Job hopping: does it matter?

Some believe that employer and employee loyalty is so last century and that it is fine to have lots of moves on your CV.

Wrong, and here’s why.

CVs with many employer moves are a big concern for management consultancy employers who often tell us that they will reject a candidate for this reason, without considering interviewing them.

So what is acceptable and what isn’t?

There is of course no definitive answer and it does depend to an extent on what stage of your career you are at: a few job moves in the early stages of your career is generally thought to be more acceptable. Broadly speaking one recent employer of fewer than 18 months duration is OK while two moves  is borderline and starts carrying the risk that you will be a less attractive candidate in the eyes of employers and recruiters.

You may have very good reasons for the moves and be able to explain them well face to face but you may not be given the opportunity to do so!

In these days of portfolio careers and given the importance of gaining good experience why does it matter?

  • People DO value loyalty still. Employers don’t expect you to stay a lifetime but 3-5 years is expected as the minimum. The logic is that it may take a year for them to fully train and integrate you and start to get any real value out of you: so if you leave after 18 months they lose out.
  • It suggests you might have made a mistake. One error is fine but multiple blunders are not and cast doubt on your career planning logic and due diligence.
  • Sometimes the job isn’t what you expected (or were told) or you just don’t fit and it’s clearly not working out: it happens! But multiple moves suggest the problem is you and not the employers’.
  • Ambition is welcomed but if you have to move on after a short period it suggests a short attention span and unrealistic goals. It can also suggest that the employer doesn’t think you are as good as you do.
  • People love to see promotions on a CV. If you are with an employer 5 years and have been promoted at least once and perhaps twice it PROVES that you are valued. More than many other professions management consultancy is felt to be meritocratic and to afford people the opportunity for career progression. However if it doesn’t happen then this can raise question marks.
  • Moves between employers are not always accompanied by career progression. In fact people often move sideways in order to move forwards so several moves over short period may result in a career that is stagnating.
  • Redundancy happens to many people and usually employers don’t view it negatively: in fact being able to start at short notice is an upside.  However multiple redundancies can suggest that, to put it delicately, you weren’t quite as highly valued as other employees.

What to do if your new job isn’t working out:

If you find yourself in a job or employer which you unsure about give it at LEAST 6 months: there are often a few doubts and niggles in the early days.

If there is no sign of improvement consider carefully whether there is anything your employer or boss can do about it and don’t assume that things can’t change. Sometimes an honest and constructive conversation, handled in the right manner, can clear the air and sort out any problems particularly if a result of a level of miscommunication.

However if that doesn’t work, or the problems are clearly ones that can’t be resolved and this is your first short move, seek another job. There is no point hanging around hoping it will get better or trying to make it look good on a CV.  BUT take great care to avoid “frying pan to fire”. Frequently people are so keen to move they are blind to the potential pitfalls of a new opportunity. Your mantra should be “if I were reasonably HAPPY in my current role would I even be considering this option?”  The only thing worse than having to move from a poor job once is having to go through the same cycle again a short time later.  Self-evidently therefore don’t resign without anything to go to unless it’s truly intolerable: you don’t want to put yourself under even more pressure.

If it’s the second time in a row and you have any choice in the matter DO try and stay put because making it look good on the CV probably IS worthwhile. 

If you really feel you have to leave then you can consider contracting: it might suit you better and in any event buys you time to make the right job move as it’s a fill-in for the CV in the event that takes you longer than you expect.

Sometimes unfortunately job moves are forced on people and this can happen more than once: there isn’t a lot that can be done from a CV perspective except that it emphasises the importance of not compounding the difficulty by having unnecessary voluntary moves on a CV as well. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have two or more recent short term moves then your priority as far as possible should be to secure a low risk job with a low risk employer even if that means making some compromises.

For more recruitment and career related information and perspectives, of value to employers and candidates alike, please visit or contact Chris Sale, Managing Director, at Prism Executive Recruitment.