As the economy changes and pink slips pop up, the once optional choice of changing jobs has become a mandatory step towards the top.

Fifteen years ago, employers might have easily rejected a good candidate who held five jobs in eight years.

Today, in the wake of company mergers, corporate acquisitions, shutdowns, mass lay-offs and restructuring, hiring managers are more forgiving of job hoppers.

While today’s employers may be less wary of job changers than their predecessors, some may still have misgivings. That is why you must come prepared with confident, reassuring answers to tricky questions like the tough interview question: “Why have you switched jobs so often?”

What is the interviewer after?

When interviewers ask such an uncomfortable question, they are usually looking for one of the following:

A reason to choose you, that is a valid reason why you jumped jobs.

A reason to eliminate you from the selection process, that is any red flags that indicate you are the problem and will not last long at the company.

Popular reasons for job-hopping

To receive the employer’s approval and acceptance of your reasons for changing careers, formulate an acceptable response to counter the job-hopping issue. Some popular reasons for switching jobs include:

* Taking care of domestic demands, death/extended illness in your immediate family;

* Moving because of your spouse’s job, desire to travel, family needs;

* Continually seeking more satisfaction in the workplace;

* Experiencing different jobs to determine where true interests lie;

* Working in positions that were only temporary (internships, summer jobs, campaign work); and

* Wanting more responsibilities, more money, more respect, more prestige, more flexibility.

Be honest with your answers

Don’t try to leave employment skeletons in your closet because, sooner or later, they will invariably come back to haunt you. Be bold. Take full responsibility for whatever leaps you made in your professional past and explain why you did what you did and how you are a better candidate because of such actions.

In your answer, try to:

Tie your work together. If you worked in different capacities, relate those duties to the position you are applying for.

Answer example:

“Since I worked in public relations, marketing and promotions, my communication skills continually improved in various mediums, which would aid your advertising firm.”

Explain why this time will be different.

If you always had to leave jobs because your husband was in the military, say how his retiring will change your pattern. If you jumped whenever another offer looked better, say how you have learnt that loyalty, stability and commitment take precedence over money.

Answer example:

“After I graduated from university, I wanted to test my talents in many different fields, but now I know my true passion is architecture.”

Reveal how your chequered career path can benefit the company. List how your skills, experience and education improved in each of your previous jobs and that such a varied background can bring a fresh perspective to the current position.

Answer example:

“Since the film and music industries are so closely related, I feel my experience in the recording and commercial music business helped me acquire unique contacts and skills that will improve your film production company.”

Get wiser

Each counter to the job-hopping question will vary based on individuals and their unique experiences. Not everyone has a perfect career history but that doesn’t mean you are at a disadvantage. Use these tips to better handle this situation during your next interview.