How do I explain why I quit a job after 3 months?
July 13, 2014 1:17 AM   Subscribe

I left a job after 3 months due to personal reasons and a contractual dispute. How can I explain this to new employers without sounding as though I was fired?

I left a job of several years for another that only lasted a few months. The new company was going through a lot of changes. My boss was forced out, I was moved to a different department, various departments torn down, a lot of roles were out-sourced (with the in-house employees' duties significantly reduced).

I was going through a difficult period (dealing with a death, handling the affairs of the estate, dealing with family etc) and I wasn't happy with my role in the company at all.

Then came new contracts. The new contracts were proposed and we were told we had to sign them. I asserted my rights and after various discussions with HR, my manager, the issue came to a head when a C-level exec got involved. He basically said the new contracts are not optional and I either take it or leave it. I could not deal with the stress of fighting C-levels each day (until I signed). I handed in my notice the day my probation ended and we agreed on one week's notice.

I'm now struggling how to explain the situation to new employers. Many are not happy with a short, neutral response and the HR people ask several follow up questions. I don't want to bad-mouth a past employer, nor to appear as though all my personal problems will affect my work, nor that I can't stay at a job.

I work in a field with plenty of opportunities right now and my skills are up-to-date.

Any (honest/brutal) advice will be greatly received.
posted by switch007 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You can't focus on "Due to changes in management and organization at the company, my employer wanted to change my contract after I had already started working, and the new contract didn't meet my requirements"? Leave personal problems out of it.
posted by olinerd at 1:20 AM on July 13, 2014 [20 favorites]

"I was going through some family issues, now resolved that will not affect my future performance." and/or "it just didn't seem like a good fit, due to some corporate changes during my time there."

Disclaimer: I am pretty bad at interviews. and on preview, you might go with olinerd's approach instead, but what the hey.
posted by RainyJay at 1:21 AM on July 13, 2014

Response by poster: olinerd: thanks for your reply. I guess I feel the management shuffle and contract dispute wasn't a good enough reason. I guess it is wise to not discuss the personal aspect at all. I like the way you phrased it, I'll give that a go on the next HR screening call.
posted by switch007 at 1:23 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not an employer, but the story I would tell (any way you explain it will be a story because you can't give all the subtleties, it's just choosing the narrative) would be that the company was restructuring/outsourcing/changing roles, and the role you were put into was not one that suited your goals, so you moved on. I think that's about as neutral as you can get it, and it puts no blame on either side.

If you can't truthfully tell it like that, I think olinerd's words are good.
posted by kadia_a at 2:50 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Assuming that you have meaningful work experience prior to this, I think you should just leave this position off your resume. Three months really isn't all that long at all, in the course of a career. If anyone asks, you can explain that you had a death in the family and personal obligations during that time period, which is true (if not the full story--but then in my ethic you absolutely do NOT owe a job your full personal story).

I'm not a fan of the theory that you have to be "owned" by employers continuously. That concept is creepy to me. I wouldn't want to work for a company who had a problem with my having a three month gap in my resume.... or quite frankly as much of a gap as I damn well pleased, as long as I could demonstrate my skills were still up to date and matched the requirements of the position I was applying for.

In my experience (as a web developer and then a massage therapist) there are plenty of employers who wish to hire human beings rather than thing-slaves who must demonstrate that they've been owned at all times and never had a moment to themselves.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 3:19 AM on July 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

You go with the classic response: "it wasn't a good fit (so at the end of the trial, I decided to look for other opportunities)".

If you get any question like "how do I know you won't leave this job?" you say "my previous job was one I held for several years, and I am looking for a stable position in an organisation I can grow with." the end.
posted by smoke at 3:21 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should perfect an elevator response. "There were a number of things that happened. The person who hired me left, the company restructured and changed my job duties, and then they wanted the workers to sign a new contract that I did not find acceptable. So I left as well."

I agree that any personal turmoil should not be mentioned.

I disagree with the "classic." Someone who says "it wasn't a good fit" or another classic, "we didn't see eye to eye" sounds evasive to me.
posted by yclipse at 4:58 AM on July 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm going through the exact same thing, in fact, my last day will be on Friday. I've only been at this job for 8 months. I plan to say, "I was recruited by a manager I used to work with, three months later, he was reassigned. The company is going through a lot of organizational changes due to mergers and acquisitions and in the shuffle I was made redundant."

