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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 20, 2017

Should I include a job on my resume that I had for only 12 weeks?

Julie Q. Brush

And I’d love to leave it at that. But I know that I need to elaborate because as you all read this, I can hear many of you saying “Really? Twelve weeks doesn’t really count as long enough to include on a resume.” Oh, but it does.

This is an honesty issue. Regardless of how bad it might look or how irrelevant it might seem, you’ve got to tell the truth about your professional background on your resume. Every morsel of it. I do understand why you wouldn’t want to include this position as part of your official background. It’s a short stint, a blink of an eye, a flash, a blip…an instant. And think about all the questions it will raise. It could be a terrible bruise on an otherwise pristine resume. Why should such a small period of time cause such a potential fuss? Nobody will care anyway, right?

I get it.

But here’s the thing: Employers want to hire people who have integrity and who are trustworthy: The top two qualities sought in every candidate. Omitting a job from your employment history calls into question both of these qualities – even if there is no malicious intent. And once people question your integrity or trustworthiness…you’re history. Do you remember that high profile tech CEO that got fired for lying on his resume? Yup. So you are taking a huge risk by leaving it off. If it’s discovered in any way, shape or form that you have lied on your resume (I bet you didn’t think of it that way), it could serve as grounds for dismissal. It also could be used against you for other reasons. Consequently, the stakes are high.

So how would you include this on your resume without it compromising your marketability? Here’s how:

Include the position in its proper chronological order like the other entries:

(1) Name of employer;
(2) Your Title;
(3) One or two sentence description of your role; and
(4) The dates worked in months {i.e. 6-19-2017 – 9-19-2017}

And then…at the end of the position description, include one tactful sentence – in italics so it stands out – about the reason you left. Your statement should be succinct and truthful, but not negative or an over sharing. And while it may seem awkward to include it, addressing your reason directly and upfront will mitigate an employer’s negative conclusion if nothing is mentioned at all. 
A few example sentences might include:

  • Left company after role materially changed.
  • Left firm on good terms, but a lack of cultural compatibility prompted my departure.
  • Left company after significant management change.
  • Left firm after relationship partner moved practice.
  • Left company because role was narrower than promised.
  • Company acquired August 2017.

At the end of the day, will the brief stint raise a question? Probably. Will it be a deal killer? No. Of course, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss the situation and what prompted you to leave so quickly. But with the right preparation, you can turn this potential negative into a positive message that conveys your value system, what’s important to you in a work environment, a boss and a role. The situation can also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate how you managed a difficult situation.

Twelve weeks is indeed a short time to work for an employer, but it’s long enough to include on your resume. And while deciding whether to include it may seem like a close call, it really isn’t. Sure, you could leave it off and maybe get away with it. And no one would be the wiser…Except you.

Like this

Amy Krieg, Assistant Director for Career Development, Michigan State University College of Law

Where do you draw the line on when to include a short stint somewhere? Should an applicant provide all internships from law school and undergrad? Should an applicant include high school employment? Or does titling the Experience section as "Relevant Experience" help indicate that some experiences that were not relevant have been excluded?

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