A few years ago I saw a resume for a candidate who had no more than two years or so at any one job. That’s usually a red flag — a high enough red flag to make me drop the candidate from the list. But I was pretty desperate for another pair of hands, and if she’d jumped around a lot, at least she’d jumped between brand-name companies. So, I decided to have her come in for an interview.
It was a mistake. It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that her job-hopping wasn’t about qualifications, it was about fit. Her explanation for all of the moving was either “bad luck,” “economic downturn,” or something like that. It’s true some people just make bad choices a time or two, but 10 jobs over 20 years signals something else. From the way she didn’t make eye contact, slumped in her chair and mumbled more than she spoke, I knew she wasn’t going to work easily with others. (We can be a pretty open, sometimes loud bunch here.) The final straw was when she couldn’t tell me why she was the one I should hire. She kind of shrugged.
Okay, so I wasted an hour. But I did learn how resumes often tell the true story whether they’re intended to or not.
This all came back to me when I saw a post on Laurie Ruettimann’s blog, the Cynical Girl (which if you haven’t read, you should.) A user asked her about job-hopping on a resume. Succinct as always, she said, “job hopping every two years looks weird if you are over the age of thirty.”
Gen Xers and early Gen Yers are expected to have at least one entry on their resumes that’s longer than three years. The economy was in a different place between 1995-2005 and it wasn’t all that hard to keep a job for thirty-six months. You were expected to do it.
This new cohort of job seekers is different. They suffer from fewer job opportunities + depressed wages + lower test scores (fact). We expect less of them. Job hopping every two years is okay because they are dumb and lack options.
I won’t get into the “dumb” part. I’d say naïve, but then I’m not as tough as Laurie is. But the bottom line is, job-hopping’s not a good thing. It raises questions, and if a manager’s got a bunch of resumes on his desk he’s looking for reasons to drop some so he can focus on the people he thinks are the best fits.
So this isn’t really so much about resumes as it is about career management. Even if you don’t like your job, you want to hang in there for as long as you reasonably can. If it’s so godawful that you just have to get out or get insane, then by all means quit. Just don’t do it again on your next job, or your next.
Yes, sometimes life happens and you can’t avoid it, but a lot of job hopping will give me pause while one instance won’t. And if you’re thinking that you’ll explain everything during your interview, remember that the whole point of the resume is to GET you the interview. If you’ve been dropped because of your job-hopping, you’re not going to get in the door to have the opportunity.