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Ask HN: How much job hopping is acceptable?
68 points by romanhn on Aug 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments
Hiring managers - what constitutes too much job hopping for you to pass on a resume?

Everyone else - do you have a lower or an upper limit on how long you tend to stay with companies?

As the former, my personal rule of thumb is to look for at least one recent tenure of 2+ years for someone with 5+ years of experience. More allowance is made for candidates with less experience, but again - 4 one-year tenures is a red flag.

I do see a trend for shorter tenures in the last couple of years, presumably due to the competitive market, so am curious where you stand as either a hiring manager or a potential job seeker.

I think for software development, it takes about a year to get fully up to speed on a company's development practices and processes. So after a year, most people will ask themselves, "is this the company I want to stay with for a while?" and leave or stay for a few more years.

Under 1 year, I have to think that something out of the ordinary happened and I would be inclined to ask about what happened. Did the company go under? Were there some crazy red flags that forced you to leave? And internally, I'd ask myself, is this person really picky? Do they have some red flag that keeps getting them let go? Etc.

I don't have an upper limit, but definitely a lower limit; 2 years. 1 year to get up to speed, 1 year to give the company a chance. I recognize that all companies have problems and I want to see progress being made on solving those problems. If, after 2 years, we're still talking about the same issues we faced when I started, then I'm going to start looking.

Curious why someone would place an upper limit on time served? If the work is good and the company is good, why leave?

> I think for software development, it takes about a year to get fully up to speed on a company's development practices and processes.

I'm not sure what size company this perspective comes from, but in early to mid stage startups, I don't think anyone would give you a year, more like 2–4 weeks. More than a month or two without might suggest poor culture fit.

> Curious why someone would place an upper limit on time served?

If the person has the same title at a company after 4+ years (unless they are already in a lead/senior role), it's a bad sign. If this is in the first 10 years of someone's career, it tells me they might only be doing enough to get by. Whether it's because they a) are not ambitious enough, b) aren't talented enough, or c) the company they work for is terrible at recognition/promotion is something that I would have to find out during an interview (if everything else on paper looked ok).

>If the person has the same title at a company after 4+ years (unless they are already in a lead/senior role), it's a bad sign.

Not necessarily. I have a good friend in a consultancy firm who declines year by year a senior management position even though he has been with the company close to 8 years now. Why? He hates spreadsheets, reporting, meetings and just wants to get shit done. So he remains a senior developer in title. What he gets is constant yearly raises, praises and a lot of responsibility within the project. If/when he leaves, the company will be in big trouble replacing him.

This is addressed two sentences after the line you quote (emphasis mine):

> Whether it's because they a) are not ambitious enough, b) aren't talented enough, or c) the company they work for is terrible at recognition/promotion

Ambition presupposes that you want more responsibility/power/authority/money/something. Praise is great but you will never have the responsibility or authority of management if you don't have the title.

And this is fine, but if you're hiring and looking specifically for ambition, someone who has been "Senior Developer" for 8 years is probably not going to fit the bill.

Some companies have very horizontal structure, there isn't much of a corporate ladder to climb. E.g., in trading firms a Quant is often just a Quant even after 10 years in the company. This doesn't mean at all, though, that the pay scale and level of responsibilities don't change drastically within a role over time.

That's a good point. I would hope to see evidence of the increased responsibilities on the person's resume then - whether it is through project leadership or personnel management, depending on what they are applying for.

In the case of a quant, they probably just have a much higher desired salary to move over to your company.

> If the person has the same title at a company after 4+ years (unless they are already in a lead/senior role), it's a bad sign.

It really depends. My company just has the role Developer. No junior, senior, lead, principal, etc.

There is a $300k+ difference in salary between the min and max pay so we have plenty of developers here who haven't moved up in title for 10+ years.

What company is that?

The same title wouldn't worry me but I would want to see a variety of projects and technologies (says someone who has worked on the same software for fifteen years).

What if the reason why that person left had nothing to do with the work environment?

Right now I'm a bit worried about leaving my current job (10 months in) because I have the opportunity to go backpacking through South America with a friend, which I honestly believe is not something that comes up very often.

Anyways I was just wondering how a manager might react to my situation once I come back and start looking for a job again. Could it impact my professional profile in a negative way?

I think that's one of the problems with traditional resumes/CVs. They focus on work experiences, and not the entirety of your experiences - work/social/etc.

Because here is what leaving a job to go backpacking tells me: You are willing to take risks when the opportunities present themselves. The unknown (will I find a job later) doesn't scare you. You value learning about other places/cultures, which will give you perspectives other people might not get (let's be real, 2 weeks in a resort hotel on vacation does not teach you about another country's culture).

