In Defense of Recruiting the Job Hopper

December 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM by Kathleen de Lara

job hopperAsk anyone in the workforce about their ideal career timeline and you’ll find the concept of the strong, linear job path no longer exists. The times they are a-changin’, and if there’s one group of candidates potentially getting the short end of the stick, it’s the talent pool you’ve neglected and rejected – the job hoppers and the resumes you’ve dumped straight to the can.

“Job hoppers” describes someone who’s frequently moved from job to job, most people using any length of time under a year at a company as the benchmark of deviation.

Hiring job hoppers has been a long-debated, hot topic among anyone in the talent space. Job hopper: Flight risk? Spongers of the second chance? Or great employees with legitimate explanations? Screening and disqualifying these candidates has become an familiar sleight of hand – job timeline with less than two years? Strike, you’re out!

job hoppers

User fecak 412 says it best in this response to Ask HN: What do you think about job hopping?

This post isn’t intended to push you to make up your mind about them, although creating hiring criteria that eliminates anyone with experience at a role for less than a certain amount of time shrinks the number of potential candidates coming into your pipeline.

Before writing off the job hopping candidate, here are some factors to consider when looking at a dubbed stepper.

Do a double take.

One of the biggest gaffes sourcers and recruiters make when evaluating candidates is relying too heavily on listed date ranges as a way to categorize someone as a job hopper, and someone who meets the hiring manager’s criteria. We’ll later dive into why these dates can be irrelevant evidence for marking a candidate qualified and unqualified, but in any case, keep in mind not everyone formats their resumes or LinkedIn profiles the same way. Specifically, not all candidates will distinguish between which roles were a full-time or contracted job. Similarly, not all candidates make their former companies’ histories clear, for example, if the company was acquired, IPO’d, and didn’t have the resources to keep them on the team. If a person’s work experience, track record, and projects match up or exceed what you’re looking for in a suitable candidate for the role, consider our next point.

Coffee – book it.

If a candidate’s experience matches what you’re looking for, it’s okay to take a meeting. What’s 30 minutes to an hour of your time to speak with someone you might actually end up bringing in for a few interview rounds and the hire? Pick their brain with the intention of tuning out any biases you may have potentially placed by simply seeing their job-to-job-to-job movement on their resume or profile.

What you’re looking for is a clear understanding to the question, “Why us?”

This is key to getting a better understanding of a candidate’s background, hearing out the reason they left their previous company, and learning what makes your company different. Did they do homework on your organization? Do they know who your competitors are? How interested or excited are they about solving the problems your company is working on, and identifying problems the team has yet to discover?

Poke around their decision for shifting over to another company, and ask what about their previous role kept them from staying with the team for a longer time. Do they tell a compelling story that illustrates their thought and work processes, and can these narratives be verified by their references? While it’s illegal to ask certain questions about a candidate’s personal life, listen for common instances like a bad culture fit, misaligned job expectations, and if the candidate chooses to bring it up, any family-related issues that required them to leave their job.

Experience entails extra inquiry.

Did you know 91% of Millennials expect to stay in the same role for less than three years? That means throughout their working lives, these employees will have anywhere between 15 and 20 jobs, for reasons ranging from their desire to get a diverse mix of work experience to the trial-and-error that comes with the hunt for finding a fulfilling career – but even the idea of that is fleeting.

Heed a little more caution if said job hopper falls outside the Millennial bracket (by definition, born before 1977) and has more experience in the workforce, someone whom you would expect would have an understanding about what they’re looking for in a job, lending them the ability, if not necessity, to stay in a role for a longer period of time. (Could there be a bigger issue with them not knowing the difference between a company that's a good or bad fit for what they're looking for?) Also, hold the same discretion to candidates who have moved into lateral positions between multiple companies.

Lay out expectations from the start.

This applies to both the candidate and company fronts. Make it a point to communicate your expectations for the employee the company will hire for the role. Are you looking for a full-time employee, contractor, or a consultant? Are you hiring to fill long-term or short-term goals? From the get-go, let candidates know whether you’re interested in hiring someone who will grow into the role, and how that has an impact on the company’s road map. In addition, be sure to get an understanding about what the candidate is looking for in a role. Doing this communicates your company wants to keep candidates around for the long run – not only for this role, but throughout all parts of the team. Try asking these questions: What do you want to do after working with our company? Where do you want to be in five years?

You can’t guarantee the length of time any employee will stay with the company, and a history of frequent job changes is hardly a comprehensive, quintessential model for an employee who isn’t a good fit for your team. By establishing a clear, two-way understanding of a company and candidate’s intentions and expectations, recruiters can expand their funnel of qualified, absolutely hire-able talent that may very well be overlooked by most.

What’s your take on hiring job hoppers? Share your experiences with us in the comments or send a message to me at We want to hear your yays and nays.
Like what you've read? Subscribe to the Entelo Blog!