What do I tell prospective employers about my current job situation?
October 10, 2006 4:44 AM   Subscribe

What do I tell prospective employers about my current job situation? I am not happy at my new job and am looking for a different one. I began my current position only 5 weeks ago, and I realize that it is not a good fit for me. I took the job out of desperation-I was broke and stupidly decided to take the first well-paying thing that offered. What do I say, or not say, to employers that I am now interviewing with? Some background: Just finished my Master's degree and I have never done something like this before.
posted by engling to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about "I believe that this position for which I am applying is a much better fit for me than my current job, and I would be happier and more productive should you hire me."

I'm not an HR rep, but I'm sure they would appreciate your honesty, and you can definitely spin it as if them hiring you is of benefit to all parties.
posted by The Michael The at 4:51 AM on October 10, 2006

You could get a million different answers on this, but I'll toss my hat in;

I wouldn't mention the existing job. I'd give my notice and leave it before interviewing for new jobs. If it ends up being only a 5-7 week gap, say you took some time off to spend time with family, vacation, etc, before applying for jobs.

There is no way mentioning a stint that brief at another job can positively impact your chances in an interview for a new one. It'd just be a giant liability weighing you down.
posted by empyrean at 4:55 AM on October 10, 2006

Most jobs have a trial period, though many managers think it's just for the company to test the new employee. Try something like "During my initial trial period with company X it's become obvious that my skills don't suit the role".

If you feel like tossing in something about how the job wasn't as advertised, that might work too, so long as you state it matter of factly and without any bitterness.

Of course, if none of the above is true at all, it's probably not a good idea to try it.
posted by krisjohn at 4:56 AM on October 10, 2006

I've used "my current job is to pay the bills, I actually want the job you have".
posted by NinjaTadpole at 4:59 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the advice.
Empyrean-I would love to quit before I begin interviewing, this would make things easier. However financially that is not an option. I have found that it can take a month or longer to actually get hired and receive paychecks, and with my loans, rent, etc. I can't afford that.
From comments so far, it looks like I will have to mention it, but find a clever way to keep me from sounding flakey.
posted by engling at 5:05 AM on October 10, 2006

"During my initial trial period with company X it's become obvious that my skills don't suit the role".

If somebody I was interviewing told me that, my immediate thought would be "Got fired during the probation period for being an imbecile". So, don't say that.

You should definitely mention your current job - is it on your resume? It will almost certainly come up that you've only been there a short time if so... and if they ask about it, why not tell the truth?

"I took the job because my financial situation required that I take a job immediately. Now that I'm a bit more settled, I've realized that it was a mistake to take the first job that came along, and so now I'm searching for something that I'll actually enjoy doing for a living. Your company seems to be offering that."
posted by antifuse at 5:26 AM on October 10, 2006

Never, ever quit a job *before* you've secured a new one. It's one of the oddities of working that you are more attractive to a prospective employer if you already have a job.

There's nothing wrong with being honest but politely--"My current position is not the best fit for me" is literally all you need to say. Do not talk about money or your finances--it's no one's business.
posted by gsh at 5:46 AM on October 10, 2006

Don't put it on your resume and just say you're temping, contracting, or freelancing (whatever makes the most sense in your industry) for the moment. It's not like you're going to use that job for references.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2006

i'm with lyn never. don't call it a job--call it temping, or a temporary gig. it's best to not mention it at all. if you have to say something, just say that you discovered that the position you actually assumed was different then what you applied for.
posted by lester at 7:06 AM on October 10, 2006

If a prospective employer performs a background check, as many do these days, this current job may well appear on the report.

It's best to mention it and not disguise it as a "temp" position. If you're working a temp job, you work for the agency, not XYZ Co.

I would simply say that the responsibilities are not as they were originally described to you and you're looking for a better fit.

Keep it honest and any company you interview with will respect you for that. Why create something that you're going to have to worry about coming somewhere down the road after you've been on the job for a certain period of time?

Good luck!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:21 AM on October 10, 2006

If you can avoid mentioning it without obviously avoiding it, that's best, of course. I wouldn't lie about it being temp or contract work - too easy to be caught, I would think.

I wouldn't give too much information either - your finances aren't anyone else's business.

