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Should You Hire a Job Hopper?

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Back in the day, a string of short term jobs on a prospective employee’s résumé was a definite red flag. But in today’s fluid job market, that’s not necessarily the case. Especially since the Great Recession, dismissing a candidate out of hand simply for having short term jobs on his or her résumé could result in overlooking a potentially excellent employee. So how should employers deal with job hoppers? While there are no hard and fast rules, there are factors that translate into potential red flags.

External Contributing Factors

When evaluating an application or résumé from a prospective job seeker, it’s important to consider external factors along with the job seeker’s own qualifications. Indeed, there are several factors that have little or no relationship to individual job seekers that contribute to a job hopping employment history.

  • Economic Factors: Over the last several decades, and especially since the Great Recession, the expectation that an individual would remain in the same industry, let alone with a single company for his or her entire career has gone by the boards. Economic hard times may be to blame if a candidate’s résumé gaps are concentrated during the period between 2008 and 2014, a period when the ratio of job seekers to job openings ran as high as 6 to 1.
  • Industry Norms: If your company is contained within a fast-moving industry like IT, or a sector with traditionally high turnover rates, such as low-level retail jobs, it’s unrealistic to expect job seekers NOT to have a history of job hopping.
  • Candidate Ages: Younger candidates in general tend to have at least one short-term job on their résumés, and sometimes several. This is a natural element of the process of entering the workforce and establishing careers. Likewise, workers within the Generation X and Millennial demographics – and even younger Baby Boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) are more prone than older workers are to be job hoppers.

Favorable Characteristics of Job Hoppers

Along with considering external factors, there are a number of potentially favorable characteristics associated with job hoppers. These characteristics, along with good qualifications, could indicate that hiring a job hopper could be a wise move.

  • Ambition: Clearly, job hoppers don’t let grass grow under their feet. Especially if their résumés indicate a progression toward higher level jobs with more responsibility, an apparent job hopper might really be an energetic go-getter.
  • Flexibility: Holding a number of positions also means functioning in a variety of workplaces, and dealing with different types of people. Especially in today’s diverse work environment, the ability to go with the flow is definitely a plus.
  • Current Skill Set: It’s almost a given that job hoppers possess current skill sets. That’s one reason they keep getting hired.

Potential Red Flags

Regardless of external factors that influence job hopping and possible favorable characteristics associated with them, there are definite red flags to look out for as well. Discovering any one of the following factors on a candidate’s résumé or application, whether or not he or she is a job hopper, should make you think twice.

  • Lateral or Downward Moves: Ambitious job hoppers often display a progression of positions that signal upward progression. On the other hand, a résumé that includes a string of lateral moves, or worse, job histories that indicate a trend toward lower and lower level positions may indicate a problem employee. He or she may either quit jobs impulsively or experience multiple dismissals. Either circumstance is undesirable.
  • Sketchy Position Descriptions: Of course, many job candidates attempt to stand out, and creative job descriptions are one way to do so. To a certain extent, that’s totally legitimate. However, if job titles or duties included on a candidate’s résumé appear to be totally out of left field, proceed with caution.
  • Mismatch between Credentials and Positions: There are art history majors working as auto mechanics and career attorneys who have transitioned into professional photography. Career changes, even radical ones, are often moves that benefit all parties concerned. That said, a job candidate whose résumé is filled with computer programming positions and education applying for a job as a hairdresser has a fair amount of explaining to do. Unless the candidate provides a plausible explanation (for example, in a cover letter), skepticism is called for.

Making a Final Decision

The take-home lesson is that job hopping in and of itself should not be considered a disqualifying factor for a job candidate. Instead, prospective employers should consider the candidate’s entire set of qualifications. The final decision should turn on whether the candidate seems to be a good fit for the duties of the job and the company’s culture.

Audrey Henderson

Posted In: Management

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