How Do Frequent Job Changes Impact Your Chances With the Next Employer?

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There is a term in the working world called “job hopping.” It is used to describe employees who spend less than a few years with a company.

In past decades, employees took a job right out of college and worked at the same company their entire career. But, like so many other things, this isn’t “your father’s” work culture.

According to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years workers between ages 24 and 35 have been at their current jobs is just 3 years. The national median of all U.S. employees is 4.6 years, and that includes your father and all of his generation.

A national survey conducted by Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder, revealed that by the age of 35, 25 percent of workers have held five jobs or more.

The CareerBuilder study also showed that 43 percent of employers won’t consider a candidate who’s had short tenures with several employers.

“Job hopping is definitely more common, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically more acceptable,” said Elizabeth Malatestinic, senior lecturer in Human Resource Management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

Malatestinic said several factors impact how job hopping is perceived by potential employers.  

Industry: “Those in the tech world, for example, seem to have more latitude to move around due to the need for their marketable skills,” Malatestinic said. “More traditional companies with longer histories, though, will be less open to someone with a history of frequent job changes.”

The CareerBuilder survey listed the top five industries in which employers expect workers to job hop. 

  • Information Technology
  • Leisure & Hospitality
  • Transportation
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing

Age and experience level: A younger candidate who has several jobs with only a year at each job won’t be subject to the same scrutiny that an older, more experienced, worker in the same situation might.

“The attitude toward the older worker will be ‘Why can’t he keep a job?’” Malatestinic said. “Whereas toward the younger worker, it’s often ‘Oh, those Millennials.’”

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 41 percent of employers said that job-hopping becomes less acceptable when a worker reaches his or her early to mid-30s. 

Length of time at each job: The gold standard used to be five years in a job. Now, recruiters are urging candidates to stick it out for two years at a job in which they’re unhappy.

“Certainly, if someone has a two-month stint on their resume, but other more substantial experience, I would consider leaving that two-month job off the resume,” Malatestinic said. “It doesn’t add to their experience, and it raises questions that distract from their marketability.”

While still not accepted by all hiring managers, job hopping provides employees the opportunity to learn new skills, expose themselves to a wide range of experiences and to climb a step higher in pay or title.

If you are a job hopper, when applying for jobs be sure to emphasize the positive reasons for the moves and demonstrate how you made a significant, positive impact on each organization.

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