Job Hopping

And Other Hiring Red Flags

Job hopping is one of many issues that need to be covered when screening a candidate or reviewing a resume. Job hopping is when a candidate has a large number of positions in a short period of time. For example an accountant that has stayed employed for 3-4 years but never stayed at any one place for more than 6 months should raise a red flag.

Other issues besides that should cause red flags include, large gaps in employment, evasive behavior when questioned about details of a position, repeated reasons for leaving a position etc.

Three types of Issues with Job Hopping

There are three types of issues like job hopping that cause red flags in a candidate or their resume. Historical issues, behavioral issues and goal issues.

  • Historical issues are issues that you can observe from their resume like large gaps in employment.

  • Behavioral issues are the evasiveness in answering a question.

  • An example of a goal issue is where a candidate has been working in an office as a clerk for 3 years an now believes they can do sales because he or she has seen others do it.
Each has a number of sub categories so it is a must to dig down and repeat questions regarding these issues to make sure you make a quality hiring decision.

Examples of Historical Issues

Some examples of historical issues in a resume or candidate screening not mentioned above include;

  • Overlapping or inconsistent employment dates
  • Listing year not month/year of employment
  • Numerous geographic changes
  • Multiple sudden changes in career direction

Now a days the job market is quite transitory but there are levels of transition that make sense and others that do not. In many of the cases above there are probably some reasonable explanations. A person might only list years because they worked there a long time. There may be numerous geographic changes and job hopping because they are married to someone in the Military and so on.

The trick is to ask about it and return to it a couple of times and see if the story changes. Often times these types of red flags are evident for a reason. Listing years instead of month/year is a way of hiding large gaps in unemployment where the candidate could have been in jail or just did not want to work. It is the job of the recruiter to get the facts.

Examples of Behavioral Issues

Similar to the historical issues there are also behavioral issues. Some examples include;

  • Evasively answering questions
  • No recollection on why they were let go
  • Multiple excuses for why they were let go
  • No references or names of co-workers at place of employment

While it may be true that it has been so long since a candidate worked at a position, it is unlikely that they could not give some information about who they worked with and why the job ended.

Sometimes not answering questions well is not so much about being misleading as it is about self confidence or lack of language skills. Either way it is your job to decide if the candidate has the skills needed for the position. Again, the best way is to ask questions a couple different ways and a couple different times to make sure the answers are consistent.

Examples of Goal Issues

Some examples of Goal issues in a resume or candidate screening not mentioned above include;

  • Overestimation of Salary value
  • Overestimation of Job qualifications
  • Undervaluation of Job qualification
  • Unrealistic expectations of advancement time frames

In each of these cases the candidate has an expectation of goal which either can not realistically be achieved or has such low expectations that it raises a concern.

For example, if a candidate believes they can start a new job and expect a promotion in 2 months, there is probably a disconnect from reality. This is not to say that it is not possible sometimes, it is just not the norm.

Sometimes this bravado is just for show in an interview. Other times the candidate really believes their goal is possible. It is your job as the hiring manager or recruiter to hone in on whether the candidate really expects to be promoted or is just trying to show confidence in their abilities.

There are other times when a candidate has had a lifestyle or work experience where they made a great deal of income but did not have transferable skills value. An example of this is the mortgage industry. There were some people with 6 figure incomes that had mid 5 figure skill sets. They got used to a lifestyle and when the crash happened they were out looking for jobs. Some had unrealistic expectations for the value of their skills and it made it difficult to place them. Though they excelled in the mortgage industry the skills did not transfer well to other industries.


As a hiring manager or recruiter it is your job to determine if these disconnects are wishes or requirements. If they are a wish and the candidate has realistic expectations, then they may be good candidates. Otherwise it will likely end up being problematic.

So look for the job hopping red flags and verify whether they are red flags or realistic variations from the norm. In either case, listen to that little voice that tells you something is not right and question, question and question until that voice is satisfied.

Return from Job Hopping to Screening Candidates
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