Will an employer think you’re a job hopper and does it matter?

There’s no such thing as a job for life so no one expects loyalty these days…

Some believe that employer and employee loyalty is no longer relevant. And that it is fine to have lots of job moves on your CV.

Unfortunately, this is far from correct.

CVs with many employer moves are a big concern for management consultancy firms. They often tell us that they will reject a candidate for this reason alone, without considering interviewing them.

This may seem very unfair. The topic generates strong emotions from candidates who may find themselves on the job market though no fault of their own.

However it’s important to be aware of this risk when considering “voluntary” career moves and job offers.

So how many job moves are acceptable?

There is, of course, no definitive answer and it does depend to an extent on what stage of your career you are at. A few jobs move in the early stages of your career is generally thought to be more acceptable. Broadly speaking one recent employer of fewer than 18 months duration is OK. Two moves of under two years may start carrying the risk that you will be a less attractive candidate in the eyes of employers and their recruiters. More than two short permanent roles will almost certainly have a negative impact on your options for your next job move.

You may have very good reasons for the moves and be able to explain them well face to face. However, you may not be given the opportunity to do so.

In these days of portfolio careers and the importance of gaining good experience why does it matter?

  • People DO value loyalty still. Employers don’t expect you to stay a lifetime. However, 3-5 years is expected as the minimum. The logic is that it may take a year for them to fully train and integrate you and start to get any real value out of you. If you leave after 18 months they lose out.
  • It suggests you might have made a mistake. One error is fine. But multiple blunders are not and cast doubt on your career planning logic and due diligence.
  • Sometimes the job isn’t what you expected (or were told) or you just don’t fit and it’s clearly not working out: it happens! But multiple job moves suggest the problem may be with you and not the employers.
  • Ambition is welcomed but if you have to move on after a short period it suggests a short attention span and unrealistic goals. It can also suggest that the employer doesn’t think you are as good as you do.

Moving for career progression

  • People love to see promotions on a CV. If you are with an employer for 5 years and have been promoted at least once and perhaps twice it shows that you are valued and good at your job. More than many other professions management consultancy is felt to be meritocratic and to afford people the opportunity for career progression. However, if the career progression doesn’t happen and you have to move employers instead then this can raise question marks.
  • Moves between employers are not always accompanied by career progression. In fact, people often move sideways in order to move forwards. Several moves over a short period may result in a career that is stagnating.
  • Redundancy happens to many people. Usually employers don’t view it negatively. In fact being able to start at short notice is an upside. However multiple redundancies can suggest that to put it delicately, you weren’t quite as highly valued as other employees.
  • Finally and perhaps most obviously, short moves can suggest it was involuntary i.e. you were “let go” or whatever euphemism might apply. Fired to be blunt. Once is rarely a problem but if it happens several times it most certainly is.

What to do if your new job isn’t working out:

If you find yourself in a job or employer which you’re unsure about give it at LEAST 6 months: there are often a few doubts and niggles in the early days.

If there is no sign of improvement consider carefully whether there is anything your employer or boss can do about it. Don’t assume that things can’t change. Sometimes an honest and constructive conversation, handled in the right manner, can clear the air and sort out any problems particularly if a result of a level of miscommunication.

However, if that doesn’t work, or the problems are clearly ones that can’t be resolved and this is your first short move, seek another job. There is no point hanging around hoping it will get better or trying to make it look good on a CV. BUT take great care to avoid “frying pan to fire”. Frequently people are so keen to move they are blind to the potential pitfalls of a new opportunity. Your mantra should be “if I were reasonably HAPPY in my current role would I even be considering this option?” The only thing worse than having to move from a poor job once is having to go through the same cycle again a short time later. Self-evidently, therefore, don’t resign without anything to go to unless it’s truly intolerable. You don’t want to put yourself under even more pressure.

If it’s the second time in a row and you have any choice in the matter DO try and stay put because making it look good on the CV probably IS worthwhile.

Consider alternatives

If you really feel you have to leave then you can consider contracting. It might suit you better and in any event, buys you time to make the right job move as it’s a fill-in for the CV and keeps the money coming in in the event that takes you longer than you expect.

Sometimes, unfortunately, job moves are forced on people and this can happen more than once. There isn’t a lot that can be done from a CV perspective except that it emphasises the importance of not compounding the difficulty by having unnecessary voluntary moves on a CV as well. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have two or more recent short term moves then your priority as far as possible should be to secure a low-risk job with a low-risk employer even if that means making some compromises.

For more recruitment and career-related information and perspectives, of value to employers and candidates alike, please visit https://prismrecruitment.co.uk/guides/ or contact Chris Sale, Managing Director, at Prism Executive Recruitment.

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