why you should not ignore job hoppers when hiring

How many times over the past 10 years of recruitment have I had feedback from a client that a candidate's CV is ‘jumpy'? Many, many, many, and it is the most consistently received feedback from a shortlisting stage of a recruitment process. Jumpy candidates can still bring value.

I know a lot of recruiters, like doctors know a lot of doctors and taxi drivers know a lot of taxi drivers. Recruiters are in a highly competitive and fast-moving industry, where you are constantly hunting for the best talent in the market to make an impact in your client’s business. My network across the recruitment industry shares the same feedback from their clients.

Are they at higher risk?

Prospective employers see a jumpy candidate as a higher risk to the business in the short term. Many times, I have failed to convince a client to have an initial conversation with a candidate in my network who is qualified for a position I am hiring for them.

There are many reasons a candidate may appear jumpy, and employers are quick to judge a candidate without looking to understand the reasons why. From my own analysis, 20% of all candidates I have hired were working in their previous company for 18 months or less before they joined my client’s business. Of these, 75% had worked in two to three companies with 24-month or fewer tenures during their careers.

According to the latest survey data, the average person changes jobs 12 times in their career. Assume a 40-year career, that once every three and a half years.

Looking Inward Before Passing Judgement

Internal parties controlling the applicant screening stage are quick to judge candidates being presented. Especially if they have made career moves with shorter tenures in the most recent years of their careers, often stating ‘we want someone stable!’.

One observation is that the in-house talent team are part of the same trend. “I see this candidate has had 4 positions in 8 years”, or "this candidate has only spent 18 months in their current role”, or “there is a 6-month gap in their employment 10 years ago” – yet the assessor, or the first line of defense, in the company recruitment process rejecting candidates often comes from a similar background. Surely not? Yes, the hirers have also made ‘short’ moves themselves in their careers as well.

There are a vast number of reasons to explain someone’s career moves, whether personal or professional.

In recent times under the covid pandemic in Asia, businesses have gone through employee downsizing and cutbacks, job positions have merged, relocated outside of a certain country, or people have taken time away from employment to raise children, or take care of a sick parent.

The Future of Work

More recently in Asia companies have seen a bigger trend of talent moving away as their companies are not able to adapt to ‘The Future of Work’, with greater employee expectations on flexible/hybrid/agile working environments, or people switching career paths as they are lacking internal development in their current companies.

Most commonly it is a result of a change in leadership above them and not having the same working relationship or outlook compared to their previous manager. There are many reasons good candidates leave companies, often not due to their abilities.

Why to Reconsider Job Hoppers

When interviewing a candidate for a position and they do have shorter tenures in their career path, take time to understand the reasons why – however trivial it may seem. Dig deeper. With experience in the recruitment industry comes trust. Over the years, my clients trust my opinion and feedback – which is a relief as it’s what I’ve invested my career in – and they are likely to better understand my candidate’s motivations and reasons.

The talent landscape continues to shift, employees have more opportunities and more control as the job market outstrips candidate supply. Invest that extra time to understand why someone has moved. You will be surprised what value they can bring to your company.

steve parkes

Richard Barber
Associate Partner
Hong Kong


The talent landscape is vastly different than before, and you'll be surprised what value job hoppers can bring. Here's why you should invest extra time to understand why someone has moved.

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