating you to be a part of their team. This means that they want to know about you, your strengths, your attitude, and your ability to add to their team.
You also don't need to detail every aspect of what is going in your cover letter. Instead, proactively addressing job-hopping should be only a part of your cover letter. The bulk of your cover letter should be about your strengths, your skills, and why you want this company. So, stay positive and forward-thinking and keep your explanation about the obvious questions to no more than 1 - 4 sentences. The cover letter discussion of the short-term job is to address concerns and to create a talking point for the interview. It is not a place to tell the full story.
Say What You Want Next
An equal part of the cover letter should address what you want next in a company and job to avoid another short-term stint. Explain clearly what you are looking for and how you think that it could be this particular role that you are applying to. Doing this will show the potential employer that you are thinking through your next move and that you know what you want instead of aimlessly applying. This section is important to also calm any concerns about you being a job hopper.
To do this effectively, make sure that you are actually connecting your interests and preferences in a way that easily connects to the job that you are applying to. The more specific the better so long as they show that you are thinking beyond pure compensation issues or simply wanting another job. You can do this by focusing on what you bring to the table and the substance of what you want to be doing going forward.
Explain Why it is This Job at This Company
Finally, and most importantly, explicitly articulate why you are interested in this job at this company in your cover letter. This is important to show that you are actively thinking about how you could fit in their organization and that is something that you actually want. You can do this by referencing conversations that you have already had with people at the company, including references to research you did, or even talking about the specifics in the job description and how that connects to what you want next.
Don't skip this step. It is as important as proactively addressing why you made the recent career moves that look unfavorable. This is because the company wants to know that you aren't just running away from a bad job, but because you want to go towards your future and that happens to be their job/company.
And, doing all of the steps above will make a big difference in overcoming the perceptions that you are simply a job hopper. Make sure that you keep your message focused on your cover letter and it will go a long way to ensuring that you land the interview where you can elaborate further.
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