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Take a Leap of Faith in a Job Hopper?

I read a blog post recently that posed a rather simple question: Would you hire a job hopper? Put another way: If you had two finalists for a position, would you go with the one who stayed five years at her last job? Or the "job hopper" who worked five jobs in the last five years?

The topic generated more than the usual number of comments, with some valuing loyalty and others arguing that many of today's workers are simply more apt to bolt if their jobs are not serving their careers or lives well.

Any job hopper would cause a bit of concern with a hiring manager, which is only natural. But what amuses me - or maybe more accurately, ticks me off - is a hiring manager who would reject a job hopper while his or her own company shows no loyalty to its own staff by always taking "layoffs" as a path to profitability, or that doesn't invest sufficiently in employee training and development (if at all), or both. Such a hiring manager would be a shining example of corporate hypocrisy.

If I were a hiring manager, I would admittedly be concerned about hiring the job hopper. But at the same time, I would be compelled to ask myself these questions:

  • Would the applicant fill a critical role for us, and fill it well?
  • Do we have an employee training and professional development program that might turn this "job hopper" into a high-level contributor and long-term employee?
  • Are the applicant's long-term (i.e., three to five years out) career goals ones we could feasibly help him or her reach through professional development?
  • Does this person want professional development?
  • If this person were to leave after a year or so, could the work be redistributed easily?
  • If the job-hopping was related to salary or benefits issues, how do we stack up against our competitors or companies of similar size?

Hiring managers need not fear job hoppers unless they have no clear career goals in mind. I'd be concerned about hiring a person who cannot clearly state that in a resume or articulate it in an interview. Yes, job hopping may be a regular practice among the Millennial/Generation Y set, but anyone - at any stage in life - can hop from job to job without a purpose. That's why, as an applicant, you should chart your career course before you search for a company you believe would be a good stop along the way.

I welcome thoughts from both job seekers and hiring managers. Does this topic bring out more than just a little bit of emotion in you?

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