Why the job-hopper label is one to avoid
Skip to main content
Why the job-hopper label is one to avoid 

Why the job-hopper label is one to avoid 

By Neil Amato 
January 17 2014

Leaving one company to work for another is part of life, but job-hopping can be bad for your career. And from an organisational standpoint, hiring the job-hopper could be bad for business.

A new survey of HR managers by global staffing company Robert Half defines job-hopping and offers advice for employees considering a change of work scenery.

More than 300 managers at US companies were asked, “Over a ten-year span, how many job changes, in your opinion, would it take for a professional to be viewed as a job-hopper?”

The average response: changing companies five times. Experts on recruiting in the UK agree that switching organisations every two years or less likely constitutes job-hopping.

For several reasons, hiring managers could eliminate those who bounce around from company to company. On its face, a job history with many stops in only a few years can indicate a worker doesn’t get along well with others or lacks engagement. And, if companies do hire the job-hopper and that person continues hopping, recruiting and training a new worker costs more.

Research by the Center for American Progress showed that the average cost to replace an employee was 21.4% of that employee’s salary. So, each time one $60,000-a-year worker leaves, US companies are paying about $12,800 to replace the worker.

Data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK say the recruiting cost alone for replacing a senior executive is about £6,000 (about $9,825), and about £2,000 ($3,275) for mid-level employees. Clive Davis, a senior director at Robert Half UK, estimates total replacement costs for a worker to be at least 25% of salary, and possibly higher for high-level jobs.

While some strategic job-switching can help workers advance careers or keep engagement high by providing new challenges, continued quick moves can be a red flag for hiring managers. In a 2012 survey by software company Bullhorn, 39% of recruiters said the single biggest obstacle for an unemployed candidate in regaining employment is having a history of regular job changes.

“It’s up to candidates to justify their career history,” said Claire McCartney, a CIPD adviser for resource and talent planning. “If there are gaps, or they were in a role a short period of time, they need to fill in the gaps.”

In finance, career advancement could bring on the need to change jobs more often than every two years, experts said. Shahid Nawaz of global recruiting firm Hays said that showing career progression can help cancel out the negative perception of rapid-fire job changes.

“For the core finance roles, if you’re moving every two years to gain greater exposure or some new skill set, people are accepting of that,” said Nawaz, business director for Hays’s accountancy and finance practice.

Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director in the US, said that hiring managers should also take into account the economic tremors of the past few years when considering a job candidate who appears to be a hopper.

“You have to ascertain if those moves were warranted,” McDonald said. Some job changes, after all, could have been the result of a company going out of business or laying off an entire department of workers.

If you are deliberating about whether to stay with your current employer or look elsewhere, Robert Half recommends asking yourself three questions before updating your CV and beginning a job search:

Why do you want the new opportunity? Consider the job factors that are most important to you, and pursue the new job only if it helps improve those issues. Money, a better relationship with your manager, new and greater responsibilities, more flexible hours – everyone has different priorities. In this electronic age, one can apply for many jobs by just clicking a mouse and filling out a few fields on an employer’s website. But candidates should apply only for jobs they truly want – and be able to articulate why they want that job before applying, Davis said.

Have you looked within? Other jobs with your current employer might be a better fit than going to another company. McDonald said that logical, career-progressing moves in the same company do not constitute job-hopping.

Where is the greatest long-term potential and stability? Your best chance to build skills and advance your career might be in your current job. Also, Robert Half recommends considering which company, current or targeted, is on the most solid footing. “You don’t want to make a move only to learn your career progression is stalled, or your new company is struggling,” the company said in a news release.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Six Ways to Build Employee Engagement”: Amica Mutual Insurance CEO Robert DiMuccio, CPA, explains how his company develops an engaged workforce.

How to Drive Engagement as Turnover Concerns Mount”: With the global economy showing signs of growth, a survey from June 2013 predicted a significant increase in employee turnover. With retention a concern, understanding what motivates workers’ commitment and loyalty is essential for employers.

Neil Amato (namato@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

Don't miss out on additional news and features from CGMA Magazine.
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


Jesus Pizarro

This is a very good article and good posting of my colleagues. This is topic that we don?t found good information frequently. I agree with Claire McCartney, when she said: ?It?s up to candidates to justify their career history,? In my case, in professional career (almost 20 years). I have changed 4 time. In one of position, I was only 9 months because medical-family related reason. The point is that sometime there are factors out of our control.

Feb 19, 2014 6:24 AM

Thanks Neil for the article adds more insight for those who really have a short career and their drawbacks.

Just to share with you my personal experiences on job hopping. I have had a completely different perspective in this area of job hopping, I agree with you 5 jobs within 10 years is really hopping. How about 3 jobs within 10 years, this will make the job seeker a dynamic person (not static on a job)looking for challenges.

In my CV I have been changing jobs every 3+ years and it had elivated me to the top jobs in my specialized industry - Islamic banking & finance industry.

In one of the interviews for a CFO position, the Chairman and the CEO asked my response, stating that I cannot be relied upon and I will not stay put with them since I had changed jobs often? I was very candid and I said, Yes, Sir, definitely I will not stay put and it is upto you to keep me with the organization, I am a dynamic person and looks for challenges everytime - I am a specialist in this field of Islamic finance and always keep myself updated and looking for challenges.

This response got me the job and faired well and stayed with them for almost 4 years for my next challenging job opening.

Just a thought from a positive frame of mind, for job hoppers (please keep it 3 jobs for a 10 year career, will make your dynamic with a speciality.

MIT-Muhammed Ikram Thowfeek FCMA, CGMA

Founder, First Global Group


Jan 27, 2014 7:44 AM

Great article!  

As an employer of a small practice, the cost of finding a replacement (or sometimes referred to as a  new ?family? member) is probably higher if you consider the flat management structure and opportunity cost.  

Boutique firms tend to spend considerable time trying to find the right candidate because of the higher dependency on efficient staffers who can collaborate for the firm?s survival (more work to divide among less staffers compared to larger firms).  Everyone must provide value because there is no where to hide in a smaller environment.

Having mentored early-stage professionals for over 20 years we share that employers typically try to avoid on-boarding job hoppers at all costs.   Staffers should consider understanding, leveraging and maneuvering their current environment before venturing off into a new unknown environment with a new set of players (supervisors, peers, etc).  

Before jumping ship ensure that you have an actual functioning network (internal and external) and have the skills to truly add more value to another organization.  Otherwise you can end up on the unemployment line or with an organization that further stalls your career.

Amazingly if one adds value to an organization and builds true bonds with employers and peers future references can lead to great opportunities to help catapult your career.  

Genevia Gee Fulbright, CPA, CGMA - President & COO

Fulbright & Fulbright, CPA, PA

Former Chair AICPA Minority Initiaives Committee &

Former Trustee AICPA Foundation

Jan 24, 2014 10:34 AM
Showing 3 of 3 comments   
You must be a CGMA Designation Holder to comment
Login now

Stay connected with CGMA

  • Facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • Google plus
  • You tube