There used to be a time when people came out of school, got a job and stayed with the company for the next 40-odd years, getting a cake and a gold watch before hanging up their hats and enjoying their (in many cases) meager pension.

It was called loyalty and hard work.

Over the years, as a result of innumerable economic, cultural and social shifts, the concept of company loyalty has changed and most people do not stay with a single company their entire professional career.

Job hoppers defined

At the other end of the loyalty gamut (single company people being the first), we find job hoppers, people who frequently change jobs. The precise number of job changes has yet to be established, but most experts will agree that someone who is thirty with a college education and has changed 5 or 6 jobs already can be called a job hopper.

The opinions are divided on job hoppers, with some business people and recruiters saying that they should not even be considered as job candidates, while others are saying that there is more to them than just their seeming capricious nature.

Not all job hoppers are the same

Before you can make a decision on a job hopper at hand, you need to understand that not all of them are the same.On a more basic level, as Mark Suster mentions in his very anti-job hopper article, job hoppers are usually either Generation X-ers or Generation Y-ers whose lack of loyalty most often revolves around one factor for each.

For the members of the generation X, it is the dot com bubble that taught them in the harshest way possible about the lack of loyalty on the part of the companies that employed them. In essence, they feel that loyalty is all but dead in the business world. For the generation Y, it is all about the sense of entitlement where they feel they deserve the best job in the world just for being the super-special unique snowflake people have been telling them they are since the day they were born.

Of course, this is a generalization and there are other possible reasons as to why someone became a job hopper of sorts. For example, they may have worked for startups that misfired and closed shop very quickly. Perhaps they had the misfortune of working for companies where simply learning about employee benefits was considered fomenting a proletarian revolution. Perhaps they worked as consultants where contracting is the norm.

Still, there is no denying that there is a very real chance you will be hiring someone who has the tendency to flee the ship as soon as the waters get even slightly choppy. Other times, you might find out that they will leave you at a single whiff of better money, no matter how you treat and value them.

Spending your time and money to onboard such employees (and those to replace them) definitely does not sound like the greatest idea in the world.

Job hoppers' potential

Like always, there is the other side of the medal and in case of job hoppers, it simply cannot be ignored. Namely, there is always a chance that your job hopper hire will stick around if they encounter the situation they had been looking for all this time. More importantly, job jumpers often come with a few traits that will make them very desirable employees.

For example, job hoppers often become what they are because of their fantastic skills and performance which inspire companies to poach them from other companies. Also, they will bring with them quite a bit of experience and knowledge about other companies. You can also count on the fact they will not be shy and difficult to integrate. People who are tend not to job-hop.

Furthermore, there are also situations in which hiring someone who will stay on for a year or two actually makes sense. For example, everyone has a great idea in them, but not everyone has a few. Innovators can often turn out to be one-trick ponies and in such a case, having them leave you after scoring a hat-trick for you is not a disaster. In addition to this, even a limited, 24-month "push" that you can get from a superstar job hopper can do wonders for a company.

Closing word

Job hoppers are the definition of a mixed bag when it comes to hiring people for your company. They can be a huge boon for your business, but they can also make you exasperated.

The important thing is not to reject them just because they might be job hoppers.

By James D. Burbank, BizzMarkBlog