If you can honestly translate your backpacking experience into qualities that a company would look for, you'll have no problem. In fact, you should probably explain that in your cover letter to potential employers anyway.

> Because here is what leaving a job to go backpacking tells me: You are willing to take risks when the opportunities present themselves. The unknown (will I find a job later) doesn't scare you. You value learning about other places/cultures, which will give you perspectives other people might not get (let's be real, 2 weeks in a resort hotel on vacation does not teach you about another country's culture).

That's certainly a valid way to look at it, but another employer might look at it as, "I don't want to hire this guy and then 3-6 months from now he decides he wants to chase butterflies in Mexico and is going to leave me high and dry mid-project."

It goes both ways. Now I wouldn't personally look at it that way, but I can see where someone might.

Thanks! those are very encouraging words.

Well honestly I am a bit scared about the job situation when I come back but I do think that I have more to gain by going on a backpacking experience at this time of my life than staying another 6 months / 1 year at my current job as a developer..

Web dev moves really fast though! hopefully it won't be crazy different when I get back.

Remember that hardly anyone's last words on their death bed are "I wish I had spent more time at work." You're young and early in your career. You have many professional opportunities ahead of you no matter what you choose here.

On the other hand, personal opportunities like this don't come along very often. I've known a few friends and family do something big like this in their 20s, and without exception they have had amazing experiences and no serious regrets in the long term, even if settling back in when they first came home wasn't entirely easy.

Only you can weigh up the pros and cons in your personal situation, but as long as you're being financially sensible and you're not damaging your current employer unreasonably by leaving so soon, I think it is extremely unlikely that you'll do any serious or permanent damage to your career if you decide to go.

By the way, web dev doesn't really move very fast. If you stick with it as a career then some time over the next 10-20 years you'll come to realise that the fundamentals actually evolve very slowly. The illusion of rapid change is mostly perpetuated by blogs and online forums and conferences that always want the next big thing to talk about, but they're mostly just talking about superficial things like which tool or framework to use. If you decide to go then nothing that really matters in web dev is going to have shifted so far in a few months that you can't catch up very quickly when you get back.

It gets much, much harder the later in life you get (and even after retire, you just can't travel/live the way you did when you were young). Some get lucky and can swing remote work while living in another country for a bit, but that's an exception to the rule and isn't always steady.

Also, if a future company didn't understand why you went on this trip, it's likely that they wouldn't fit well with your personality at some other point anyway. So you might be better off not getting sucked into that kind of place anyway.

So go on the trip and mostly worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Just make sure you have enough money saved that when you get back you'll be able to afford the 1-3 months a job search and potential relocation can take/cost.

Probably not, if you wrap up your current obligations in a professional manner and can demonstrate that you haven't lost your skills while on your trip. You don't want to appear irresponsible, so just be responsible about it. I hope that you have fun!

Probably not, if you wrap up your current obligations in a professional manner and can demonstrate that you haven't lost your skills while on your trip.

I strongly agree with this. We're talking about hiring human beings, not machines, and someone with the character traits that would make you go adventuring for an extended period probably has a lot to offer, other things being equal. The challenge is demonstrating that other things have not suffered as a result of that choice.

For example, a good reference from the last employer confirming that everything was professionally handed over before leaving might go a long way to mitigating concerns about only working there for a few months. I'm not generally a big believer in relying on references when hiring, but in a case like this, that sort of specific detail could be an important asset. Given the relatively short professional career so far, I would also be tempted to work a brief mention of this point into the covering letter or, if it's a resume-only application next time, into the resume itself.

Thanks! it was a tough decision to make but now that I've made up my mind I'm very happy about it.

Caveat: don't make major life decisions based solely on advice from random strangers. All I'm saying is that I would be fine if I saw "backpacked South America" filling a gap on a resume.

As others have pointed out, everything depends on context. Did you have several under-1-year stints prior to the current job? That might indicate a trend. One-offs generally will be asked about, but not counted against you.

This is my second "serious" job after I graduated Uni. I lasted 2 years on the first one and I'm currently at 10 months on my actual job. Hopefully it looks stable enough.

I wouldn't worry about it.

a) as a hiring manager I consider job hopping having 2 or more jobs of under ~8 months.

b) if I interviewed you and you explained the backpacking thing I would wonder and ask why you didn't take a leave of absence or some such, but I wouldn't hold it against you.

If you like the company you are at and do good work, perhaps you can negotiated some unpaid time off.

what about an unpaid leave?

if they cant manage that, that is a great red flag when you need to explain your quit.

Can you ask for an unpaid leave?

Maybe I could, but on a trip like this there isn't an exact return date and I'd like to not have one in mind, weather it lasts 4 months or 6 or more.

> If the work is good and the company is good, why leave?