It happens, and it's fine. We pick ourselves up and we move on. Instead of saying 'I was made redundant,' you can say, 'I decided to leave.'

Don't mention personal problems and don't dance around the subject. Make a straight, short statement and move on to the next question. If you REALLY want to look cool, you can ask, "Clearly stability is important to me, can you tell me why this position is vacant?" But that's advanced ballsy, and if you're not comfortable, just smile and answer the next question.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with kadia_a, "The company and role was completely restructured after I joined, and the position no longer was a good fit for me"
posted by Spurious at 6:20 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

N-thing the advice to not mention the personal issues and go with the "not a good fit" story. Everyone knows that jobs are not always what they're advertised and it's not uncommon for people to quick quickly.
posted by octothorpe at 6:21 AM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm seconding mysterious_stranger - why include it on your resume? It's not unusual to take a few months off between jobs especially if you've been taking classes/studying/doing something that can be interpreted as job-related training in the meantime. It's not lying to omit a brief job that just didn't work out and there are so many potential ways that the 3-month time span could work against you.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:30 AM on July 13, 2014

When I was in a similar situation, I left the job on my resume until I landed my next job because I needed to demonstrate experience in a particular skill set. Then I removed it. Three months is not enough time to make much of a difference in an otherwise stable career history. If you are pressed to explain the gap, I would go with the wording mysterious_stranger suggested.

As to what to say while it's on your resume, I'd go with kadia_a's wording, keeping it as neutral as possible (leave the personal issues out of it and be careful not to be perceived as bashing your former employer). You may be pressed by interviewers as to how you can keep a "bad fit" from happening again. In my case I emphasized that a) you can't always detect before you take a new job how that job might change in ways that become a bad fit, b) I did the right thing for both myself and my employer by not wasting any more of our time and moving on to something that would be a better fit, and c) demonstrating from my resume that I typically stay at jobs for at least several years.
posted by jazzbaby at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for the replies that discussed the inclusion of the position on my C.V.

I felt it would be seen as lying if I didn't include it (if they ever found out). If they ask what I've done for 6 months (3 months at that job and 3 months out of work), I would have to lie...or not be completely truthful.

I shall take on board your comments and rework my C.V. and "elevator pitch". Thank you.
posted by switch007 at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2014

This one is easy. It's a clean, clinical contractual issue.

Something like: "Company went through a restructuring that required a renegotiation of the contract I originally agreed to. The terms of the new contract were no longer a good fit, so we parted ways amicably."

No harm, no foul. It's just business.

I prefer to not omit info on my resume/applications because it makes me twitchy. I'd recommend putting it on your CV. You have nothing to hide or apologize for or lie about. Come prepared with an anecdote about something positive you got out of that job -- new skill learned, whatever -- and use that to redirect the convo if need be.
posted by nacho fries at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

This doesn't even sound like an interesting situation, if I was looking to hire you. "How come you left after 3 months?" "They re-orged just after I started and the contracts changed to something I wouldn't have accepted in the first place. I either had to sign or leave, so I left."

I'd think "good for you!" and move on. Unless my company did that kind of shitty thing and I wanted people who would bow to pressure and sign. for you, really.

You are needlessly making this a shameful situation when it's simply not. This is literally how business is done: terms are negotiated, and if they are not acceptable to one party that party should move on. Vendors and customers part ways every day.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:37 AM on July 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Oh, I know. It was such a hard decision. There was a major reorganization and the company wanted to change my contract substantially. After all the changes, it just didn't seem like a good fit or what I'd signed on for and I just really thought it was better to move on to a role where I could bring my passions and talents for ______________. One of the things that really attracted me to the position here at is _________. Could you tell me more about _________?"
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Were you a permanent employee on Probation, or a temporary employee that they were thinking of bringing on full time? If the latter, a simple 'it was a temporary position, and it ended after three months' should suffice.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2014

I'm a manager and I interview people. Personal issues affecting previous jobs is almost an instant "no hire" for me. Everyone has personal issues, not everyone lets it impact their work. Don't bring them up. "It wasn't a good fit" maybe classic, but it's evasive and sounds like you were either fired or had some interpersonal issues there.

Telling me that the company restructured and changed your contract to something you didn't like would is not something I would hold against a candidate. You don't need to get super-specific, but be prepared to explain what you found objectionable.
posted by spaltavian at 1:37 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

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