Gone are the days when you stayed in a job from the moment you left school until retirement. If you believe ‘expert' online journalists, there are plenty of articles on the web stating that the average person will have 6-7 jobs in a lifetime. In my 20+ years' experience reading CVs and recruiting, this is way off the mark.
If you work out the average number of jobs right now, then maybe that works, but more and more Millennials and Generation-X candidates are switching jobs more regularly than the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation (over 90% of these are now retired, or sadly, no longer with us.) Add in the Gen-X or Centennials who were born after 1996, most of whom aren't even in work yet and it's clear that if the trend for job hopping continues, this generation will become the most unemployable in the future.
Here's how the numbers stack up in my experience. (Dates are approximate)
Baby Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964)
Most likely to have held 1-3 jobs
Generation-X (Born 1965 to 1976)
Most likely to have averaged 3-8 jobs
Millennials (Born 1977 to 1996)
Most likely to be job hopping and held between 5 and 12 jobs with different companies
Centennials or Gen-Z (Born after 1996)
Most likely to have held several part-time jobs or be on zero-hours contracts before the age of 21.
Job hopping is becoming more common.
That said, job hopping is frowned upon by many employers and recruiters so if you have had lots of jobs, you need to substantiate the reasons why on your CV or application, and be prepared for some probing questions during the screening process & job interviews. That is if you are lucky enough to get an interview in the first place.
What is job hopping?
Quite simply, job hopping means that you are going from one job to the next in a short space of time. Personally, I would consider a candidate to be job hopping if he/ she moving from job-to-job and company-to-company within 2 years or less. I do not consider someone who is sticking with the same company but moving job roles ie. getting promoted, to be job hopping.
Why job hopping is seen as negative
If you are moving up the career ladder within an organisation, that's great! It shows a clear career path and that the business values your skills and expertise. They see you as a good investment and someone who is probably going to stick around for the longer term.
What's not so great, is a candidate who looks like they can't hold down a job and jumps from one company to the next. If you have held lots of jobs and moved companies in quick succession, a recruiter or hiring manager may assume the following:
- You got fired
- You messed up and left before you got fired
- You couldn't settle into the role
- You can't make your mind up
- You get bored easily
- You didn't stick around long enough to make an impact
- You weren't there long enough to gain valuable transferable skills
- You're not loyal
- If you left all the previous organisations soon after you started (less than 2 years), you're unlikely to stay with them for very long
Not great is it?
Why I would choose a loyal candidate over one who has been job hopping
Personally speaking, if I had 2 candidates with equal skills and experience but could only choose 1, I would go with the one who has shown loyalty and clear career progression over one who looks like they have been job hopping on their CV. As a recruiter, it's very difficult to explain to a hiring manager that you are a safe bet as a future employee if you've been job hopping all over the place. You just won't look credible, sorry to say.
BUT…and it's a BIG BUT…If I can talk to the hiring manager about why you have been job hopping and have a solid explanation to demonstrate your intentions, that's another story. More of that later.
Job hopping examples
James has applied for a Payroll Administrator position and has sent his CV to the recruiter tasked with filling the vacancy. The hiring manager has stated that his criterion includes looking for a candidate that has a solid career history. James has 10 years of career history and during this time, has worked for 6 different companies. He ticks all the boxes in terms of the required skillset, has worked in Payroll positions for similar types and sizes of organisations and fits within the salary range on offer.
Does James get an interview?
No! James does not even get a screening call from the recruiter.
Why? James might be the best payroll candidate since sliced bread but the brief is that the hiring manager wants a solid career history – not a job hopper.
Fiona is a Sales Executive and has a CV bursting with claims. ‘Exceeded all sales targets,' ‘Contributed £xxx to bottom line,' ‘Achieved 60% of quota,' Subject Matter Expert.' She also states that she is results driven, tenacious and a burning desire to succeed.
Fiona has held 3 sales roles with different organisations in the past 5 years and applied directly to the company but didn't get a response. Here's why:
- 3 different roles, 3 different organisations in 5 years – She wasn't around long enough to make a real impact
- Exceeded all sales targets – Probably because sales targets are fairly soft in the beginning and she would have had additional support from her supervisor in the early months
- Contributed £xxx to bottom-line – Total ‘guff.' She wasn't there long enough to quantify such a claim
- Achieved 60% of quota – Er? What about the other 40%?
- Subject Matter Expert – It's very unlikely she was an ‘expert' with such short tenure
- Results driven – No she isn't. She gave up and left before any tangible results were delivered
- Tenacious – Nope, not tenacious either. She gave up!
