job hopping
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New Thinking About Job Hopping

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I keep hearing that employers are no longer concerned about an applicant’s short tenure in past jobs, but I still like to see a longer commitment to an employer. Am I out of touch?

A: What you’re hearing is right: The average tenure in a job these days is five years. It used to be that applicants were penalized for having multiple jobs in a short time period, but the stigma of “job hopping” seems to have lessened.

Now, changing jobs every few years is the norm—especially with millennials, who appear to feel that changing jobs often is good for their careers, and many among their older colleagues agree with them. A recent survey reported by PayScale found that only 13 percent of millennials think workers should stay in a job for at least five years; 41 percent of baby boomers think so.

People leave jobs for all kinds of reasons. Many cite money as their motivator, while others leave in order to be more fulfilled in their work. People may also move frequently to build their skills.

Because people are not staying in jobs as long as they used to, you may need to adjust your criteria when reviewing applications. When a resume shows the applicant has moved from job to job, does there appear to be career progression? If the applicant meets most of your job criteria, do a phone interview and probe for more information on why he has changed jobs so often. You may be pleasantly surprised at the reasons. He may have gained valuable skills in each position that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d stayed at his first job. And those skills and abilities may be exactly what you need to increase your department’s productivity or take on a new challenge.

Because people are not staying in jobs as long as they used to, you may need to adjust your criteria when reviewing applications.

So, as you consider your desire to see applicants with longer tenures, think about the fact that staying longer in a job may not be a good indicator of an applicant’s potential. Your best applicant may be someone who has gained skills while changing jobs.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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