Reference Checks


The term “job hopper” sounds essentially like what it means: someone who switches jobs frequently – at least often enough that prospective employers will notice how often that job seeker has changed jobs!  “Why does that matter?” one may ask.  “Doesn’t it make good business sense to advance one’s career whenever the opportunity comes along?”  Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it is “no.”

Most employers will notice frequent jobs changes on a resume or job application and wonder why.  On the other hand, most people new to the job market may very well change jobs two or three times within the first few years after completing their educations – that’s not unusual.  What is unusual, however, is the job seeker who has switched jobs a half-dozen times or more during the first decade out of school.

While it’s not unusual for someone to change jobs every five to seven years, changing jobs every six months to two years is a potential red flag to many employers and the reason, when checking references, employers will invariably ask why the candidate left.  If the answer of several references goes something like, “Oh, he found a better job opportunity and moved on,” the prospective employer may well shy away from a candidate who appears to be the type who will jump ship whenever a better opportunity comes along.  The unspoken concern on the part of a prospective employer will be that, if the “job hopper” is hired, the employer will be back looking for someone to fill the same vacancy far sooner than most would prefer, not just in terms of the time required for another new employee to get up to speed, but also in terms of the cost associated with carrying out another job search.

A history of frequent job changes also doesn’t speak well of company loyalty.  While younger employees often scoff at the notion of company loyalty, many employers expect people to stay around for more than a year or two, particularly if the nature of the position, the salary, and the benefits are solid and if there are growth opportunities for those who perform well over time.

So, before jumping at the chance to earn a few thousand more per year, job seekers should consider the reputation they’re building by jumping from one job to anther too often.  Of course, the other side of the coin could be that references will not have a very favorable impression of the short term employee’s dedication or, worse yet, his overall job performance – particularly if the job hopper was terminated or asked to leave – by more than one employer.  That’s a red flag that can’t be dismissed as the ambition of youth!

The “bottom line” for most employers is that job-hoppers are totally out for themselves and could care less whom they work for as long as they can advance their careers with each subsequent job hop.  The problem is, once the track record is established, the opportunities to keep hopping from job to job will usually dry up!