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I read a recent article about job hopping that suggested there were benefits to the practice. If you take the view totally from the employee perspective who is only interested in their career, and assumes that their (prospective) employer does not factor into their view, then it probably works. But while I do understand the author's perspective, I think employer's opinions will count and therefore recruiters will always look warily at resumes that suggest a history of "job hopping".
What is job hopping?
MY definition would be someone who changes their "full time" employer after relatively short stays, several times. If I see someone with multiple stays of 2 years or less, with no evidence of a longer commitment, then that would raise a red flag for me.
NOTE: This in no way implies the person can't do great work, just that there is evidence they might not last as long as an employer would need.
What are some of the caveats?
Independent contractors/consultants typically work for their own company (the long term commitment) but their resume should show a series of short (often very short) gigs with different companies. That's a good thing if the person is staying as a contractor. If an employer wants to hire an independent contractor full time then they need to be wary of the contractor's motives (the same as a job hopper), because the contractor's motivation might be to get new skills and then go back to contracting.
Everyone is entitled to a mistake ... or even a couple. Beyond that is a trend! If you make a couple of quick changes after having demonstrated some stability in your career then that might be reasonable and can be explained rationally. Anything more than that and recruiters will question motivation.
Why is it an issue?
Recruiters are paid by the employer to find the best candidate for a role.
Hiring is an expensive process, which is incurred through multiple stages, (a) the hiring process, (b) the onboarding process and (c) the "becoming productive" process. Until an employee is producing a positive impact for their employer then they are costing the company money. The company continues to invest in an employee over time so the cost of losing an employee is almost always painful.
An employer does not want to go through this expensive process any more than they need to.
The recruiter will be measured on (a) the fit of the candidate, but also on (b) their ability to stick around, no matter whose decision it is for them to go.
So the recruiter and their employer are motivated to find the right talent, which means talent that will not let them down by leaving after a short period of time. If your resume demonstrates that you have "hopped" too often then "you" are the common denominator in that "issue" and recruiters will consider it a red flag.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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