The Identity of a Job Hopper

When the recent CareerBuilder survey came out estimating that more than one in five employees are determined to leave their current place of business in the year 2016, I stopped to consider the increasing popularity of job hopping and what this means for hiring managers.

Job hopping is a term used to describe individuals who stay in tenure for no longer than 2 years. As a hiring manager, this traditionally seen as a red flag. With employees’ attitudes changing about career advancement, the idea of a 20-30 year career with the same company is almost unheard of these days. It’s not uncommon to see a professional change jobs up to six times before they reach the age of 30.


Although job hopping can seem detrimental to one’s professional career, Kurt Rackos, founder and Partner at SkyWater Search Partners, has some positive feedback about job hoppers:

  • They 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.
  • They adapt 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.
  • They 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.
  • They 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 one place for several years – and their accomplishments may often justify those salaries.
  • They 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.
  • They 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.

Should you be concerned when hiring a job hopper? It’s important to cover all your bases when you come across someone who appears to have job hopper qualities. Here are six things to consider when identifying a potential job hopper.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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, an Executive Recruiting Consultant.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.

The bottom line is, do your research, ask your candidate questions, and go with your instincts on whether you feel they might be the right fit for your position.


Should You Hire a Job Hopper