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(Original post date 9/6/11, updated 2/28/2018)

Many recruiters have a knee-jerk reaction to overlook job hoppers. After all, your clients don’t want to pay you good money to place a candidate, only to have to do it all over again in a few months.

But, you might want to think twice before uniformly rejecting all resumes that show a pattern of frequent job switching. You need to know how to qualify a job hopper so you can determine if the candidate is a risk or an aspirational, high-achieving employee.

What is job hopping?

So, what is considered job hopping? Generally, a job hopper is someone who has short stents with several employers. A job hopper typically holds a job for less than a year before moving on.

Job hopping is among the popular workforce trends now. People aren’t staying at a job for 30 years like they used to. More people are changing jobs more frequently.

Job hopping: good or bad?

Job hopping typically throws up red flags. After all, a job hopper might be someone who isn’t loyal or is an incompetent worker. But, job hopping might also be a sign of a super-star candidate.

Negative reasons for job hopping

Job hoppers are often reactive. They experience something at work they don’t like and run. They search for greener grass elsewhere. But because they react so quickly, the next job might not be that pasture of green grass. When the employee realizes that the new job isn’t what they expected, they hop again.

It might be wise to pass over a job hopper who is always running from the things they dislike. They will likely find things to dislike at your client’s business and move on. These candidates will only leave you with unhappy clients.

Positive reasons for job hopping

Some candidates might have a good reason for their job hopping.

Job hopping might be a sign that a candidate needs constant challenge and is easily bored. If they do get bored, they move on to the next challenge.

Ambitious candidates might also be job hoppers. They might frequently change jobs to seek advancement opportunities. These candidates can be good if your client can provide continuously increasing responsibilities and advancement.

If an applicant is a recent graduate, they might look like a job hopper if they had several internships. Also, people tend to change jobs more at the beginning of their career while trying to figure out exactly what they want to do. The candidate might have been trying to find their professional path, but now has a better idea of what they want to do.

Look at the type of work the candidate did in the past. Some jobs might only last for a certain amount of time, like construction and event management positions.

Consider the reasons why the employee changed jobs. There might have been factors out of their control, such as layoffs and business restructuring.

Questions to ask a job hopper

Don’t assume why an applicant is a job hopper. Ask them. If a candidate has the right skills, consider asking them good interview questions to explain why they’ve had so many jobs.

For each position on the candidate’s resume, you can ask these two questions:

  • Why did you leave that position?
  • Why did you take the position after it?

Also, ask the candidate what they are looking for in their next job.

When the candidate is talking about their work experience, look for patterns. It might be a red flag if the candidate constantly leaves jobs for the same reason.

Take notes about the candidate’s responses. This way, you can easily review your notes and craft ways to qualify job hoppers to your clients.

How to qualify a job hopper

Before you overlook a candidate for switching jobs too many times, consider how this perceived weakness could actually be an asset for your clients.

Job hoppers have a wide array of knowledge from all the businesses they worked at before. They know when things are working and when they’re falling apart.

Also, job hoppers might not need as much training or management. They’re used to adapting to new work environments.

Even if you can’t place a job hopper in a long-term position, you might be able to put them in a contract placement.

Here are ways you can qualify job hoppers for contract staffing:

  • Contract assignments will give them the constant challenge they crave.
  • Job hoppers are quick learners who are undaunted by new, demanding situations.
  • They can make an immediate impact by working on critical deadlines and projects.
  • They may be able to bring a competitive advantage to the table that another candidate could not provide.

When a candidate is a good fit for a position, you can talk them up so their past job hopping isn’t a big issue for your client.

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