Possible reasons, off the top of my head:

1. Being approached by a recruiter or hiring manager and end up being given an offer you can't refuse (eg much more money, dream job, etc).

2. Your spouse or significant other has to move to another city for their job, you don't want to leave them, and your current employer won't let you work remotely.

2a. Ditto with needing to move to care for an older and/or ill family member.

3. A shift of passion into a new career.

4. Health problems that cause such an extended leave of absence that you may as well leave.

5. I've encountered some managers who are leery of people who have spent "too long" at one place, wondering, eg "Why did s/he stay there for ten years? Did this person just find a spot to coast and collect a paycheck? Why hasn't s/he moved on to bigger and better things?" I think this line of thinking is just as knee-jerk as being leery of "job hoppers".

re 5: Or they live in the SF/Bay Area and that one job pays them enough that they can afford to pay their mortgage (if they are lucky enough to have one), children's school/college, car, etc. and still have money left over for date night. Once all those expenses pile on, there are very few companies that will pay you enough. You aren't going to hop to a risky startup @100k/year when you have those kinds of expenses.

But then, if you finally got that job at Google, you can probably move on to wherever you want afterward no matter how long you were there.

I keep hearing this a lot. But is it really true that a tenure at Google makes you super attractive for other companies? How does Facebook compare?

On the engineering/product side of things, a lot of it boils down to the technical challenge of their interview process. Essentially, getting a job offer from those companies (and others of their ilk) show that you have very high capabilities. Their interview bar is so much higher than most other places, that you are proving yourself capable of the technical side of things.

That doesn't mean you have the soft skills or personality to succeed somewhere else, or even that your technical skills will matter to the new company's product, but it's attractive to the recruiters/hiring managers trying to fill roles.

re: 5. That's just wrong-headed logic. Nothing wrong with being at a company that long. In fact I would love to see more companies able to keep devs for their entire career.

Can anyone name a company that, in 2016, is known for keeping a significant number of their employees for their entire career?

It's also really easy to get silo'd in. My company is fairly niche and I love working here, but a decent chunk of what I'm learning isn't transferable.

Really? They are in a market that's so unique that nobody else has similar business problems?

Depends on how broadly you define similar. Of course some patterns are repeatable across industries, but a lot of the work I do is specific to only this industry.

> Curious why someone would place an upper limit on time served? If the work is good and the company is good, why leave?

I guess in terms of professional development the person might think it's important to expose themselves to new companies and challenges. They don't want to just get comfortable somewhere and let their skills slowly deteriorate. I agree that it's not a 100% fool proof plan but I get it as a rule of thumb.

Plus I hear it can be the only way to get real raises.

As a counter point, I'm not able to get a raise by leaving my job and I've been trying for ~1 year. I'm still going to leave, but I'm probably going to eat an effective 10-15% pay cut.

It's the easiest way for sure if you work in a competitive industry.

> Did the company go under? Were there some crazy red flags that forced you to leave? And internally, I'd ask myself, is this person really picky? Do they have some red flag that keeps getting them let go?

I describe each company on my resume, and on the "not a decision" to leave ones describe the reason.


* "Division / [City] Office Closed

* "An early stage startup..."

And in person, I typically make it clear that the company was unable to make salaries or was still looking for product market fit.

While I disagree with the sentiment, I've heard people who argue that folks who stay in one job for a long time are more likely to have not kept up with best practices, aren't enough of a go-getter, and stuff like that.

It really depends, IMO, if a person has a company they were with for many years, then a hop, then another at-least-two-year stint, than I probably won't care about that hop at all.

I have been contracting for the last two years and have been doing ~3-6 month contracts so my answer might be a little different.

Whatever the stack I get up to speed usually after 1 week and provide value to the company pretty much immediately (it's always scary starting a new project because I feel like I need to prove myself within the first few days since I'm working with a new team).

If it's a normal job, I think 1.5 years should be a good amount since that is apparently the median for how long developers stay at a company nowadays.

I think the mentality that a hiring manager won't hire someone because he's afraid someone will leave after 6 months is old school. People are going to leave, but you need to figure out how to get the most value out of your developers while they are there. Also, if it takes you that long to get someone up to speed it's either that developer is too slow or there's someone wrong with your process.

Ultimately I see the pros of job hopping (early on in your career at least) because you will have worked with so many different people. Your gauge in people's personalities and experience will be a useful asset. Plus you will get to know a lot of people in the industry.

> I have been contracting for the last two years and have been doing ~3-6 month contracts so my answer might be a little different.

Tbh, I lump all these together under "Self Employed" on my resume.

I personally think anything 1099 / short-term contracts should be considered 1 employer (you).

I wouldn't call contract work "job hopping" since the employer is really yourself and you are simply working on a series of 3-6 month projects.

