Job Hopping Recruiters: The New Normal or Just Bad?

Up front disclaimers: Job hopping articles get people wound the heck up. This one shouldn’t—I tried to stick to logic and some well-reasoned opinions. This post isn’t about you. Don’t get wound the heck up.

Like any job category, talent acquisition pros come in all sizes, but there is one thing that’s easy to see after looking at a slew of recruiter resumes—a bunch struggle to maintain long-term employment at one joint. You see a lot of 6-, 9-, 11-month stints in the TA world. A ton.

So, a question is: Do recruiters job hop because they stink, or because that’s the gig economy in which we live? First, some context from two smart people.

Check Tim Sackett’s post, The Life Span of a Crappy Recruiter:

Just having recruiting experience, especially IT or Technical, can guarantee you a recruiting career for at least ten years or more, even if you are completely awful at recruiting… Beware TA leaders—here’s a reason a recruiter has had 4 – 6+ jobs in 10 years, and it’s not because they’re good at recruiting! The best recruiters don’t move around because they’re so valuable—the organizations they work for won’t let them leave! If you’re crappy, people are hoping you leave!

But, you say to me, “No, no, R. J., we are in the gig economy. This is the new way of things. Lots of recruiters job hop. They’re not crappy. It’s awesome.”

No, it’s not.

Check Steve Boese quote the WSJ and riff in What HR should be talking about most in 2016 (and what we need to stop talking about):

WSJ, as quoted by Steve B: Far from turning into a nation of gig workers, Americans are becoming slightly less likely to be self-employed, and less prone to hold multiple jobs. Official government data shows around 95% of those who report having jobs are accounted for on the formal payroll of U.S. employers… little changed from a decade ago.

Stevie B: … it just feels like the gig economy is fast becoming the dominant form of work. But the data just doesn’t reflect that, at least not yet. And it likely will not in 2016 or in 2018 or maybe even in 2020. So for now, it makes sense to think about your labor force composition, sure, (just like it always has), but massive, fundamental changes in that mix of labor is not typically top of mind for most organizations.

So, is Tim right? Lots of crappy recruiters? I think it’s said more nicely that they fail to demonstrate they’ll make a long-term impact to their employer. And when that happens, they get let go as soon as the hiring binge is over.

If you want to hire a recruiter just to fill a bunch of reqs, then this doesn’t matter. If, however, you want a talent acquisition professional who can come in and make a long-term impact on your attraction, sourcing, selection and closing processes, look deeper. Someone who can influence senior managers, maneuver within a system and get things done at a tactical and strategic level—then you need someone who spent more than 9 months at a place. They need to have been somewhere long enough to do that work. Gigs don’t cut it.

FOT Background Check

RJ Morris
R. J. Morris is based in the STL as the Director of Talent Acquisition and Management for McCarthy Building Companies, a multi-billion dollar national firm. Like many others in the FOT clan, he’s a sports nut who can endlessly draw the parallels between athletes, sports and the talent management game. I know, I know, as if we needed more of that. He has 10 years of practitioner experience leading talent efforts in corporate HR and another 7 years in leadership roles on the agency side, so he gets both sides of the desk. Talk to R.J. via emailLinkedInTwitter...


  1. I totally agree with your point of view. Indeed, nowadays, people “hop” from a company to another and nobody seems to notice it. However, to face different situations and find solutions, you need to stay in one place.

  2. Steve says:

    Big problem is you really did not do any research… Here in the Bay Area, there are lots of contract recruiters, working 1 year gigs before they move to their next one. Often times they get perm offers, but decline because of the drastic drop in income they are asked to take. Not many recruiters out there want to take a 30 to 40% hit in their take home. You base you entire article on your personal feelings, and not objective research.

    I am FTE, but I have been contract, and will probably be on contract again sometime in my career. Many of my good friends are contractors, and truly great recruiters. They are ones that I will go to bat for every single time. If you want a great sourcer referral, I know a guy, and he only works on contract, because he wants to keep his standard of living.

    If you want to write articles… then write good ones… ones that you have truly put thought and research into. I use different methodologies to pick out the good recruiters from the bad. In the market I work in, basing a decision to interview a recruiter on multiple 1 year contracts vs FTE is just lame.

  3. Kris Dunn
    Kris Dunn says:

    I think the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

    Tim’s certainly right about a lot of his assertions. I don’t want to make this a “show me your W-2” thing, but if a recruiter’s been somewhere a year, you can learn a lot by knowing how much they made. Then talk about base vs commission, and you’ve got a path towards understanding whether they were a performer – or simply running before the posse came to town…


  4. Tracy Peters says:

    When considering hiring a recruiter who shows a short term job you should take into consideration the number of placements they made during their employment, versus the commissions reported on their W2. If they made a ton of placements but made a very low commission – perhaps that is the reason they are leaving/have left. Beyond that though, I agree that job hopping is a red-flag and needs to be addressed. And that is true of any field, however, more so in the world of a commissioned employee where you expect commissions to build over time. Anyone willing to put in 6 months to a year – and then walk away – is leaving for a reason….

  5. Matt Barcus says:

    Maybe in some professions job hopping is acceptable, but in the Civil Engineering profession I would say that relative stability is much favored over making frequent moves. A frequent amount of career moves/job changes may be okay earlier in one’s career, but longer term I believe it can very much be a detriment. I highlighted three reasons why in a blog I posted last year:

    I would be interested in seeing your comments after taking a look.

    All the best!

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