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Why the job hopper candidate may be your best hire


Have you considered hiring the job hopper candidate? If not, you might be missing out.

The business world has changed, and it’s time to reconsider established norms about hiring. Simply put, job loyalty no longer trumps other qualifications that make good employees.

Decades ago, staying with one employer for the life of your career was smart business sense. Keeping your head down and working hard got you ahead in your career and allowed you to retire fully vested in the company’s pension plan – which most companies provided.

Baby boomers embraced that formula until economic changes resulted in numerous layoffs and multiple career changes before retirement age. And company pension plans seemed to go the way of the dodo for most American workers.

Today, whether we like it or not, job hopping is the norm in American business. Workers ages 25 to 34 only stay in their jobs for 2.8 years on average, according to a 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.

The ideals of the modern employee haven’t changed from previous generations. The desire to be appreciated for utilizing and improving one’s skills is relatively universal. The goal of improving your professional marketability is not a new one.

The only difference is the means through which those goals are achieved. Unlike their fathers and grandfathers, today’s employees are willing and able to jump from employer to employer to further their career in a shorter time frame.

Why do people job hop?

The job market today offers more opportunities than ever before. Employees likely hope that their next position will work out for the long-term, but the reality is that other options exist if it doesn’t. They don’t have to miserably commit to a company they dislike when they can easily move to a new job. Chances are it will pay better, too.

1. Salary and incentives

Salary issues are a powerful motivation. Upward mobility means more money.

Employees plugging along with one company usually see standard salary increases of about three to five percent yearly. If they move, however, they can see a salary increase of 10 percent or more immediately – something most companies can’t offer internally.

No formula exists to calculate the ideal tenure to achieve before moving. If a good opportunity is presented, there’s no reason for employees not to act on it and leave for greener pastures.

2. Growth potential

Good employees, regardless of tenure, hope to extract knowledge from their employers and coworkers, while helping add value to the company. It’s a quid pro quo arrangement; the company helps you learn the industry and improve your skills, and you use those skills and that knowledge to help the company achieve its goals.

For many employees, once they feel their growth potential has peaked, they choose to leave and replicate that process at another company.

For employers who understand this relationship, you have the benefit of hiring a well-rounded, versatile employee who brings the accrued knowledge of multiple companies.

3. Culture

Everyone wants to be happy where they work. Maybe your job hopper candidate is seeking the work environment that will turn him or her into a tenured employee.

If an employee is unhappy with the culture they’re in, they may be inclined to leave. They might consider it easier to find a company culture that aligns with their ideals and goals than to stay, be unhappy and hope the undesirable culture will change.

What can job hoppers offer your company?

A driven job hopper who has grown continually or accomplished their goals with each employer can be your company’s Swiss army knife.

The process for vetting job hoppers is similar to that for other candidates. The key is to focus on those job-hopper traits to uncover what differentiates this individual from others.

Job hoppers bring an assortment of skills, viewpoints and experiences accumulated from several companies, offering the fresh perspective you might need to solve a problem or improve processes.

Have the candidate tell you about a time when they used their experiences to enact meaningful change to the status quo. Then ask for a second, or even a third example. Does the candidate have a one-off story, or are they consistently leveraging their knowledge to refine processes?

It’s likely that their diverse experiences have exposed them to both positive and negative business practices that will inform how they approach their new role.

Ask them to compare their experiences at previous employers, and challenge them to think critically about what those stints taught them. What business lessons did they learn, and how can they apply those to this role, if you were to hire them?

To some degree, job hoppers are comfortable with change. Today’s job market requires employees to be agile, to learn continuously and to evolve constantly.

Does your company offer the right opportunities to let this individual grow and flourish in their role? Find out what challenge the candidate is looking to conquer, or what skill set they wish to master.

Strong answers to these and similar questions should offer insight into how beneficial switching between companies often has been.

What red flags should you watch out for?

Find out why your candidate is hopping from job to job.

If they constantly switch jobs because the work isn’t interesting, pin a red flag on their resume. Work isn’t always fun, and if someone continually hops jobs because work doesn’t hold their interest, they may need more than a change of company. They probably need to consider changing the type of work they do.

Conflict is an area of major concern also. If your candidate regularly points to someone else as the cause of issues, particularly in multiple jobs, acknowledge that the common denominator is your candidate. You don’t want employees who stir up trouble with coworkers or refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.

Other red flags can be job moves that make no sense, like moving before another job is lined up or gaps in their resume. Changing jobs every few months, not every few years, may be a sign that this isn’t the candidate you want on your team. Candidates who claim to have left a job because “we agreed to part ways” may signal that they were fired or didn’t achieve required job goals.

Dig deeper for answers. There may be a problem, or you may find that the reason for hopping jobs is valid, acceptable and actually instills additional confidence in the candidate.

In the sales world, for instance, a low sales goal that an employee didn’t achieve is very different from a high sales goal that wasn’t met. An employment gap may have occurred because the employee took time off to care for a child or aging parent.

Red flags shouldn’t necessarily cause you to dismiss a candidate. Use them to gain further insight. And don’t dismiss the job hopper with something to prove. If you offer them the chance, they may work harder to earn your loyalty and become one of your best employees.

What are the takeaways?

Recognize that the business world has changed. Many candidates today are likely job hoppers. You must adapt and move with the market.

Give qualified job-hopping candidates the same opportunity you’d give other candidates to become successful. Look for qualities in every candidate, including job hoppers, like a solid work ethic, integrity and honesty.

All candidates grow older, meaning that company culture, work-life balance and benefits like health insurance and retirement plans will become more important to them over the years. And those considerations are likely help them see the value of being a tenured employee.

Remember that any job hopper candidate may decide that your company is where they want to be for the long-term.  It’s important for all employers to have a good employee retention strategy in place. Once you get talented job hoppers in the right jobs, just like any employee, you want to keep them there.

To read more about managing employees and job retention, download From hire to retire: A guide to retaining your best employees.