^ agreed. Job hopping != contracting

the problem is that most people that proclaim self employed are actually unemployed, which is less marketable in corporate culture.

so to differentiate yourself, write the project and client details

I think you are confusing what I mean. The details are there but at a quick skim it doesn't look like you job hopped. And lets be honest, no one does more than a quick skim of a resume until they've decided to talk to you.

I'd bet you a large % of the people that toss out resumes for "job hopping" skim a heading-per-contract-from-Y-to-Y format and toss your resume without sorting out the details.

Self Employed YYYY to YYYY

* Contract A

* Contract B

* Contract Farming Agency (which gave me N projects)

Corporate Titan YYYY to YYYY

* Project A

* Project B

Hrmm, looks like a good way to do it :)

Yeah I started doing it when people asked me questions in phone screens about why I left Job X after 3 months. It is why I'm convinced people just skim resumes until they think they'll bring you onsite.

I don't lump it into Self Employed either. On my resume I treat it as just another company or project that I worked on/at. And recruiters/headhunters see it the same way. They are always more interested in the previous company that I worked at more than the project details for some reason.

I don't see a big deal with 1 year tenures. Under 1 (3-4 months seems suspicious). I imagine people leave after 1 year if they took a job that wasn't a nice place but they had some incentives requiring them to stay a year (sign on bonuses are typically vested at 1 year; moving assistance also needs to be paid back if an employee leaves within a year).

So ... if a person leaves at the 1 year mark, it was likely they who chose to leave. Given the stories about bad employers in tech and the fact that there are many good employers too these days, I would say good for the moving employee!

It's really odd. My current startup didn't question my job history of only staying at companies for under 2-3 years (~15 years experience total), but when I interviewed at Deluxe Corp to manage one of their hosting acquisitions, I was questioned quite a bit about it. Their internal recruiter even asked me to justify the short duration at each org.

"How do we know you'll stay with us for more than 2-3 years?"

"You don't without a contract."

(I did not accept the offer)


"You pay me enough that I can't get a better offer."

"How do I know you'll employ me beyond 2-3 years and won't go under?

When I am looking at resumes, I generally hope to see at least some stability. If someone has had 10 jobs in 4 years (which I would say is about 1/4 of all resumes I read), it makes me think there is something wrong with the employee, not the employer.

Another red flag I look for is when someone has freelancing on their resume and they will basically have this:

Freelancing, Inc. 2005-Present

Company A July 2014-September 2015

Company B December 2012-August 2013

Company C January 2011 - March 2012

You get the pattern. While those people generally end up spending more than a year with the company, they always quit and go back to "freelancing". I've spoken with some people about it in the past and it seems semi-common for freelancers to work full time for a company, save up as much as possible, then leave and skate through their savings and the odd freelancing job for a year or two, and repeating. That's generally not what we are looking for

So for someone with more than a few years of experience, I generally like to see at least one job in the last 5 years where they lasted 2 years.

I see your points. As a [freelance] Consultant, my resume has over 40 over-lapping, yet relatively short duration (2-6 months) positions listed. As a Farm/Server Architect and Admin for very specific technologies like SharePoint Server, MS Project Server, O365 SharePoint Online/Project Online, I typically Architect the server farm(s), install and configure the servers (automated as much as possible) and turn over the keys. Every day a recruiter calls or a client questions me about the short durations, I simply say "How long did you keep your Architect around after your house was built?" Very few companies need a relatively expensive Architect full-time...which suits me because I've had exposure to so many problem sets, environments, company cultures, great people [mostly].

At many companies I meet some IT folks that have worked at their company for 15+ years. They are typically the ones that need the most help as they have mostly only had exposure to their problem sets and methodologies. New tech, in some cases, scares the heck out of them. The younger ones seem more eager for the change(s)...but c'est la vie.

You list 40 positions on your resume?

>You list 40 positions on your resume?

On one version. I also have a standard one-pager, a 6-pager, and a 12-pager resume for those HR/recruiters looking for depth + breadth experience. Per one 'job board', I actually get about 30% more contracts from my 12-pager than the other two versions combined: keywords and keyword density I am sure.

I have a 2-pager "Contracts" list that just lists companies, dates, position, and a 1-2 sentence blurb about each...and this is just for SharePoint/MS Project/O365 contracts since 2008...not even my whole career, nor oddball stuff [Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management Config: WTF?, Clarity PM Development, custom map software, etc.], nor short <30 day issues if the client wasn't "notable".

I have seen other Consultants with significantly more experience than me that have multiple pages just for publications, books, courses taught, etc. and/or patents on their resume. Due to the enterprise market that SharePoint once exclusively targeted, most of my clients are large Fortune 500/1000 companies and listing the numerous ones I have worked with has not been a noticeable, or even real, detriment.

