Job Hopping Bias: What Recruiters Can Do

I’m not sure when I first heard the phrase “job hopping”. I know it was well before the launch of Three Ears Media, because it was the scarlet letter I used to justify staying in jobs that didn’t make me happy. I told myself that one bad day wasn’t enough. The bad days would pile up and still, I stayed because I was too scared of this label and what it might mean for my career.

While the rules on job hopping are not written down anywhere, they are quietly recited during hiring decisions. People sit in that room and review resumes one by one. “This person is a job hopper,” they say, as they toss the resume in the “no” pile. Been there.

Not much has changed since I left corporate 5 years ago, even if the entire world has shifted thanks to the pandemic and economic factors. When I host hiring manager intake meetings and ask them about their dealbreakers, one of the most common biases is still “no job hoppers.”

Why Does Job Hopping Have A Bad Rep?

There’s a little part of me that wonders how badly someone has been burned by an employee leaving when they harp on job hopping. There’s always a story behind the specific requirements and some lesson learned. A pain they clearly don’t want to experience again.

Broadly, the perception of job hoppers is that they’re just quitting jobs randomly, but I think there’s factors we haven’t considered. First, most managers really suck at leading people. The standard career path in corporate America promotes people who are good at doing work into leadership positions without ever assessing if they’re good at leading people, too.

Two, tenure has changed. In the 1950s, people stayed with their companies for about 14 years. Now? People are changing jobs every 4 years (read all about tenure trends here). If anything, I expect that number to go down regardless of economic conditions. 

Third, and most obvious, everything that has happened in the last 3 years. A lot of people – 28% of the workforce in the last 2 years – have experienced untimely layoffs that would make any person look like a job hopper on paper.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Job Hoppers

There’s nothing wrong with job hoppers, but there’s definitely something wrong with managers who think we should endure bad jobs. Job hopping isn’t a sign of instability – it’s a sign of adaptability. As recruiters, we need to coach managers on that bias because it’s stopping talented people from getting jobs. Here’s how.

When this bias comes up during your hiring manager intake, stop. Don’t let this bias pass by without addressing it. Ask the manager when they quit a job last and what factors went into that. Help them see, with your own story or theirs, that people don’t just wake up and quit jobs. There’s often a motivating factor that would make anyone want to leave, not to mention economic conditions.

Then, coach managers on the fact that staying in a role won’t help you be better at a job. It helps you be better at doing things repetitively. Ask questions during the intake meeting that focus on what experiences would prepare someone to be successful at your company, not the time they spent doing the work somewhere else.


Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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