Job-hopping is a term normally used to describe a professional who changes their job frequently – typically staying in tenure for no longer than two years. Historically, employers have avoided job-hopping candidates on the basis that past performance predicts future behavior, but that could be set to change, says Kurt Rakos, founder and Partner at SkyWater Search Partners. SkyWater is a “short list” search firm which is dedicated to the placement of Sales, Marketing, IT, Accounting/Finance, and HR related personnel.
“Today’s career is no longer linear,” says Rakos. “The workforce is changing and with it attitudes to tenure of employment. Many professionals will change their jobs up to half a dozen times before they reach the age of 30.”
In a Robert Half survey, HR managers interviewed said an average of five job changes in 10 years can prompt worries that one is a job hopper. The survey was developed by Robert Half and based on interviews with more than 300 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States.
HR managers were asked, “Over a 10-year span, how many job changes, in your opinion, would it take for a professional to be viewed as a job hopper?” The mean response was five.
“The job market has been unpredictable in recent years, and employers understand job candidates may have had short stints in some positions,” said Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director. “However, businesses look for people who will be committed to the organization, can contribute to the company and help it reach its short- and long-term goals. Too much voluntary job hopping can be a red flag.”
Diane Steele, an Executive Recruiting Consultant with Steele Recruiting, a direct hire recruiting and executive search placement services firm, says it’s important to take a number of factors into consideration when deciding to hire a potential job hopper. However, it’s time to change one’s thinking – and that the old days of an employee spending 20-30 years with the same company, getting a gold watch and retiring into the sunset are long gone.
“We will no longer see the employee who is tenured with the same company for 30 years, or ready to sign on for life,” says Steele.
Attracting and retaining talent is challenging enough in today’s market, without the cost of a bad hire – or a short tenure. Hiring a job hopper does, however, have some benefits, says Rakos.
According to Rakos, today’s job hoppers:
- Are generally flexible and willing to take risks: Granted, risk-taking isn’t appropriate in certain sectors, but in a talent starved market a “measured” risk-taker can give your organization a vital edge.
- Adapts well to different cultures and ideas: Changing jobs frequently gives a professional broader perspectives of the challenges facing a number of different companies – and the strategies adopted to resolve them.
- Are well networked: In a short period of time, the job-hopper has gathered an impressive network of contacts to see him or her through their career. A job-hopper can potentially offer a whole new network of resources to their new employer.
- Are not generally complacent: They are used to being the “new girl” (or guy) on the block and are generally intent on making their mark wherever they go. As they frequently change jobs upwards, they are able to command more generous salaries than employees who remain in situ for several years – and their accomplishments may often justify those salaries.
- Continually hone their skills: Job-hopping candidates generally remain at the peak of their game, as each position gives them the opportunity to learn additional skills and embrace new challenges.
- May be the talent your organization needs: High achievers sometimes opt for job hopping as it provides them with new challenges on a regular basis. Some fast-paced sectors, such as IT, lend themselves naturally to these candidates.
Statistics show that employee turnover was expected to reach all-time highs until at least 2018. On top of that, an estimated 36 percent of the American workforce will be millennials by the end of 2014, a figure expected to reach 75% globally by 2025. With the new generation comes a new set of attitudes towards work.
Should you hire a job-hopper?
“At SkyWater, we believe that each individual should be judged on their merits, taking into account the changing face of the employment market,” says Rakos. “The final decision will of course be influenced by the needs of employers looking for talent in an increasingly competitive environment.”
Six Things to Consider When Identifying a Potential Job Hopper
- Recent economic woes: The recession in 2008 created an unstable job market and the work history and experiences of many in that time period could be tumultuous. It’s not surprising for professionals to have gaps in employment, job changes or career changes around 2008 and the years after. While things have improved recently, keep in mind how tough times were in 2008 – a time where many had to take short-term jobs to pay the bills or fill in the gaps. Others were unemployed for extended periods, went through a career change or took lower level/paying jobs to help make ends meet.
- Understand your business and industry: While the IT sector may be thriving, IT workers are quick to move on right now because technology is changing so fast and forward thinking IT job seekers want to work for companies on top of the latest technology trends. If they see an opportunity with a company spending money on the latest and greatest IT products, resources and technologies, they want to work for those companies because they want to stay on top of industry trends. They are going to move around. At the same time any profession that has changed, or has suffered cuts, can lead to an influx of job-hopping. But you have to ask this question: Is it really job hopping or someone simply seeking a better opportunity?
- Entry-level: With new college grads, you are very likely to see a string of jobs in a short amount of time as they settle in to their new career. “This is pretty common and I would not be overly concerned with this,” says Steele.
- The experienced professional: For the average worker who has been in the workforce 10 years or more, you would likely see a stabilization of job pattern and a trend of growth in their chosen field, says Steele. “Someone who continues to change jobs at this point in their career is either unsure what they want to do in their careers, not connecting to the work or people they are working with or getting let go for reasons you don’t know about,” says Steele.
- Don’t be so quick to judge: Identifying talent is crucial. Don’t rule out “job hoppers” just because they have a history of switching jobs, says Steele. This could be the golden opportunity to find that rising star waiting for the right opportunity to blossom. “If someone is job hopping within their field for higher level positions, you have someone with talent on your hands, someone on the fast track to success,” says Steele. “This is not a true job hopper, but talent that is very upwardly mobile. Both scenarios need to be managed accordingly.”
- Gut check: In the end as with everything, do the gut check with every hire and don’t settle to fill the seat, says Steele. Be sure you have the right person. “Poor hiring decisions can add to the problem and do the candidate a disfavor in the end,” says Steele.