My line of thought: "Would $hiringManager hire someone that only worked at 2 or 3 places [no gaps though!] to solve this problem, or would $hiringManager hire the consultant that has blasted problems away at over 40 notable companies, wrote/taught courses on x, wrote the book on x, etc." My gaps are [invisibly: not listed] filled with 'smaller' work/contracts, that if listed, would multiply my resume's page count by some factor of ridiculous and, to some uninitiated, dilute my value. First world problems.

I do see that Architect/Administrator work for on-premise SharePoint/Project is declining while more SMBs are buying into Office 365/SharePoint Online/Project Online. Yet, just today, no less than 3 contracts/RFQs came in for on-prem SP2013 to SP2016 migrations. One contract I cannot take because it is in NYC and for a City government migration (not top fees and typically difficult to work with, and too far away); a largish Seattle company (~7B revenue FY15) that is qualified and has an interesting business and requirements; and a consulting company in Hollywood that needs someone 'yesterday' to fix/correct workflows in their large studio client's workflow manager farm prior to the SP2016 migration.

I digressed.

I'd prefer if someone joins my team that they show they will stay on my team. I don't want to spend my time getting them up to speed and have them leave in 6 months. I'd rather have an above average developer for a few years than a rockstar for 6 months...because you'll be wasting my time and everyone else's on my team.

If I have context why you're job hopping then I'll take it into consideration. There are legitimate reasons to leave in a few months. However, if you've never been at a place or project for more than a year, I can safely assume you never had to support an application much in production because by the time you were knowledgeable enough to do so, you left.

I'd prefer if someone joins my team that they show they will stay on my team.

I'd prefer that, too. Then I get in there and found you vastly under-represented the amount of technical debt you have, I find out that the reason there's no CI isn't because you didn't have anyone to set up a server and tie it to SCM, it's because your devs are lazy and management is too soft to push it. The build is up to 1200 warnings now, so the odds of there are ever being a clean build are zero. The team I now manage has people that were grandfathered in from an extremely low bar and now I can't get rid of them no matter how much they drag the rest of the team down.

I wish there were only one place like that on my resume, but I'm a slow learner. Hopefully I've learned enough by now to break out of the control statement before getting to shittyCompaniesOnResumeCount++.

Oh man, I can't even describe how much this hits home.

I've had something like this happen twice now, where the people in the job interview misrepresent the actual reasons for e.g. technical debt or in general are just not honest about their priorities.

I'm now spending a lot more time grilling companies on their development practices and priorities during job interviews. Not all companies are happy with that :)

This just happened to me. 3 weeks in I realized the code base needs to be re-written because there was way too much technical debt. I should have quit then, but I decided to give it try. 6 months later, I hand in my two weeks notice.

And that's why I only join companies where I know of a reference there.

Ask first. Please, please, please. If you are a hiring manager ask the candidate about their job history before you dismiss them entirely on their job history.

I had two slighty-more-than-a-year stints in a row and I know some people who it caused concern for. What was the reason? One was a contract with a non-profit that didn't have the budget to continue and the second was a failing startup that was downsizing. Both perfectly logical and understandable. Fortunately my next boss-to-be asked first.

I've also seen people who love small startups, they get in on the ground floor and stay for 18months before they move on. They did an amazing job and I wouldn't hesitate to hire them on even if I knew it was only for 18 months. (oh, then they found an amazing startup and stayed for ~4 years)

At the end of the day there are way too many variables. As a hiring manager myself I've seen and heard it all. So don't make assumptions. Don't guess. Interview them as normal and ask the pertinent questions about their history.

I have seen a couple of candidates include short reasons for why they have a couple of short stints ("mass layoffs after acquisition", "group disbanded") - this really served well to allay any concerns I may have had.

If the answer to "why'd you leave that job so soon after starting?" was "The next company called me up and offered me a deal that was so much better that I'd be stupid to not take it," then that's totally fine and is in fact a good sign.

Mostly. Employers could also become afraid you'll walk away from them too.

They should be.

They'd have no issue cutting you loose at the drop of a hat if layoffs were happening, so why should they expect any sort of company loyalty from you?

35 years ago, an older coworker at UNIVAC told me that the company gave us its best job offer every other Friday in the form of a pay stub, and other companies were always welcome to beat it. It turned out to be good advice.

At my next job, another older and even grumpier coworker told me "face it, we're all whores."

Then let them fear. Loyalty between employer and employee (in either direction) died out many, many years ago.

And compensate accordingly.

Looking at tenure in isolation of any other context is meaningless. I've interviewed candidates with multiple 6-12 month positions on their resume that turned out to be great contributors, and other folks with 5-10 year positions that were horrible.

