Skip to main content
  1. Home
  2. Recruiting and Hiring Advice
  3. Screening Candidates
  4. What characteristics identify a job hopper?

What characteristics identify a job hopper?

What characteristics identify a job hopper?
Untitled Document

The ‘job hopper' label is usually perceived as negative, but if your recruitment team is discarding candidates just because they have switched jobs too many times, you could be missing out on some great talent.

There are three typical categories of job hoppers that you should look to identify when screening candidates.

Essential hoppers
There are countless reasons why a candidate may have a long list of previous employers on their CV including poor career choices, company takeovers, relocation or redundancy. What sets essential hoppers apart is the fact that the majority of their moves would have been out of their control.

The candidate should be able to easily explain each move and often you will spot patterns that fit in with wider economic trends. People that have been let go from a business often move to a competitor company which itself could fall foul of market conditions. In certain highly volatile periods, this can happen a number of times in a short period of time.

Some people are destined to hop by necessity. Those who are involved (or have partners that are involved) in a roles or industries that will necessitate change, such as:

  • Time related roles – Olympics, event management
  • Project related roles – Construction, software installation
  • Mobile roles – Oil engineers, training consultants

Regardless of the time a candidate has been in a role, they should be able to explain what they have achieved. If they're able to make a bigger impact in 6 months than some people do in 36 months, then they will surely be an asset to your business.

Opportunity hoppers
There are people who opt to change career regularly and are unlikely to cause much disruption your business. This is regularly done at the start of people's careers, usually because they have not yet decided in which direction they want to take their career.

Candidates may move to learn a new language, to get experience in another industry, or simply to get money to fund another career. Some candidates will get a taste for regular change and remain in contract work for the revenue the lifestyle it provides. These candidates can provide a worthy addition to your workforce, presuming they are able to show logic and progression in each move.

Difficult hoppers
Some people just can't find their place in the working world, and that can become very clear when it's written down in black and white.

Occasionally ‘difficult hoppers' will have moved on for valid reasons, but their CVs will show a pattern that the candidate finds it difficult to adapt to the work environment. They will have difficulty in explaining success in interviews and will have stories about bad managers, bad colleagues and generally bad experiences.

Remember the following when assessing hopper behaviour.

  • Do not discard people without knowing the facts
  • Give the candidate a chance to explain the logic behind each move
  • Look for successes rather than date ranges

As well as the questions you ask at an interview, make sure you probe candidate's references a bit deeper if you're worried about their job hopping past.

A glowing report from five recent employers could tell you a lot more than an average recommendation for someone who had been in their job for five years.


Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.