Job hoppers: a red flag or missed opportunity?
Don’t dismiss a job hopper resume: shorter tenures, especially for interim and contract roles, are more common than you realize.
Job hoppers: a red flag or missed opportunity?
“Don’t bring me a job hopper resume.”
Clients often request candidates with a wide range of experiences and skills, but this request—no job hoppers—is fast becoming an outdated view. With the market changing quickly, organizations aren’t the only ones looking to increase their agility. Consider this: Millennials (ages 25 to 40) average 2 years and 9 months in a role and Gen Xers (ages 41 to 56) average 5 years and 2 months–– hardly the decades-long tenures that are common for Baby Boomers.
Increasingly, professionals of all ages are opting for shorter tenures by choosing interim or contract positions. They’re embracing short-term positions for a variety of reasons, including exposure to a range of roles and companies, the opportunity to hone a specific technical skillset, and the chance for greater professional autonomy.
Our 2022 survey on “The Big Quit” found that a third of professionals (38%) said they planned to leave their jobs – or had left their jobs – without another position lined up. Nearly half of these professionals (47%) received counteroffers to stay, but the additional salary wasn’t enough to retain these employees. Many are opting for the flexibility offered by interim or contract positions, and the ability to have greater autonomy over when, where and how they work.
Today’s “new normal” is quickly becoming a workforce that prioritizes flexibility, not longevity. Yet some businesses continue to screen out job hopper resumes. Overlooking these candidates could mean missing out on a great hire - here are a few reasons why.
Tenure length should not be used as the primary measurement of an employee’s performance or their potential. It’s tempting to assume that an employee who has been with a company for a long time must be successful in their role. If they weren’t performing, they would have been fired, right? The answer is more nuanced. In some cases, the employee might be a top performer–– that’s often evidenced by a rapid promotion ascent.
In other cases, the employee may simply be coasting along. When the work is the same day-to-day and year-to-year, that employee is never challenged to acquire new skills, stay on top of market knowledge, or maximize their potential–– hardly the driven, “go-getter” hire that companies seek.
Top talent craves new opportunities: the chance to expand their technical skills, increase responsibility, gain client-facing experiences and hone their managerial skills. Working for different companies exposes these high performers to unique work environments, including varied team structures, operational models and management styles. Because of this, these “job hoppers” are often far more well-rounded than an employee who’s been with a single company for the same five-year period. Job hoppers will put their best-practice experience to work for your company, drawing on their outside knowledge to offer a fresh perspective and objective insights.
No two professionals are the same. Dismissing someone just because you think they have too many jobs on their resume could mean missing out on a key addition to your team. A toxic workplace culture or difficult boss may have driven someone to make a quick exit from a previous job, but you’ll never know unless you speak with them. In fact, “toxic company culture” is the number one reason people cited for quitting their jobs in 2022 – and a key reason why money alone won’t attract or retain top talent.
In this case, a recruiter can be helpful. A recruiter’s vetting process includes candidate screening calls, which adds valuable context to the applicant’s resume. When conducting these calls, the recruiter looks out for red flags, such as abrupt departures or lateral moves without good reason. These conversations are also used to explore what motivates a candidate, what they’re looking for in their next position, and the type of work environment that will help them thrive.
When reviewing a job hopper's resume, it's important to look for the following skills and watch out for red flags.
Candidates who have worked at high growth or fast-paced companies are agile problem solvers. During a job hopper interview, ask these candidates to share their experience troubleshooting challenges, navigating uncertainty and their overall comfort with chaos. They may be coming from work environments that required creative solutions to “do more, faster” and have insights for introducing an efficiency-boosting process at your company.
The pandemic has made remote work more commonplace, but it’s not easy for everyone. Candidates with enthusiasm and success stories of remote collaboration can be valuable hires. If remote work is going to be a key part of your business’s future, look for candidates who are comfortable with geographically dispersed teams across different time zones. Other soft skills for remote work – adaptability and resiliency, self-motivation and strong communication – can all be honed through contract and interim positions that require a new employee to get up to speed quickly.
Not all roles are client-facing but having soft skills to communicate with people translates to just about every career. Candidates with consulting experience are comfortable assessing a client’s challenges and translating these problems into actionable results. They’re active listeners who can maintain a positive attitude under stress, communicate clearly with empathy, and move the needle on key problems.
Three in five professionals have experienced some type of gap in their career, with family-related leaves being the top reason. When recruiters review resumes, a gap is not automatically a problem. But multiple gaps can be a huge red flag, especially in a competitive job market where companies are eager to make new hires. A habitual pattern of job departures, followed by extended periods without a job, suggests the professional is unfocused or lacks in-demand skills. These are the resumes that may give the hiring team some pause.
Workplace norms are changing. Tenure may have mattered several decades ago, but it’s no longer as critical today. Top talent is embracing opportunities for skill growth, experience diversity and greater career autonomy, including opting for interim and contract roles. By hiring "job hoppers", your organization could actually reap the benefits.
Want to learn more about how to hire this type of exceptional talent? Read our top insights here.