I've been very curious about this as well. For financial reasons I have needed to do contract over the past 2 years. Primarily doing 6 months stints, some were outlined as a year but that fell through. The problem I've had is that mid way through my contract the project is canceled.

This has become a really big issue as when I look my "stability" is bought to light consistently. My first two roles were 2.5 years, and 1.5 years respectively. Both times I left on good terms. So I can commit, and will if given the oppurtunity too, and room to grow. My contracts have just been largely proof of concepts, that were shelved.

The thing is I'm tired of jumping, worrying how long my contract is going to last. That I need to keep going looking for the next thing, because either the contract will run out or I stagnate. This is also leading to a counter point and negative when I look. I've not been able to ship any projects to production. I feel at this point I'm stuck in a contracting loop, and I'm not sure how to get out.

A reasonable career trajectory is something like doubling the time at each place until you hit the 8-10 year mark, modulo uncontrollable events, like a place shutting down.

When you have someone who's been repeatedly changing employers every 12-18 months for a while with no mitigating factors, you begin to wonder about ability to commit.

It may matter less if your are in a field where things are done in sprints, the person is likely to be instantly productive, and there isn't a lot of complexity to absorb.

There are people who have the temperament to be short to mid-term contractors, and who don't like to be and wouldn't be good long-term hires.

It depends if the candidate is applying or you're sourcing her. I generally don't skip based on the very last job, because even if it's 3mo there may be a reason that is worth investigating in an info interview.

But in general, I skip if the pattern seems to be hopping every year in the last 2-3 years.

Another thing that I look at is where geographically the candidate was working. If I see no hopping for a while, then moved to Silicon Valley and started hopping every year, then I pass, or at least I yellow flag that in the pipeline.

I don't have any issue with several years in just a company, actually I think it's rare and very positive.

I'm a hiring manager and I don't really care about short tenures. I think recent grads are doing themselves a disservice if they aren't moving every year or so for the first 5 years.

I don't mind multiple short tenures in general, but that doesn't mean that they can't be a negative. If you've never stuck at a job longer than a year, then that means you've never had to support your own code and infrastructure at all except perhaps immediately after it was hot off the press. That's pretty critical experience, and if you don't have that experience, I will notice that and take it into consideration when it comes to how much seniority and pay you expect.

Speaking of seniority, it's very hard to hire someone into a senior or leadership position if they've never stuck around at a job long enough to actually develop any seniority. It's impossible to develop management skills if you're quitting your job every 12 months. Even at every 24 months you're really limiting your ability to get some truly solid management experience under your belt.

All that said, having long tenures on your resume obviously doesn't guarantee anything. A week or two ago I interviewed someone with 15 years at the same company and the title of Chief Architect who seriously struggled with a simplified version of FizzBuzz.

The bottom line is that I try to keep an open mind about everyone, and if I have concerns over the lengths of previous jobs I'll always give the candidate the opportunity to explain their viewpoint. Usually I can be convinced and won over.

It depends on who initiated the breakup, and why. If a person got fired or laid off, that person might not have had any control over it. If the employee resigned, I'd be wary of any duration shorter than 18 months.

It might be that long before seeing your first "annual" pay increase. It is very common for me to see the crap raise that I got for the year and send out resumes to check on competitive offers, to see if I could do better.

It is also long enough to see a company on its worst behavior, and decide that enough is enough. I personally go two years with a merely bad--but not awful--company, to see if I can jump-start any improvements. After that, I send out resumes, and jump ship as soon as it is feasible.

But I'd also see that as an indicator of the quality of companies these days. I have only worked at two companies (out of 8 jobs) where I would have been happy to stay there indefinitely. They both got bought out, and the new owners laid me off without regard to my individual value.

I have always been "at will", so if you're going to question my durance at previous companies, I'm going to question your commitment to all your employees that have no contracts. That door swings both ways. If you're looking too closely at that, I might think you're trying to weed out candidates that are too sensitive to the corporate bullshit that may be driving your existing turnover rate, in which case, I might get spooked and either withdraw or demand a higher offer from the start.

There are two types of red flags that can come out of frequent job changes:

1. Several <1 year tenures - this person gets fired a lot

2. Exclusively 1-2 year tenures - This person is trying to jump around to maximize salary (and isn't able to convince their current employer to match/exceed an offer)

For #1 job history is usually not the only indication that this will be a problem. Depending on how many open positions you have they might make a screen, with the vast majority washing out there. "It was contract work" is usually a flag, and being at startups that went under is a mitigating factor.

