How to assess and identify potential job hoppers?

While hiring, none of us would want to consider a job hopper even from a distance. Who would like to knowingly on-board someone who is going to turn around and quit after six months or a year on the job? Given the amount of time, effort and money employers spend in hiring and training new employees, it is important to weed out potential job hoppers during the hiring process. Prospect of on-boarding a job hopper is even scarier for start-ups where such people can completely unsettle the momentum and destabilize the company.  But upfront taking a call on potential behaviors is extremely hazardous guess. How can we definitively tell that a prospective candidate will turn out to be job hopper?  Do too many jobs on resume necessarily make someone a job-hopper? How do we know if the candidate doesn’t have a long enough job history? Does a history of job hopping necessarily means similar future behavior? This article looks at how we can identify a job hopper both from their resumes and during the interview process.

Globally during periods of boom it’s found that more and more people switch jobs. For example in the USA, the quit rate of touched a high of 2.4% recently, which is the highest it has been since April 2001. Further, job-hopping has been found to be the highest among the software developers and technology sector employees. Further the tendency to job hopping goes as we go down the seniority and the complexity ladder. Younger employees performing less complex functions tend to job hop more frequently. However, our focus here is to identify traits that cut across these job-hopper across industries and experience groups.

How to Identify a Job Hopper

Although having a string of short-term jobs shown in a resume throws up a red flag to potential employers, it is important to remember that not all job hopping is bad. The following points need to be kept in mind when assessing the resume of a candidate with many jobs:

  1. Age: People tend to shift jobs more at the start of their career until they find what they like. This is not necessary a bad thing, especially if it seems like they have settled down and found what interests them.
  2. Internships: Recent college graduates might have listed all their internships under jobs making it seem like they are job hoppers when they actually are not.
  3. Economic trends: Shifts in jobs might be caused by volatile economic times. Layoffs, company restructuring, etc might be reasons for job shifting that are beyond the control of the candidate.

The above points make it clear that resumes can be misleading and rejecting a candidate for being a job hopper purely from their resumes is not a good idea. Rather, employers need to judge the intent behind a person changing his job. If the reason is a positive one – moving jobs to advance his career, looking for better opportunities or because of factors beyond his control – layoff, company restructuring, etc, then do not reject the candidate.  If the reason for changing jobs is a negative one – not able to work properly with teams/bosses, not really interested in the field he is working in and not able to find his place in it, these are indications the candidate might not be a good hire.

This intent can be judged by asking the right questions during the interview process. Five questions that are important to ask are the following:

1. Why did you leave your previous jobs?
2. What is the rationale in choosing each subsequent job?
3. What productive work did you do at each job and how did it help you grow?
4. How did you work with your previous teams/bosses?
5. Why choose this company to work with next and how will it help in advancing your career?

These questions help to judge the attitude of the candidate, figure out if he has planned out his career path and if he has grown in each subsequent job. Can each job change be justified? Did each job help the candidate to grow and acquire more skills? Even if he had problems with the people he worked with, was he still able to get productive work done?

Candidates that sound negative about their previous experiences and talk about problems they had with managers, colleagues might indicate a person who has trouble fitting in or is difficult to work with and might be a potential job hopper.

In cases where the candidate was laid off from his previous jobs due to factors beyond his control, employers need to judge if the candidate was able to successfully come back from a lay off and rebuild his career and if the current job will help him to grow further.

If the candidate’s main reason for moving is higher pay or responsibility, then the employer’s decision to hire would depend on the job he’s hiring for and what the company can offer. If his organization is able to keep promoting or rewarding the candidate, he may have found the perfect hire .

It is also important to talk about candidates that are over educated for the job they applied for. Being overly educated for the job is one of the main indications that a candidate may not stick around for too long. According to LiveCareer’s 2018 Job Hopping Report, there’s a link between higher education and shorter job tenure. In cases where a candidate might be too qualified for the job, interviewers must try to understand what the candidate is looking for from the current post. Does he just want a more laid-back or a more stable job? Or has his interests changed since he graduated? Or is he simply looking for a temporary job while he continues searching for better opportunities?

Interviewers can get a sense of the candidate’s intent by asking questions such as:
1. What are you looking for from this job?
2. Are there any parts of the role you feel wouldn’t engage you?
3. What motivated you to study XYZ and how do you think you will apply your qualifications to this job?
4. How do you feel about reporting to someone who doesn’t have the kind of educational background you do?
5. Interviewers can get a sense of the candidate’s intent by asking questions such as:

Finally one of the easiest giveaways is when a candidate says yes without asking enough questions about his role, the company or doesn’t do hard negotiation on compensation. Such behavior is clear red flag as it shows that the candidate doesn’t have a long term outlook for the job being offered.

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