Have a questionable work history? Here’s how to address it

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In a competitive job market, candidates need to do everything they can to put their best foot forward, demonstrate their skills, and convince a dealership owner that they need to hire them.
While this generally shouldn’t be too hard of a task if you have a wealth of experience under your belt and an unblemished work history, a couple of black marks on your application could be the difference between securing and missing out on that dream role—but that doesn’t have to be the case.

If you have a questionable work history, there are a few things you can do to get you in there with a winning chance as well as reassure a prospective employer that they’re making the right decision if they choose you for the role.

Short stints in previous roles

Most employers value loyalty in employees and don’t want to invest time and money recruiting and training a new staff member if they’re likely to walk out the door before they’ve at least recouped their investment.
Given that most people believe that past performance is a good indicator of future performance, if you have a work history dotted with numerous stints with multiple employers, that can ring warning bells for a prospective employer.
To give you an idea of what might be viewed as a short stint, it can be helpful to consider what a normal tenure looks like to an employer.
According to the Australian Institute of Business, the average tenure of Australian workers is 3.3 years. Given that’s an average, an employer might normally expect that staying in a role or with an employer for a year or two is perfectly acceptable; however, anything less than that (and particularly multiple short stints) will likely raise a few eyebrows.
The key to handling short stints is to be ready to explain the reasoning behind the short tenure with a polished version of the truth ready to go during an interview.

Explain your reason/s for leaving roles with explanations like ‘it didn’t offer enough scope to fully utilize my skills’ or ‘the working environment wasn’t conducive to producing high-quality work’. Find a way to demonstrate why the role didn’t stack up (rather than why you didn’t stack up) and be prepared to elaborate if asked.

Gaps in your resume

Lengthy gaps in your work history can occur for a wide range of reasons and most have a perfectly acceptable explanation. It could be to take time off to care for sick or elderly relative, to raise children, to study, to travel or to complete volunteer work; but from the perspective of an employer, they may be concerned that you:

  • lack a strong work ethic
  • lack important skills which have prevented you from being able to secure work, or
  • haven’t had enough time in the workforce to build a solid, current, and relevant skill set
Many employers will simply write off a candidate that has significant employment gaps during the initial screening process without even considering them for an interview. To address this, it’s important to include a brief explanation for any employment gaps in your application—and there are a couple of ways you can do it.

A good strategy is to list any lengthy gaps in the same way you would list a role, including dates and a brief description of what you were doing during that time. Alternatively, you can also choose to briefly mention in your cover letter some of the additional skills that you developed during periods of unemployment which might be valuable to an employer.

If you can remove the guesswork and provide a valid explanation of what you were doing during that time, most employers will be willing to overlook it (or even view it as a positive!).

Limited experience

If you’re just starting out in your career or are looking for a change in direction, you may find that your role-relevant experience is a little thin. While relevant experience may be a non-negotiable for a role like a Branch Manager or a technical position, for roles where experience is desirable but not essential, there’s still plenty of room to impress provided you have some ‘transferable skills’.
Have a questionable work history? Here’s how to address it
Transferable skills are generic skills which you might have developed in a completely unrelated role or industry which can be applied to aspects of the role you’re applying for.
Skills like teamwork, leadership, reasoning, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, creativity or adaptability can be applied to a wide range of roles in a variety of industries and can be just as valuable as role-specific skills which can always be taught.

In an interview, make a point of highlighting any relevant transferable skills you have while demonstrating your enthusiasm for learning how to apply them in a new role and environment and you should fare well.

You were fired from your last role

Being fired from a previous role can be a major concern for a prospective employer, but they may be willing to overlook it if you can provide a decent explanation about what happened.
If you were fired from your previous role, you can almost guarantee it will be raised in an interview, so it’s important to be prepared to discuss it.

Here are a few helpful strategies you can use to handle questions about why you were terminated from your previous role:

  • Be honest and truthful about what happened, as if any dishonesty is uncovered, you’ll be written off immediately.
  • Avoid bad-mouthing your previous employer, as a prospective employer will be concerned you might do the same thing about them should a similar situation arise under their employment.
  • Accept responsibility for your role in the situation as it demonstrates a level of maturity and emotional intelligence.
  • Keep your explanations clear and concise and avoid going into too much detail unless asked.
  • Explain what you learned from the experience and what you’ve done to remedy any issues.
It’s also a good idea to rehearse your answers in the lead up to the interview; while you may have an idea of what you want to say, it’s amazing what can slip out by accident when you’re dealing with the nerves and pressure of an interview scenario.
Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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