#2 is somewhat more risky as a hiring manager - more expensive to interview because they are less likely to flame out early in the process, but then much more likely to not be able to agree on an acceptable offer. Overall these folks are still going to be net positive contributors over their tenure, but there is opportunity cost in missing out on hiring someone who would kick ass over 5+ years at your company. It's hard to definitively pin someone down as this category outside of 4+ jobs never going more than 2 years. If they are coming through a recruiter that's a flag, and if they have moved cities that's somewhat of a mitigating factor.

Seeing someone who stayed at the same company for 4+ years and got one or more promotions there is a big plus on resumes.

There is not a lot of research into any of this stuff AFAIK, so this is basically all just my opinion. What I have seen basically says that people are pretty bad and inconsistent at evaluating resumes:


> 1. Several <1 year tenures - this person gets fired a lot

I disagree. I have several half-year tenures and I was never fired from a job.

I also disagree with 2. If you start with $N and an other company offers you $2N after 1 year there is no chance that your current employee will give you a x2 raise. For example at bigger companies there is a policy for that.

> "It was contract work" is usually a flag

Why is that? Aren't there tons of contract jobs, at least in certain areas?

> If they are coming through a recruiter that's a flag

Why is that?

It's been my experience that people with a lot of contract work usually end up being copy-paste style programmers who can't make it through our interviews. Not 100% by any means.

Coming through a recruiter means that a) the recruiting contingency fee could end up actually meaning you paid 20% more for the year you get, b) the person feels the need to scale out their effort to find new jobs so confirms my fear about their job history somewhat, and c) means there is another person who may be reaching out to them in a year or two to actively try to get them to leave. This is super sketchy behavior on the part of the recruiting firm, but some of them have such bad internal controls and turnover problems themselves that they will consistently attempt this.

"2. Exclusively 1-2 year tenures - This person is trying to jump around to maximize salary (and isn't able to convince their current employer to match/exceed an offer)"

Isn't the conventional wisdom that, even if you are able to convince your current employer to match, that you shouldn't take their offer? Most employers have already decided you're "not loyal", and as such will be looking to get rid of you.

> Isn't the conventional wisdom that, even if you are able to convince your current employer to match, that you shouldn't take their offer? Most employers have already decided you're "not loyal", and as such will be looking to get rid of you.

You can frame it 2 different ways:

* I have an offer that if you don't beat, I'll leave

* I've been considering my market value, like working here, and would like you to recognize what I add to the business.

The 2nd way allows an employer to pay you more - and the employee to stay there because they didn't see themselves in the other rule.

That is the conventional wisdom but I don't think it is universally correct. It's probably better to say that they generally didn't solve their compensation concerns in a way that kept them at the company though - either they didn't bring it up at all, or they did and didn't succeed. Whether they do that by generating another job offer or not is secondary.

My average is roughly 1 year at every position with the maximum being nearly 2 years.

I prefer working in startups and smaller businesses rather than a bank or government entity. In the startup world I found 1-2 year stints don't seem like a bad thing. In the conservative banking world it could be.

Hiring is exhausting and expensive and eats a ridiculous amount of my team's time, not to mention onboarding and learning curve. It's not worth my while to hire someone who I think has a <50% chance of staying at least two years.

That doesn't mean every bullet on your resume needs to be 2 years long, but if you're at least a handful of years into your career, you should have at least one.

And yeah, if you're working for startups and they keep going under, that sucks. But maybe it suggests that you could stand to learn a bit more about the business end of things and improve your ability to evaluate an employer's prospects.

It's goanna depend a lot on exactly what industry niche you specialize in and what you specialize in below that. As long as the details have a semi-obvious non-negative explanation it shouldn't be a problem.

Employees are like expensive, specialized tooling. The more specialized and refined your skill set is then the more acceptable job hopping becomes. If you're the kind of person that's brought in as a subject matter expert to help do something your experience may not be relevant and you may be, expensive, under utilized and dissatisfied when there's no more work for you. To continue the tooling analogy, if a company buys specialized equipment for a contract job it's usually sold afterward. This is why highway plowing and bridge building equipment is all ancient and has had half a million owners. A contract is won, (used) equipment is bought, maintenance (or modification for the specific task is performed), the work is done, someone else wins the contract, the equipment is put up for sale and the cycle continues. It takes resources to keep specialized equipment or specialized employees around and functional (pay/maintenance) and it's not efficient to have it sit around mostly unused (making a senior dev chase bugs). However, if you're switching jobs in less time than a typical project takes you're gonna come under the same scrutiny as the crane that's up for sale while the rest of the fleet is building bridges, "what's wrong with this one?" If you're not sticking around for about as long as it takes to complete on project then it's gonna draw scrutiny.

If you're resume looks like you're job hopping and moving up it's likely going to be looked upon neutrally or favorably (i.e. "nobody can keep this guy because everyone else has more important/lucrative stuff for him to do").

