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Job Hoppers: They Aren’t All Bad

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In August of 2012 Bullhorn conducted a survey of 1,500 staffing recruiters and hiring managers, which identified “job hopping” as the biggest obstacle to regaining employment. By switching jobs repeatedly in a short space of time, candidates send out a warning message to prospective employers that they might be disloyal and likely to abandon ship, or that perhaps their previous employers had issues with their work and the way they interacted with others.

But not all job hoppers are bad news. There can, on rare occasion, be benefits to hiring job hoppers. Job hoppers tend to be flexible, high achievers. A variety of jobs can give individuals a range of experience and skills. They might be the right candidate for a role which requires multi-tasking and a “take charge” attitude.

The key when screening this type of candidate, particularly for permanent roles, is to determine whether there were issues in their previous jobs and whether they are likely to be looking to change again in 6 months. Generally the answers to these two questions are in the reasons why they “hopped jobs.” Candidates who have been asked to leave or who struggle to explain the reasons why they left, instantly identify themselves as problem job hoppers.

There are, however, many good reasons why someone might have changed jobs frequently. Here are four examples and best practices for ensuring that this time, the person is in it for the long run:

  1. Self-discovery – This is a common reason amongst young professionals for changing jobs and often industries multiple times. With limited experience in the working world it is hard to know what they might enjoy or be good at.

To make sure that the job they choose this time is the right one, try asking them where they see themselves in 5 years. If they can’t give you a good answer, chances are they haven’t figured it out yet and might just be looking to try something as a stop-gap. Some experience in a similar role will also be a good indication that they know what they want.

  1. Ambition – They leave each job for a better one, or for more money.

This can be a red flag, as constantly leaving to pursue more money is a clear sign of disloyalty. To ensure this type of job hopper is satisfied longer-term, the placement is as important as the individual candidate. The company should have a culture of promoting from within and encourage their employees to work hard to progress up the career ladder.

  1. Environment – They’re trying to find somewhere that has similar values to them or a culture they identify with.

Be wary of this one; people who state a negative atmosphere or bad management as their reason for changing jobs might be problem job hoppers. Of course this isn’t always the case. Some people may have had bad experiences or really are looking for the right working atmosphere. Try probing a little deeper and ask them to be specific; what exactly about the atmosphere did they not like? What is their ideal working environment? Their answers will allow you to determine two things: 1) If the candidate is the problem; and 2) The sort of company for which he or she will need to work in order to be content.

  1. They were just unlucky – The companies they worked for kept getting restructured or the business lost an important client and there was suddenly no work for them. Some people are just that unlucky.

Determining the staying power of these candidates is not the issue, you just need to be able to identify the genuinely unlucky ones. These people will be able to easily explain why they moved jobs, and talk about it in detail. A tendency to be vague should ring alarm bells.

Hopefully these tips will help you to identify job hoppers who could potentially be good candidates. Have you got any job hoppers you have previously overlooked in your candidate database? Tweet us your stories to @bullhorn, @bullhornuk, @bullhornreach, or @bullhornapac using the hashtag #jobhopper.

This Bullhorn Blog post was written by Elaine Thomson.