A Quintessential Careers Special 15th Anniversary Report
To what extent is job-hopping still an issue that job-seekers need to address?
Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
We invited 15 of the top career and job-search experts — our Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds — to share their advice with our readers as part of our 15th anniversary. This question is just one of several, which you can find here: Expert Job-Search Answers and Advice from Career Experts.
Extent to Which Job-Hopping is Still an Issue in Job-Hunting
I attended an event hosted by iRelaunch, and a panel of hiring managers and recruiters discussed this question. Most agreed they liked to know why people changed from job to job; if the candidate appeared to be a job-hopper, the employers wanted to know why. For example, they suggested explaining if a company was acquired by a different organization, if you were laid off, or if you moved for family reasons. Even a talented job-seeker with exactly the skills necessary for a job should be prepared to discuss his or her work history and provide reasons for multiple job changes.
It’s best to present the situation in the most positive light as possible. (There is no need to expand on the personality conflict you had with a supervisor inspiring you to ditch the job as soon as you found something better.) Highlight where you took advantage of opportunities for new challenges, explain if organizations were restructuring, and you left for another opportunity, and note if you needed to relocate for family reasons. At the same time, address the employer’s underlying question: “Will you be willing and able to stay at this job?” Describe why you know you are a good fit, focus on your interest in staying and growing with the company, and quell the interviewer’s fear that if you join their organization, you would leave at the first opportunity.
— Miriam Salpeter
Not as much as it used to be, but everything depends on the particular employer, and how rare is the talent and experience you as job-hunter have, to offer. Some employers hate would-be employees who can’t be trusted to stay; other employers see that pattern as a challenge: “this person is obviously in great demand, so how can I entice him/her to stay with me rather than go looking for another place?” The answer is what employers call “the corporate culture.” Apple has it; so does Nordstrom’s; so do many places. As for the job-hunter, s/he should be looking for companies that have the culture where s/he feels most at home, and can do him/her best work. There are two exceptions to this general rule. The first one is the job-hunter who is just plain restless, and tends to move on, abruptly, without any excuse, rhyme, or reason. If you as job-hunter have that kind of restlessness in your soul, then your job-hopping may be a real issue. The other exception to the general rule is the job-hunter who would score as a solid “E” type, on the late John L. Holland’s “Self-Directed Search.” “E” stands for “entrepreneurial” and these are people who love to start things, but have no appetite for attending to all the myriad details that follow. They want to move on to their next bright idea, or project. Again, job-hopping may then be an issue; but the job-hunter can interpret it as project-hopping, not job-hopping. That makes a big difference.
— Richard Nelson Bolles
Not an issue in my opinion unless there is a clear pattern that you can’t stay put for longer than a year or two. I don’t like to see five jobs in five years, but even then, I would be curious about why that happened. If you are in a high-layoff field, then that’s all I need to know. Explain in your cover letter that you are not a job-hopper. Just lay it out there.
— Maureen Crawford Hentz
Job-hopping doesn’t matter — a lack of a career story that ties together the job jumps is the real problem. It’s up to you to connect-the-dots for employers. We teach people the Experience = Learn = Grow Model. If you can walk through your job jumps and tie together the experiences you had at each one, outline what they taught you, and how they’ve helped your mature to the professional you are today, your career story will be strong and your job jumping will be a non-issue.
— J.T. O’Donnell
I think to some extent the answer is: it depends.
If you have joined and left a job every six months for the last six years, then job-hopping will be an issue as it should be, and you need to start building some stability into your career history. But these days, having a few short-term positions on your resume is not viewed as negatively as it might have been in the past — simply because people generally move on every few years, either voluntarily or because they were laid off. It’s very unusual these days to find a person who has been with the same company for years and years, and employers recognize this.
— Louise Fletcher
Staying within jobs for only a few months or maybe a year is a serious issue for employers looking for quality employees. For those who can’t commit to an employer for more than 12 months, be prepared to be overlooked for prime roles. Companies exert big bucks to train staff as part of the on-boarding process — and for job-seekers who continuously move on to what they perceive as greener grasses are going to start finding desert instead of a plush landscape of job opportunities. Certainly professionals are no longer expected to remain with the same employer for 45 years, collect a gold watch, and ride off into the sunset of retirement. But, staying with a company for a minimum of 2-5 years (well beyond the probationary period) is ideal … and much appreciated by companies that are looking for solid, long-term employees. Employment longevity allows a job-seeker to generate actual results — which look great on a resume — rather than build a pipeline for a successor to take credit for.
— Teena Rose
I like to see positions that have lasted three years or more on a resume. Less than two years and I’m seeing a red flag. Why is this still an issue? Business is getting more competitive every year, so employers need to squeeze out every possible competitive advantage they can. As an employer, decreasing turnover and increasing the quality of recruits is a tool for stepping up my game that just requires a little more effort. Anything I can do to make my business more competitive but doesn’t cost money is a no-brainer!
— Eric Shannon
It’ll always be an issue because nobody wants to invest in a job-hopper. Don’t assume it won’t come up. Be ready for the questions and be prepared to address why you moved around so much. You can’t use a lot of blame — poor management, bad decisions on their part, etc. You will likely have to own some of the responsibility and you better have a good reason why you’re still a good, safe bet for someone who may be looking for a long-term commitment.
— Tory Johnson
My reading on job hopping is that this is a dead issue. People change jobs often and for myriad reasons. I think a bigger problem than five jobs in the last 10 years is one job in the last 15. By the way, this is another resume question, really. On your resume you don’t need to list every single round of employment. If you list jobs by the year, 2009-2010, that could be two days or two years. There is a difference between filling out an application and providing a resume. On your resume, you have to tell the truth, of course, but you don’t have to provide distracting, extraneous information. On an application, if they ask for “all” employment, they mean “all.” I hope this is clear. A resume is a marketing document. Put the information on there that sells, and leave off the information that doesn’t.
— Donald Asher
Our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds
- Donald Asher of Asher Associates
- Richard Nelson Bolles of JobHuntersBible.com
- Jack Chapman of Lucrative Careers, Inc.
- Deb Dib of Executive Power Brand
- Louise Fletcher of Blue Sky Resumes
- Maureen Crawford Hentz
- Tory Johnson of Women for Hire
- J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM
- Lindsey Pollak
- Teena Rose of Resume to Referral
- Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com
- Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers
- Eric Shannon of LatPro, Inc.
- Wendy Terwelp of Opportunity Knocks
- Susan Whitcomb of The Academies
Find more information about each of our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds.
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