How about saying "I took [current job] expecting to be using [your skills] and developing [new skills] and I've learned that [current job] isn't the right environment to make that happen. I believe that [new job you are interviewing for] will allow me to add value to the company by contributing [skills you said you couldn't use at current job] and help me to develop [skills you said you couldn't develop at current job] because [find, or make something up, things that distinguish the two places so that this sounds accurate]"
posted by KAS at 7:24 AM on October 10, 2006

Funny, I was in your situation exactly one year ago -- I interviewed for another company after 6 weeks at my first post-grad job. I thought I would look like a flaky job-jumper, but my reasons for leaving the job were strong enough that it worked in my favor.

Do not quit your current job; if you took the job out of desperation for money, you obviously need the income. And I think the best way to figure out what you do want is to spend time doing something that isn't it -- it can feel like torture, but it can help define what your career goals really are and prepare you for your interviews. Work may even be more bearable when you've promised yourself you'll find a way out. It's nice to have some hope when you're in a dead-end job.

Put this job on your resume to show that you're currently working. Do not avoid talking about it or lie about any aspect of the job itself. When you're asked about it in the interview, be honest and tell them why, from a daily task/career standpoint, it's not working for you. Use that as a segue to tell them what attracted you to their job opening. Anyone worth working for will pay more attention to your reasons for leaving more than the fact that you're trying to jump ship.

I would, however, leave out the "I was desperate for a paying job" part, though, even if it's true; you might come across as impulsive. It's far easier to omit details than slip up and possibly talk yourself into a corner. And like KAS said, your finances aren't anyone else's business. The only money talk you should engage in is when they bring up the subject of your new salary.

Be true to yourself and your career goals and you can't lose. Good luck!
posted by phatkitten at 7:40 AM on October 10, 2006

Don't worry too much. I have been in your situation 3 times, and finally got one job I like.

I agree that mentioning a 5 week stint in a job will impact you in a negative way. But lying (omission counts) is worse, it will come back and byte you in the ass when you less expect it.

Don't quit your job now! I can take between 1 and 3 months of job hunting to get a good offer, add this to the time you have been there, and you can go from 'I have been in my current job for a couple of weeks and am desperate to quit' to 'I have passed my 90 day* test period, and think my current job is not the best for me'. I guess I am trying to say that the longer you stay there, the less of a handicap it becomes.

And something else that helps is, after you get an offer, trying to negotiate as much time as possible (I have managed 4 weeks) before your start date at your new job, for 'wrapping up' at your old job and making the transfer to your replacement as painless as possible. This shows how responsible you are and, if your current job lets you go earlier, you get a vacation.

*For some reason, IME, HR people like the 90 day timeframe.
posted by Dataphage at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2006


Have you considered bringing this up with your current employer?

While you may not like the job, are you doing it well? Can you see yourself asking the boss the question "Boss, are you pleased with the way I am doing this job? I'm not sure it's a great fit, and I wanted to get some feedback?". Then, see if you can modify what you don't like or enhance what you do. Surely there's something in the job that's attractive.

Jobs can be adjusted. Seldom are people and jobs perfect fits. Your willingness to ask the question may indicate a level of maturity and competence, while just heading out the door may display the exact opposite.

I have worked at a dozen companies over 30 years. I have always felt like it was a mistake after two weeks, 6 months, a year or two. Sometimes it was. At other times, perseverence uncovered unexpected benefits.

It's perfectly legit to leave and to self-protect, but it might also be a good time to develop some workplace problem solving skills and see how you can navigate what is almost certain to come again.
posted by FauxScot at 7:50 AM on October 10, 2006

I'm skeptical that a background check will turn up anything, unless you're applying for a job with gov't security clearance, or or a major high-salary, high-profile position. Maybe I'm naive, but how would someone find that kind of information?

Keep the details about your private life to an absolute minimum, don't put this job on your resume. I have several multi-month blocks of 'missing time' on my resume due to long backpacking trips, and no one has ever mentioned it.

I'd say don't mention the job. As long as you gave the job a serious shot, you've fufilled your ethical obligation. They don't meet your needs. I think most employers would understand, but even so, I don't think they're really entitled to that much information about your private life.

Keep your best interests in mind, no one else will.
posted by bluejayk at 8:41 AM on October 10, 2006

How about not telling them you are currently working? Seriously, if you just finished your MA, then they understand that you aren't going to find a job the day after graduation.
posted by onepapertiger at 9:58 AM on October 10, 2006

If it comes up, I would mention it as a short-term opportunity from which you're eager to move on.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:37 AM on October 10, 2006

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