A step too far? Why being a job hopper could trip you up

Most people reach a point in their career when it feels time to make a change - to look for another job offering new responsibilities, ask for a pay rise, or even just a change of scenery. But in the fast-paced, rapidly evolving world of today, few professionals stay with one organisation for their entire working life and can run the risk of changing to often and receiving the title 'job hopper'.

Professionals have more career options and greater opportunity to move around in search of a stimulating and rewarding challenge. With more readily defined pathways to the top and greater equality for employees looking to climb the jobs ladder, workers are eager to achieve their ambitions - and do so in a hurry. Many are unprepared to spend too long working in the same job, waiting for a promotion that could be years down the line.

Yet in eagerness to secure the next big move, some professionals could be shooting themselves in the foot by labelling themselves as job hoppers. It all depends on how often they've changed jobs in the past, because this information will be documented in their CV. If you change jobs as often as you change your socks, you could end up being blacklisted by hiring managers, owing to concerns over your commitment, loyalty and overall value as an employee.

The dangers of being a job hopper

A study of finance leaders conducted by Robert Half has shed light on the potential dangers of being a job hopper, commonly known as 'job hopping' - moving organisations at regular intervals. The research showed that, on average, candidates who make five job changes in ten years - or move more than once every two years - can prompt worries amongst employers. They don't want to hire people who are considered an immediate flight risk and, as such, are removing them from consideration.

The majority of chief financial officers interviewed by Robert Half said they were inclined to discount 'job hoppers' - 93 per cent in small businesses, 84 per cent in large organisations and 82 per cent in medium-sized companies. The logic is simple - it costs time and money to recruit professionals, and a period of time for them to reach optimum levels of productivity. The longer professionals stay, the more value - direct and indirect - the employee adds to the bottom line and the greater the return on investment the organisation sees from the hire.

Having a stable workforce is good for productivity and beneficial from a cost perspective, but it is also important in terms of people management. If organisations are constantly losing their best people, it can be difficult to build up workplace rapport and a healthy office environment. Managers and teams will be constantly changing, which can be negative for morale levels. And if staff aren't happy and motivated at work, it increases the chance that they too will look to leave.

So given the choice between an apparent job hopper and someone with a record of providing loyal service to their employer, many hiring managers are opting for the latter. Although it isn't an exact science - as employees can leave jobs at any time, for any reason - this approach may reduce the risks of regular staff attrition and high recruitment costs harming the business in the future.

But is job hopping always voluntary?

It's inevitable that some employees will move on eventually - particularly if they are unable to progress any further with their career under their current employer. In many cases, workers will leave with their manager's blessing, having given their all to the cause and secured a deserved promotion elsewhere. Had a suitable opportunity been available in-house, they would have happily stayed.

Employers also need to recognise that the downturn may have forced some professionals to make career decisions out of necessity - taking jobs they would rather have steered clear of. Particularly where individuals were made redundant and lost their income, it may have taken some time to find a new role they were suited to. Some may have had short stints in a number of positions, embarking on a round of involuntary job hopping.

Where possible, the hiring manager needs to learn more about individual candidates and establish why they have had a series of jobs in a short space of time. Is it because they were affected by external factors - the recession and a constrained jobs market? Or were they simply looking for a leg-up to the next promotion, constantly applying for new roles with a more senior title?

What employers want

Ultimately, organisations are looking for individuals who can help them deliver both short and long term goals. Ideally, they want skilled and experienced professionals who can add value to the bottom line and become a core member of the team for years to come. For one reason or another this may not happen, but employers can increase their chances by avoiding hiring job hoppers, who in all likelihood, will leave within a year.

But as ever, organisations can discourage staff attrition by offering attractive salaries and benefits , showing a clear commitment to employee development and giving talented professionals the opportunities to rise through the ranks. If employees feel as if they are progressing with their current employer and developing valuable skills and experience, they are much more likely to stay for the long term rather than tuning into a job hopper.