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by Siobhan Green | March 31, 2009


No employer wants an employee who will leave before the employer wants them to leave. However, not all employers will interpret a resume filled with many jobs the same way. How well or badly your job-hopping is taken depends on a number of factors. Think about these factors before your next interview.

1. What do we mean by job-hopping? Some people say that having a job for less than four years is a sign of a short-timer, others think that the minimum one must stay in a job is a year and anything over two years (with no promotion or new skill growth) shows stagnation. In general, if you have at least three jobs of two years or less on your resume, you may be considered a job-hopper.

2. What market are you in? In some high-powered cities, like New York City or Washington, having a series of jobs of less than two years is not necessarily seen as a bad thing -- it is seen as a mark of an ambitious person who is constantly moving forward. In addition, some industries, like politics and consulting, are prone to frequent job movement.

3. Are you moving up? Job hopping is fine if there is a clear pattern of increasing responsibility. Employers tend to be sympathetic to a quest for greater responsibility. A lateral move can also be explained as exploring other careers or gaining relevant experience that would have been unavailable otherwise. Ask about promotion and growth potential during the interview to reinforce your interest in increasing responsibility.

4. How old are you? Having four jobs in the three years right out of college is not a big deal. Most employers expect a certain amount of career exploration from recent grads. But the higher you go in your profession, and the more investment the company has to make in you, the less likely they are to want to invest in someone who they think will leave in a year.

5. What's the market like? No employer should fault you for having three jobs in a year and a half when you were laid off from each position. It helps if the companies themselves have gone out of business or downsized. As long as you seem to be in control of your career and you come across as beingaccountable for the decisions you have made, questions about job-hopping can be answered to the satisfaction of nearly all employers.~

How should you avoid job-hopping in the first place?

Many times, the signs of a bad fit are evident before the job offer is accepted. Take the decision to join a company very seriously: if you have any doubts at all about the company, listen to them. Unless there is some urgent need to take the job, don't gloss over concerns you may have.

Assess promotion potential in the interview. If there is no opportunity for growth, be realistic about how long you could stay in the position without being frustrated. Keep in mind that while a promotion may not be possible, a lateral move or expansion of responsibilities can accomplish the same goal. Don't assume this is possible -- ask.

You can put up with a lot if you like and respect the people you work with. Likewise, the best job in the world will be awful if you hate your boss. Your homework should include the management style of your new boss -- and his/her boss as well. Also look at the corporateculture -- a competitive, politically intense environment will cause some people to thrive and drive others into therapy.

Salary and reporting structure are good indicators of the value the companyplaces on the position. Is this job at the right level for you, or is it a demotion? Are you going to be proud of what you are doing, or will you gloss over your title and position when talking to other people? Are you proud of what the company is doing? Don't let yourself think that you won't resent a demotion, working for people with less experience, a pay cut, or earning less than others in the same position.


Filed Under: Job Search