Imagine, if you will, a scenario where an employer has a position for which a seemingly well-qualified candidate has submitted his or her resume.

Everything looks good, apart from one glaring problem that becomes the elephant in the room, taking precedence over every other part of the interview process.

That problem? The candidate is a job hopper. According to CareerBuilder, the online human resources giant, 43 percent of employers will not consider a job hopper.

Not every job hopper is the same, however. There are varying reasons for short job stints on a resume. Rather than the often-mistaken assumption that job hoppers are disloyal, selfish, impatient and expensive, they may actually be superstars who merely change jobs frequently because they are so good that they are continually offered many new and higher-level opportunities. Oftentimes these are opportunities that their current firm simply can’t, or won’t, match.

The benefits of a job hopper

A (planned) job hopper who has held many different jobs within different companies can be a valuable resource, in that he or she can:

  • Possess a large and diverse range of networking contacts
  • Have the ability to adapt to many different work environments and work styles
  • Bring a broad range of skill sets to the work place
  • Be flexible and more willing to take risks
  • Generally not be complacent with situations within the workplace and is always motivated to make a mark
  • Be motivated to hone skills even further

It’s your job to review the resume carefully. Although there are a number of short job stints on the resume, did each job change indicate an advance in the position? If so, that is not detrimental and points to a planned progression.

As a rule, however, job-hoppers tend to make lateral moves. Growth-focused individuals, on the other hand, can use short job stints to take advantage of a clear upward trend. Conversely, the individuals who are afraid of stability, always seeking an escape from boredom or tedium, or motivated by money, are individuals who need closer examination. These individuals tend to be impulsive, lack persistence and focus on negative emotions.

In an interview process, the easiest method to weed out these individuals is to ask the individual to give an example of a challenging situation, how they managed in a situation that was more difficult than expected, and how they achieved a goal in spite of that.

Be aware of the job-hopping background and look to the position you are trying to fill: Is this position in alignment with the candidate’s skill set? Will a growth candidate take advantage of the position to elevate his or her career path, or will a job hopper use it to fill a void in their current situation?

Pitfalls of hiring a job hopper

  • Job hopping can be a sign of laziness or lack of motivation and ambition.
  • Unless a job hopper can bring a large amount of valuable networking contacts to the interview process, consider this candidate a liability rather than an asset. An individual who has jumped jobs for advancement reasons should have the ability to provide valuable networking and contact assets.
  • A job hopper is different from a career hopper. Job hoppers—within the same range of industries and with upward mobility moves—can be focused and primed to reach their goals. Career hoppers, on the other hand, tend to be dissatisfied with whatever is going on in their life and constantly pursuing the next big thing—which is usually related to a larger paycheck.
  • Be motivated to hone skills even further

So, how do you hire a job hopper?

Bear in mind that the average employee stays with one company approximately four and a half years these days, whereas a job hopper remains there for an average of two years. Do you want a career-driven job hopper for two years, or do you want to settle for a mediocre candidate for four and a half years? How do you decide?

And if you look to the job hopper, consider the following:

The age of the applicant plays a part. A candidate who has been in a certain aspect of the industry for more than 10 years should be showing stability, whereas an entry-level applicant will have reasons for job hopping: Maybe he or she is still trying to find an appropriate career path. Is the candidate 25 years old and has already had three or four jobs? Unless they were entry-level jobs with startups, the person is either a job hopper or disloyal. Six jobs since college and now aged 30? Job hopper. Forty-two years old and the longest that they have ever worked at a company is three years? Don’t even go there. But, there are exceptions.

Look to the current economic situation: Is it stable, or has there been an upheaval? An unsteady economic climate obviously lends itself to more acceptance of a job hopper, while a stable economy requires a closer examination of the resume and the reasons for the changes.

Understand your own industry: Does your sector generally experience a large amount of job hopping, or does it command a great deal of security and stability?

Finally, go with your gut feeling. What does your instinct tell you about the person and the reasons for the job hopping? Has the candidate given you upfront and honest answers as to why there are a number of different jobs on his or her resume? Can they easily explain the reasons for the continual moves?

If not, hop on to the next applicant. Filling a position for the sake of filling it, even with a job hopper, is not the right way to build your business.