Traditionally, a short stint at a company has always been considered negative. Job-hunters worry that putting something they were at for only a few months will affect their chances of finding a new job, and will look bad to potential employers.

However lately, people have become more aware that there are other factors involved in a short job stint beyond poor performance. Sometimes a company just isn’t the right fit or there were issues beyond the employee’s control.

For one thing, not all layoffs are directly linked to poor performance, said Mr David Blasco, general manager at recruitment firm Randstad Singapore.

“Some fast-paced companies and industries may have a more agile approach towards workforce management and employees may get caught up in a surge of mass layoffs. If you work in a fast-paced environment and were laid off because of a business downturn instead of poor performance, then it would not hurt to include that experience in your resume.”

In rare instances, even new employees may be laid off because of a stark change in business direction or budget cuts, he added.

He said: “You may be let go despite being excellent talent or you may have been caught up in a wave of job cuts because there were not enough resources available to train you.”

He advised laid-off employees to be honest and shift the focus to what they can contribute to prospective employers, such as by listing projects they worked on.

“Employers will always notice short stints in resumes, but they will usually ask questions to learn about your circumstances,” he said. “Knowing the honest reason behind the layoff helps them manage their expectations and determine whether the job is suitable for you.”

Spin the positive

Those who acquired skills and knowledge from their short stint or are applying for jobs within the same industry could gain an edge by listing the stint in their resume, said Ms Linda Teo, ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager.

Alternatively, job-seekers could omit such short-term experiences and mention new skills they acquired instead, said Mr Blasco. He advised those who were laid off early on due to poor performance to re-evaluate and revise their expectations in their next job.

“For example, you may want to consider a different job title with fewer responsibilities in your next role.”

Job-seekers who were the only ones laid off in their firm or team should not list their short stint as they may get inconvenient questions from hiring managers, Ms Teo said.

But, she added, it is generally better for job-seekers to disclose that they were laid off as prospective employers can find out from background checks.

“If the industry or job values transparency and honesty, hiding such information may reflect badly on the candidate.

“Having said that, talents should not go into detail about being laid off in their resume. When stating their reason for leaving in the resume, a few words such as ‘left due to company retrenchment’ would suffice.”

New employers could be understanding

Ms Teo said that most employers do not perceive a single short stint negatively as they understand workers may get laid off for various reasons other than work performance.

“However, if the resume has multiple short tenures listed, most employers may view the person as a flight risk.”

Compared to the past, there is less stigma associated with being laid off as it has become increasingly normal for companies to retrench people to manage costs and restructure their businesses, she added.

“News about high-profile retrenchment exercises have helped to educate employers about the nature of retrenchments and reduce the stigma around it.

“This has also made it easier for impacted employees to talk about it to prospective employers,” she added.

She said: “At the end of the day, whether a talent is hired depends on his or her skills, experience and fit for the job. If questions about retrenchment or short work stints come up during the interview, individuals need only briefly elaborate.”

Text: Tay Hong Yi/The Straits Times