Job hopping is definitely within the range of normal for the vast majority of the industries people on HN work in so unless your resume practically says you can't hold a job then it shouldn't be a problem.

I'm not going to put a number on "job hopping" because it's dependent on industry, specialization, region, training time and probably a bunch of other things" What's short for someone developing control software for radar systems in Boston is likely an eternity for a JavaScript dev specializing in UI in SV.

Stop waiting until you lose a job to find a new one.

Upgrade regularly, as soon as you find a new job that you like more go take it. Building your skills and Networking are key. Network all the time, get to know people who will be hiring, conferences, events, find people who are working on things you want to work on and people you want to work with.

Lifes too short to wait it out.

Upgrade fast and regularly, pay shoots up, location improves.

If someone bails on a pressure-cooker job - I view it as a sign on wisdom.

(I'm not a dedicated hiring manager, but have been involved in my share of hiring decisions over the years.)

I don't really believe in hard and fast rules with recruiting. There are usually too many variables for arbitrary limits to be helpful, and I've seen plenty of good hires with unusual resumes. The important questions are:

1. Is the person you're looking at likely to be an overall benefit if you hire them for the position?

2. Is anyone else who is applying likely to bring more overall benefit?

There are three concerns I usually have with a resume full of short-term gigs.

Firstly, someone who has never stuck around long enough to deal with the consequences of their own decisions or who has no real understanding of issues like technical debt is a huge liability above entry-level positions. If someone is applying for a senior developer role and I don't see evidence of knowing how to maintain software long-term from their employment history, there would need to be something else in the resume to make up for that or it's basically an instant no-hire.

Secondly, the equivalent for more junior positions is that someone moving jobs every few months may not be gaining useful basic skills and developing sound professional judgement as effectively as their time served might otherwise suggest. There's an old joke about someone with ten years of experience and someone with the same year of experience ten times. The latter is probably a no-hire.

Finally, there is always some cost and some disruption associated with hiring a new member of staff. Someone whose pattern of previous moves suggests they're just trying to climb a ladder as fast as possible without necessarily contributing much value in each step along the way is a no-hire. Just as important, even someone who looks like they'll probably stick around for a year and generate some real value after a few months ramping up is still going to be a much less attractive candidate than someone who usually sticks around for say two or three years.

I'm for more concerned with seeing a record of accomplishment and career progression. If someone is only staying at companies for a year, but they're shipping work through the whole product cycle, I don't have a problem there. However, if they're leaving things undone as they bounce from place to place and not showing experience with the pre-launch, launch, maintenance, and re-launch phases of a major project, that's problematic.

On the other hand, if someone stayed at one place for 5 years and doesn't have a lot of progress they can point to, I'd be somewhat concerned about their trajectory in their field.

A good rule of thumb is 3 jobs in 10 years. Other factors like contracting/projects etc matter. This could shift to 4 jobs these days as people tend to move about faster.

Upper limits depends on company and movement within the company. 10 years in a company with good reputation isnt a problem. 10 years in a staid government department with no movement wouldn't likely represent a go-getter.

I know the stat for average employee duration at a startup is about 9 months, excluding founders I believe.

Personally I think I would ask more details of an engineer who stayed with a company 6 months or less but I wouldn't necessarily be suspicious. Anything beyond 12 months, I wouldn't ask at all.

Hiring managers ignoring the fact that best way to increase salary is to move. That's why people move a lot. Nothing to do with skill

It's because your not paying employees the market rate so they leave.

Nothing to do with skill of the employee.

They just want to get away with paying below rate salaries.

It doesn't matter. If you have the exact experience and expertise they're looking for, they'll overlook everything else. Otherwise, they'll use anything as an excuse to reject your resume.

Re: the trend of shorter tenures - In tech, especially startups, switching companies is still considered the best way for an engineer to get a good raise.

if you're hot, you're hot. tenure doesn't matter anymore.

If you have a bunch of 1-6 month jobs on your resume your going to get passed over as unreliable and not worth the expense of hiring unless you are one hell of a rockstar.

If someone has nothing but a bunch of 1-6 month jobs on their resume without mitigating circumstances, they are unreliable and they are not a rock star.

Minimum 1 year

Maximum 2 year

1 year for some equity and to judge if I even want it, 2 year solely so hiring managers don't disqualify me (along with random employees that anecdotally heard what red flags).

And I remove all the 3 month stints off my resume

And I also take off contracts done in chronologically parallel time periods because they confuse people that are silently judging how long I had been anywhere, than any other merit

Easier to get an experienced based salary upgrade at a different company, than at the current company.

Another quirk seems to be that everyone in engineering seems to like seeing gaps. So disappearing my 3 month stints has an added effect that would be counterintuitive to all the unemployed bloggers writing resume tips on ask.com

It is an adaptation. Get money.

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