Avoid Looking Like a Job Hopper


By Andrew Gagen

“Looks like a job hopper”. That’s something a recruiter hears quite often.

Clients review a resume and look at the employment dates. If someone has switched jobs frequently it causes a red flag.  When it comes to switching jobs, how often is too often? That’s what I wanted to find out.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.6 years. Information on employee tenure is obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS) every two years.

When it comes to job tenure, here are some things to consider:

Age Plays a Factor

  • Median employee tenure was generally higher among older workers than younger ones.
  • The median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.4 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (3.0 years).
  • A larger proportion of older workers than younger workers had 10 years or more of tenure.
  • Among workers ages 60 to 64, 58 percent were employed for at least 10 years with their current employer, compared with only 12 percent of those ages 30 to 34.
  • Young people on average settle into a committed career at the age of 27. The findings note that the majority of jobs held through the age of 26 were of relatively short duration, noting 57 percent of jobs held by 18- to 26-year-old workers ended in one year or less, and 71 percent ended in two years or less.  Notably, age 27 is also the first year parents can no longer keep adult children on their employer health insurance plan.

Industry Plays a Factor

  • Wage and salary workers in the public sector had nearly double the median tenure of private sector employees, 7.8 years versus 4.1 years.
  • About three in four government workers were age 35 and over, compared with about three in five private wage and salary workers. Federal employees had a higher median tenure (8.5 years) than state (7.4 years) or local government (7.9 years) employees.
  • Within the private sector, workers in manufacturing had the highest tenure among major industries, at 5.9 years.
  • Workers in leisure and hospitality had the lowest median tenure (2.3 years).
  • These differences in tenure reflect many factors, one of which is varying age distributions across industries; on average, workers in manufacturing tend to be older than those in leisure and hospitality.

 Occupation Plays a Factor

  • Among the major occupations, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure (5.7 years).
  • Within this group, employees had the longest tenure in the following occupations: management (6.9 years), architecture and engineering (6.4 years), and education, training, and library (6.2 years).
  • Workers in service occupations, who are generally younger than persons employed in management, professional, and related occupations, had the lowest median tenure (3.3 years).
  • Among employees working in service occupations, food preparation workers had the lowest median tenure, at 2.2 years.

Layoffs Play a Factor

  • Layoffs by U.S.-based companies accelerated in April 2016, sending job cuts to the highest level since 2009.
  • Domestic companies announced plans to let go 65,141 workers last month, a 35 percent increase from March, according to the report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
  • In the first four months of the year, employers said they would hand out 250,061 pink slips. That is the highest total for the January-to-April period since 2009.

In Summary

Here’s what I learned.  There’s no clear formula but expect younger people to switch jobs more often and we must realize that industry and/or layoffs can create situations beyond someone’s control. For example, no one expected oil prices to go below $40.00 a barrel and that is creating havoc for anyone in that industry. No one thought Hewlett Packard would cut 30,000 jobs.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect longer tenure at every position. What I would look for is a trend.  If someone is switching jobs every 18-24 months that is clearly a problem.  If someone took a job that turned out to be a poor culture fit or just found themselves performing tactical duties or dealing with a terrible boss – I applaud them for accepting that reality and having the courage to move on.

After all the data crunching and research, I feel that using 3.5 years tenure as a rule of thumb makes sense. Let’s adjust it down to 2 years for the younger folks and bump it up to 5 years for the older folks.  And let’s be kind to those people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Andrew Gagen Andrew Gagen is founder and lead recruiter at MVP Recruiters in Chicago. This guest post originally appeared on Andrew’s LinkedIn page and is shared here with his permission.

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