How much of a job-hopper are you? Image: muhamad mizan bin ngateni/Shutterstock

Is job-hopping always considered a bad thing?

11 Sep 2017

Do you have a colourful job history? Are you worried about how your job-hopping might look to potential employers?

There was a time when company loyalty was rated above a lot of other qualities when it came to what made a good employee.

Someone who spent 15 years at a single company would be revered much higher than someone who flitted between two or three organisations.

But, with the changing tides of society, that way of thinking has thankfully fallen by the wayside, at least from the employees’ perspectives.

Surveys and reports into the differences between generations in the workplace show that younger employees will stay in companies for far shorter periods of time and they’ll even change entire career paths as much as seven times in their lives.

Now, one short stint on your CV is one thing. But what about many short stints? Some jobseekers worry that a CV that displays job-hopping might not be overly appealing to certain employers.

When is it OK to be a job-hopper? Jane Downes of Clearview Coaching Group says it’s OK if it shows career progression.

“However, those who simply job-hop and go to the highest bidder need to up their game to be taken seriously in the job market.”

Creating patterns

Downes agreed that recruiters are becoming more agreeable to job-hopping as it becomes more commonplace. “Many can actually see the value of gaining a variety of transferable skills and experiences from different jobs,” she said. “But holding too many positions in too short a time may raise a red flag for hiring managers.”

If your job-hopping ways are flying all over the place, it might spell trouble for recruiters who don’t want to put six months of training into someone who might set off again in a year’s time.

However, if you’re able to tell a story with your job-hopping that makes sense, recruiters will be much more accepting. “One thing hiring managers look for is patterns,” said Downes.

“A good pattern is someone who’s been promoted at every company. Regularly leaving jobs yearly, or even more frequently, is not so great.”

How much is too much?

Even with the right story and patterns that make sense, there’s only so much job-hopping you can do before recruiters really start to scrutinise your CV.

“Typically, employers need to see a role where you have had grit for at least two or three years, and then some job-hopping,” said Downes. “If your CV is crowded by short-term stints and you have a pattern of leaving positions regularly, hiring managers may see you as a job-hopper.”

Downes also said the actual number that is too much really comes down to the individual views of the hiring manager, although she did cite surveys that often say an average of five job changes in 10 years – or, a new job every two years – is the limit.

Explain yourself

For those with a job-hopping past, there’s often little they can do to change that. However, it doesn’t mean their professional future is doomed. It just means they need to be prepared for questions in interviews.

Drawing patterns and telling recruiters about your career journey is important but you should also take the time to ease their worries about you.

“One of the main worries about job-hoppers is that they leave before they make the company’s investment worth it,” said Downes. “So you will need to demonstrate how you contributed in your role.”

She also suggested highlighting the transferable skills you gained along the way, particularly if some of your activity reflects career advancement or experience in a new field.

“Also, make it clear when the hopping was involuntary, ie restricting or redundancy. Finally, avoid getting defensive when asked to explain yourself, and avoid bad mouthing another organisation.”

Since a certain amount of job-hopping is the norm these days, having a peppered CV will continue to become less unusual and negative. However, you should always be prepared to answer questions about job-hopping in your next interview.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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