The Case for Job Hoppers: To Hire or Not to Hire?

I won’t even try to count the number of recruiters or hiring managers who have told me they immediately disqualify candidates who have had too many jobs in a short period of time, or who haven’t stayed at their jobs for some (arbitrary) minimum length of time. Just today, I read two blogs on how to avoid hiring these “job hoppers”.

For those who insist that they should toss these candidates, I respectfully disagree. Here’s why:

You’re ignoring the important stuff – their qualifications. Yes, maybe we do need to consider a candidate’s stability or potential tenure. But does it really serve your business purpose most if that is the first thing you use to eliminate a candidate? It seems somewhat shortsighted.
You’re making an assumption based on a very narrow view of the candidate. Especially in the last few years, we’ve seen some awesomely qualified people get laid off – and in many cases they take whatever they can to make ends meet. So you have a candidate who worked as a mechanical engineer for four years before being laid off as the company downsized. He went to work for Home Depot for six months and then was laid off there, too – they simply laid off based on tenure, and he was a new guy. He stayed unemployed for two months when he was hired by his brother-in-law to work as an estimator. The company went under and now he is out of a job again. He looks like a job hopper. But is he really? Resumes don’t typically say why someone left previous jobs. Think outside the box and consider a wider range of possibilities.

Maybe your company is a better match. Ok, so this candidate actually is a job hopper – just moving from job to job because of something internal to the candidate – she isn’t happy or is bored or isn’t satisfied with what she is getting out of each job. Does that mean she’ll do the same to you? Not necessarily. As the world of work moves away from being employer driven to candidate driven again, candidates who are confident in their abilities, their worth, and their priorities will seek opportunities that meet their needs more closely. Maybe she wants better benefits. Maybe she wants a schedule that allows her to spend more time with her family. Maybe she just wants to be challenged. Is there anything wrong with that? Just because a previous employer can’t offer those things doesn’t mean you can’t. Don’t pass up the opportunity to interview this candidate – instead ask the right questions to see whether they are a good organizational fit. Kind of like dating – maybe your ex is a total dud…to you. But your perfect current mate was someone else’s dud. There isn’t much difference between dating and hiring as far as compatibility and individual differences go.

The bottom line is that qualifications should always come first, and hiring decisions shouldn’t be made based on assumptions. When you carefully screen candidates based on their own merit as it pertains to the primary duties of the job, and then consider person-organization fit, you’ll improve your hiring and better identify the right person for the job – not based on what another employer thought of them, but based on your own assessment and needs as well as what you stand to gain from a particular candidate’s talent and motivation.

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