- Burning desire to succeed – She didn't succeed. She gave up!
Why would a business take a risk on hiring a sales executive who disappears from their roles so quickly? Sales is about building strong client relationships, which is highly unlikely with such short length of service. If a sales person keeps moving to different companies, the employer will have alarm bells ringing that the candidate will take the clients when they leave.
Mike has lots of retail experience and has applied for numerous supervisory and team leader roles. He's used lots of different methods of application, including applying via job boards, application forms, handing in his CV to shops, attending job fairs, networking on Linkedin and registering with recruitment agencies. Mike is frustrated because he hasn't had any responses. Why?
Mike has held 10 retail jobs in the past 15 years. They have been with different kinds of retail organisations, including DIY, clothing, supermarkets and petrol stations. He states on his CV that he is a ‘Team player,' ‘Natural leader,' and ‘Motivated.'
Let's break this down:
- Retail is a tough nut to crack since the crash in 2008. Businesses need strong leaders and excellent operational experience with solid career experience for their retail businesses to prosper
- Mike has been applying for lots of jobs with no niche – he doesn't have a niche due to job hopping different sub-sectors
- Team player – Nope. Not really. 10 jobs in 15 years does not demonstrate longevity needed for building strong working team relationships
- Natural leader – Leading the way to finding another job, perhaps? Businesses need leaders who can develop their teams long-term, not ones who will disappear and leave their team in limbo until the next supervisor arrives
- Motivated – Yup. Motivated to get the hell out of there and find yet another job.
Can you see that job hopping just doesn't cut the mustard? Why would an organisation take the risk on someone who is likely to jump ship after they have invested heavily in hiring, training and developing them?
Why you need to stop job hopping, now
Let's face it, if you have already gone through lots of jobs, there's not a lot you can do about it. You can't turn the clock back but I would highly recommend you reassess your career goals.
It may be a growing trend to switch jobs willy-nilly but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Employers will always value skills gained as opposed to experience collected from multiple jobs and companies. Stick-ability and loyalty will always rank highly during the recruitment process. If you've jumped around from job to job, yes, you may feel that you have gained lots of experience, but in actual fact, all you have done is gain entry level experience no matter how senior your role is.
It's almost impossible to come across as a credible candidate and substantiate any claims on your CV if you can't back them up with quality and length of experience.
Employers will always feel on edge that you are going to leave them for one of their competitors thus obliterating the time and money they have invested in you during the short time you were with them.
Bottom line is, no matter how great you believe you are in a particular role, employers will question your commitment. It takes time to learn about each role and company for which you work and that (mostly) reduces the time you can make a real impact. I mean real, tangible, measurable impact.
Growing trend for ‘older' workforce
I hate to use the word ‘older' because employers aren't, by law, suppose to discriminate against hiring workers based on their age BUT they do! Whether it's consciously or subconsciously or whether it's in a roundabout fashion whilst asking for a level of experience, I've noticed a growing trend of employers looking for ‘more experienced' and loyal workers.
It's actually not an age thing, so apologies once again for using the word ‘older' but I wanted to drive my point across. It's a work ethic thing. Employers are becoming exasperated with the lack of strong work ethic and resilience they are experiencing with new hires. This is great news for those who have a solid career history. Even if you have taken time out of your career to go travelling or raise a family, you will still be regarded much higher than a candidate that has moved from job to job without clear reason.
How to address job hopping on your CV
If you have a job hopping career history, please don't panic too much! I'm not here to scaremonger, I'm here to help 🙂
It is crucial that you address your job hopping past on your CV so that the recruiter has a chance to understand the reasons why. This will reduce the chance of them assuming the worst and, in turn, ruling you out of the process before you even have a chance to speak.
Include a cover letter (you should do this with every application anyway.) In it, explain why you have so many jobs and why you believe they are the right company for you to settle down with.
You can reiterate this within the personal statement on your CV.
When you get to the body of your CV, forget the boring trap that candidates often fall into – adding reasons for leaving: redundancy, relocation and so forth. It's the detail that counts. Flip it. Include detail on why you moved to the new company rather than why you left the previous one. This will encourage the focus to be on the positive aspects of your move and show that you had logic and career progression in mind.
Whatever you choose to write, 1 or 2 sentences is enough. Make sure you have removed any unsubstantiated claims and words that I ban from CVs when I write them.
Finally, START NOW on changing your thought process. Yes, it's easy to assume the grass will be greener on the other side in the short term but if you are serious about climbing the career ladder and professional growth, you need to start planning ahead.
If you need support with career guidance, planning and development, please give me a call. You can do this!
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