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Read the latest insights and advice.

Is a “job-hopper” always a risky hire? Could one ever be a recruiter’s best candidate?

Your concern is justifiable—you’re wondering if Mr. or Ms. Hopper will start looking for a new gig in just six months to a year’s time.

But as the economy and world of work have changed, so has the image of job-hoppers. Recruiting agencies have found there can be good value in a person who has changed jobs frequently.

A changing view of job-hopping

In the past, we shared your concern. Recruiters put resumes of job hoppers—applicants who had several jobs for two years or less—on the bottom of the pile. The school of thought was that negative reasons underlay spotty job histories. And even with good, logical explanations, the reality was that employers prized consistency and loyalty.

Today is different. Workers commonly stay in positions for a few years and move on to their next vocational opportunity. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the median duration for workers with their current employer to be 4.6 years, meaning the average person could have 10 different jobs throughout a lifetime.

Employers today should plan their staffing with the awareness that an accomplished person may stay for less time than in the past. However, that employee may have a special skill set to take the company farther in a short time than a longer-term worker with limited skills and ideas. Employers would be smart to work with top employees to develop their career paths within the organization. These workers are then more likely to stay. But even if they don’t, the company can benefit greatly from their achievements.

Focusing on why over how long or how often

As recruiters, we consider the reasons why people leave jobs to be more important than the length of their tenure. If we can verify someone has changed positions or employers every 12-18 months for greater responsibility or a higher salary, they may be an excellent candidate. For some hoppers, frequent job changes mean they have accumulated a variety of skills. And their flexibility may mean they adapt quickly to new duties or function well when a company undergoes significant changes.

The job-hoppers who should concern you are the ones who don’t fit in—they don’t get along with co-workers, don’t adapt easily to change or always have axes to grind. Even with the right skill sets and educations, they most likely won’t be productive employees.

That’s one reason why TriStarr’s professional staffing services include behavioral and personality assessments for all job candidates as well as in-person interviews and reference checks.

It’s also true that some job-hoppers have had no control over their employment changes. The economic instability of the past 15 years has resulted in victims of multiple down-sizings. People who work in an industry that has been especially hard hit by economic downturns have found themselves out of a job several times in just a few years.

Generational differences

As we hire people in their ‘20s and ‘30s, we accept that they’re comfortable with changing jobs often early in their careers—moving on to get more experience, more money or both. They might be high achievers, looking for more challenging goals or eager to move up the career ladder quickly.

So how do we explain this generational shift in thinking toward work?

In the 1980s and ‘90s, employers began implementing large-scale layoffs like never before. Workers felt their company loyalty was ignored—they worked long hours and often got pink slips in return. Their children have decided they, not their employer, would take charge of their own work lives. With less job security and smaller benefit packages, they would seek job happiness and leave on their terms.

Our Good People Guarantee adds some reassurance

At TriStarr, an employment agency with recruiters (yes, sometimes we’re called headhunters) in Lancaster, PA, we back our recruiting with our Good People Guarantee. If a client isn’t pleased with a new hire within the first few months, our guarantee takes effect. We will replace the person with another candidate at no cost or provide an agreed-upon, prorated refund. But our clients rarely ask us for a do-over. Our skills and comprehensive processes—resulting from more than 60 combined years of recruiting and temp staffing experience—lead us to candidates who are a great fit almost every time.

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