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Once a Job Hopper, Not Always a Job Hopper

by
Dan Enthoven
Apr 24, 2012, 8:10 am ET

Employers of hourly labor in industries including fast-food dining, retail, and contact centers often struggle with high turnover, and the associated costs of constantly hiring and training new employees. A common screening technique used by recruiters is to weed out “job hoppers” — those candidates who have held many short-term jobs. But a recent study by Evolv’s analytics team found that work history is a poor predictor of future job tenure.

The study analyzed applicant data and employment outcomes from more than 21,000 call center agents drawn from five major contact centers to determine the relationship between previous work experience and future employment outcomes. The results show zero correlation between the number of positions employees have had in the recent past and how long they’ll last on their next job. A candidate who’s had five jobs in five years is no more likely to quit than someone who’s had one job for five years. In addition, the study reports people who are unemployed when they apply for a job also have the same expected tenure as any other candidate.

Job-hoppers and the “Perpetually Unemployed”

The study looked at the number of different full-time jobs workers have had in the last five years, and how many full-time jobs they’ve held for less than six months. The results revealed virtually no difference in employment outcomes based on how many jobs a person had, or how many short-term jobs they had previously.

In looking at how many jobs employees held in the last five years, the survival curves representing each of the response options (0, 1, 2-3, 4-6, 6+) are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Interestingly, there was virtually no difference between the “perpetually unemployed” — applicants who had no jobs in the last five years — and applicants who had many jobs in that timeframe.

The curves are slightly more differentiated when looking at the number of jobs employees have held for fewer than six months, with those applicants who had only held jobs for six months or longer remaining on the job 11 more days than others. This result, however, was weaker when Evolv controlled for site and client-specific effects.

These results indicate that one of the most common screening tactics for employers may actually have no value in predicting future employment success. Despite this, recruiters frequently assess an applicant’s employment history as an indicator of how likely a candidate is to remain with the company. In fact, the data from this study indicated that between 2-6% of applicants were rejected because of their experience and work history, amounting to several thousand candidates excluded from the potential hiring pool.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Ronald Katz

    Very interesting data. maybe its time to re-think our perceptions about these groups.

  2. Keith Halperin

    Daniel, Thank you for providing sound evidence for demolishing one of the most prevalent and destructive myths in hiring. Whenever i run across this from a hiring manager, etc. I’ll now be able to cite this as contrary proof.

    Cheers,
    Keith
    keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  3. Mel Kleiman Csp

    Interesting data. Where can I get a copy of the study.

  4. Daniel Enthoven

    Hi Mel,

    The study is available for download here: http://www.evolvondemand.com/media/resources/workhistory.pdf

    You can also read about it on the Evolv blog:
    http://www.evolvondemand.com/blog/2012/04/04/take-another-look-at-conventional-wisdom-about-job-hoppers/

    Feel free to send me any questions, or if you want to talk to our Analytics team. My email is denthoven@evolvondemand.com.

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  8. Tara Kelley

    We are a Staffing and Recruitment firm for the NYC metro area. As we counsel employers on their hires, we try to impress upon them the importance of not reading too much into the resume and going more based on skill set, adaptability and other behavioral measures. Job-hoppers get a bad rap. Thank you for writing about this study, we will certainly refer to it again often in the future.
    http://www.essexjobs.com/newsletter2/index.php/understanding-the-job-hopper-and-what-they-represent/20121556/

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  10. Joel Winter

    I’d love to be able to share this study with managers, but the sample is too specific to have much value. They only looked at Call Center Agents–a job with a higher degree of turnover to start with.

    I’m glad they had a large sample size, and that they tried to address the question, but the results simply can’t be extrapolated to positions with traditionally longer tenure. Also, it seems that the number of prior jobs was based on self-reporting–a notoriously unreliable strategy (and, thankfully, something they acknowledge in a footnote), especially for a topic (number of jobs) that could be viewed negatively, and subject to under-reporting.

    To be sure, it’s a starting point. As they always say… “more study is needed.”

    Anecdotally (and maybe by definition), I’ve always admired job-hopper’s clearly superior ability to market themselves and get offers so frequently!

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