Seventy-one per cent of hiring managers would happily recruit someone who has held five different jobs in ten years.
After being made redundant in a previous role, Emma*– who works in social media management – completed a three month contract with a new employer. She did a good job, but at the completion of the project her services were no longer required (that had always been the agreement).
When she started looking for a new job, recruiters were suspicious of her short tenure. Even though she clearly labelled the job as a contract role on LinkedIn, she kept getting the impression that recruiters thought she’d been let go in a probationary period and wasn’t being transparent about it.
“I found the combination of saying I had been made redundant and had a three month contract after that made recruiters eye’s glaze over. When I re-framed it to say I was freelancing instead of working on a short contract, that seemed to change their opinion,” she says.
“I ended up taking the contract work off my LinkedIn profile and found that I got much more positive responses – and ended up getting hired for my current job.”
This happened around two and a half years ago. New research suggests that Emma might not have received such a cold response had this happened today.
The new way of working
Drawing information from interviews with over 900 hiring managers in Australia and New Zealand, recruitment specialists Robert Half found that 71 per cent of Australian hiring managers are happy to hire someone who is considered to be a ‘job hopper’ – defined by them as someone who has changed jobs five times in ten years.
Hiring managers in New Zealand are even more generous; 74 per cent of NZ hiring managers would hire a job hopper (however they categorise hoppers as those who’ve changed roles six times in ten years).
These are encouraging statistics – and perhaps surprising to some – but it does come with a caveat.
“I think some of it is dependent on what job level people are job hopping at,” says Andrew Morris, director of NSW, Queensland and New Zealand at Robert Half.
It will come as no surprise that hiring managers reported millennials to be the most likely to job hop, although the definition of a millennial in this report is a bit of a stretch (anyone born from 1977-1995). It should also be mentioned that this isn’t so much of a generational trait as it is a trait of younger people – evidence shows Generation X were more likely to job hop than millennials when they were the same age.
Morris says job hopping is more acceptable for anyone at the start of their career, as these employees are still finding their way. Often they’ve stumbled into a university degree after highschool and by the time they graduate, they are having second thoughts.
“If people are early in their career – around five years in – and are still trying to find their feet and work out what they’re passionate about, most [employers] are okay with that. It starts to fall away when people start to get into managerial roles or senior roles. In that sense, businesses can’t afford to lose someone on a twelve monthly basis.”
Spoilt for choice
One of the main reasons we’re seeing a shift in attitudes towards job hopping is Australia’s increasingly strong job market, says Morris.
“The market is really tight at the moment,” says Morris. “People who are looking for opportunities are going to find one.”
“If you look at commentary from 2008 – when the market was at its peak prior to the GFC – the term ‘war for talent’ was used a lot. That’s where we’re at in the market at the moment. Great people are hard to find and job seekers are exposed to a lot of different opportunities in the marketplace.”
According to recent insights (subscription required) from business advisory firm Gartner, 92 per cent of candidates are considering at least one other job offer when offered a job with an organisation. This is up from 61 per cent in 2016.
“The market has been steadily growing and therefore companies are expanding. Back office needs are growing and the market has just gone from strength to strength. With that being the case, companies are always looking to add heads where previously they may have been looking at making redundancies. It’s been all about growth and expansion,” says Morris.
In recent years, he has also seen an increase of employees resigning from a role before they’ve even lined up a new gig.
“Before, people would have been more circumspect about resigning without having another opportunity, [but now candidates] give themselves time to find something they really want to do. They can quite easily gain temporary or contract work, especially if they’re working in finance, IT or [administrative work]. That’s really indicative of where the market is at the moment.”
The upside and the downside
According to the same research, the majority of hiring managers (97 per cent) were able to identify why an employee might want to move around often, citing the chance to gain more skills (43 per cent), network expansion (39 per cent), industry specific experience (38 per cent), and higher salaries and faster career progression (36 per cent) as the main benefits.
When looking to the potential risks of job hopping, the responses are what you’d expect. Other than being considered a liability to potential employers, hiring managers said a lack of job security (42 per cent), missing out on being part of a team (38 per cent) and missing out on promotions (35 per cent) were important factors for job hoppers to keep in mind.
What to look out for
When interviewing a job hopper, Morris’ advice to hiring managers is to be consistent and thorough with questioning, this way they can identify any red flags upfront – before they’ve committed. If the candidate is constantly saying they left because of a poor manager, it’s worth investigating if the candidate was actually the real problem.
“Ask for the reason they left each of their previous roles and look for themes and patterns to weigh up the positive and negative points. That will help you to peel the onion of understanding that person more in depth to find out more about their loyalties and where they want to go in their career.”
For jobseekers, his advice is to “be proactive rather than reactive.” Get in before recruiters ask and clearly articulate the reason for leaving.”
Need to sharpen your interviewing skills? AHRI’s short course Interviewing skills for line managers offers the basic building blocks needed to get a great hire on board.
There’s no magic number
The key takeaway from this report is that the perfect tenure doesn’t exist. While millennials might be more likely to switch it up more often than their older counterparts, that doesn’t mean Gen Xers and Boomers shouldn’t or don’t. The appropriate amount of hopping should always be weighed up on a case by case basis, says Morris.
“Some organisations will have a CEO who’s been in the role for 30 years, others won’t have the same leader for longer than five years. It’s all about the leader being able to reinvent themselves and the training and education that you do.”
And that’s where HR can step in. For tips on how to help elevate your senior leaders, read HRM’s previous article on 5 things you need in your leadership training.
*Name has been changed.