Frequent Job Hopper – Should We Ignore Them?

During the recruiter training that I recently conducted, I heard some interesting comments from a few seasoned recruiters about frequent job hoppers. One such comment that asked for attention was:

"I reject a candidate on the face of the resume for being a frequent job hopper"

On probing further, my recruiter associates had a handful of reasons why they think that they should not consider frequent job hoppers for any position:

  • Companies/Customers are not interested in hiring such candidates as this does not fit their culture
  • Hiring Managers are not interested in interviewing such candidates
  • I am not interested in speaking with such candidates unless I am hiring for a niche skills with a minimal talent pool

Is that justified? Should one really reject a candidate for being a frequent job hopper? Shouldn’t the candidate be given an opportunity to explain reasons for this trend?

Before I get into the intricacies of this topic, let’s play the devil’s advocate and understand why someone would want o switch jobs so often.  Here are some thoughts that flash immediately:

Common Assumption: “The more frequently I switch jobs, the higher I get paid”, that’s a very common notion amongst the young job seekers (0-5 years experience) who believe that by switching jobs every year, they would be eligible for higher pay in the new environment. This may hold good in a booming job market where there is no adequate supply of talent against the required demand. However, there is always a high risk that the candidate “over sells” oneself over a period of time and reaches the tipping point.

On the flip side, an experienced candidate and a high performer who has been branded a job hopper may have other reasons to consider, and some of these may be justified.

Challenging Opportunities: Some candidates just want to be challenged in their work all the time. They seek organizations that provide a dynamic environment that simulates them intellectually when they find their current role monotonous. Some of them may be high performers who like to explore various opportunities available in a booming market for a better learning curve. Though such talent may not be with one organization for a very long time, their contribution during their tenure cannot be ignored compared to an average stable employee who has been with the organization forever, boxed in a comfort zone. It does not require too much time and effort to train such candidates and further convert them into productive resources. They have a natural tendency to adapt change in a demanding environment, learn quickly and deliver.

Organizational culture: Culture plays an important role in deciding tenure of a candidate. While there are organizations that provide great compensation, environment and benefits to their employees, they are unable to retain a few ambitious resources who seek challenges in their roles. These organizations may be highly successful, but it is more of a “factory” work that keeps some resources on their heels who looks for innovation. It is sometimes just the brand that such resources would like to be associated with for a while (read: adding value to their CV), before they look at the greener side where they seek intellect and innovation.


Team that they belong to: Having said the above, it may always not be the case where we blame an organization. Job hoppers who are high performers also consider the teams/groups that they work in. Though most of them believe in individual contribution, they need strong peers who can challenge them intellectually or in some case coach/mentor them. A high performer who is a job hopper finds it very difficult to cultivate in an environment that provides redundancy and a weak team. Why do you think we find good developers working either for a reputed and innovative product development company or a start up? Give it a thought…

Should we reject a candidate just because he/she is a frequent hopper?

My argument is “NO”. I do not believe that it is a good practice to reject a candidate on the face of the resume just because he/she is a job hopper. Given some of the reasons as mentioned above, it is important that the recruiter acts with maturity and take a call on a case to case basis. The candidate must be given an opportunity to justify reasons for such frequent changes and not just ignore such resumes. I am not arguing that all job hoppers would be high performers; however, there are good chances that we lose a potential candidate and probably a potential high performer for a job. Not all ten resumes that a recruiter sources in a day are of job hoppers. It is probably a small percentage of those resumes and there is no harm in picking up the phone and speaking with such candidates. Keeping in mind the recruiter ability and skill, it would not be very difficult to judge the quality of work of a high performing job hopper by glancing through the resume. This I believe should be applicable for all skill levels and NOT just for niche skills.

The Hiring Manager may not be interested in interviewing such candidates and the customer’s mandate does not agree to it?

As a recruiter it is your job to present your case and argument for such candidates. Once a recruiter identifies a high performing job hopper, it is the recruiter’s responsibility to build a case study and a convincing counter argument as to why the Hiring Manager must interview that candidate as against the norm and culture of the group/organization. A high performing recruiter in a true sense would never let go talent and further lose out to competition. Remember, in a dynamic market, there is always someone else who is effectively recruiting than you in acquiring talent.

Happy Hiring!!

Views: 551

Comment by Doug Munro on August 30, 2011 at 1:13pm
Well argued, Divakar. I work primarily in the Federal space and in particular with candidates possessing the highest levels of security clearance. Government contracts have shelf lives, so often people move when a contract winds down. Beyond that, skilled professionals with high-level clearances are still in great demand, so they are able to move when positions prove not to be challenging or when corporate environments are not positive. It's still nice to see a candidate with long, successful tenures behind them, but we should all dig deeper if we come across someone with talent who happens to have moved a lot. There may well be a reasonable explanation that will assuage our concerns.
Comment by Divakar Vadlamani on September 2, 2011 at 1:06am
Thanks for sharing a great insight Doug.


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