Stop The Stigma: Why You Should Reconsider Job Hoppers In Tech

Posted on December 2, 2020 by BWBacon. Tagged: Resources for Entrepreneurs, For Clients

When it comes to hiring engineers, we often hear concerns about job hoppers in tech. Hiring managers have eagle eyes for “years of experience” on a person’s resume, and it can greatly influence how much visibility a candidate has, regardless of their skills. You have probably heard the narrative about tech workers, in particular millennials, that they move jobs at higher rates than previous generations, but is it true?

As it turns out, not really. There is a lot behind the scenes that contributes to this perception though. Saying millennials in tech change jobs only because of money or boredom certainly over-simplifies the issue. When we look a little closer, reality paints a far more complex picture that can teach businesses a lot about retention, and why it feels like there are so many job hoppers in tech.

Job Hoppers In Tech By The Numbers

Examining data on job hopping reveals who is changing jobs may have had more to do with age than sweeping generational differences. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that when Boomers started their careers, they changed jobs at higher rates between ages 18 and 24 than the same age group today, holding an average of 5.7 jobs during that timeframe. The trend continues as time goes on, bringing a more logical explanation that when beginning a career, people change jobs more often to find what suits them best.

Data from Zapier on Gen Z and Millennials at work found that 76% of Millennials and 64% of Gen Z employees work in professional, knowledge-based careers like administrative or managerial roles. Of those surveyed, millennials planned to stay at their current job for an average of 10 years, and Gen Z’ers said they would stay for up to 6 before considering a change.

What this information tells us is that younger workers are more loyal, or want to be more loyal, than they are given credit for. There is also a growing cultural standard for job satisfaction, and it plays into where tech workers stay, and where they leave.

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Pulling Back The Curtain On Why People Change Jobs

Looking at tech specifically, a 2017 survey of 10,000 developers in the Bay Area found that over half of them had left jobs within two years of joining. As compared to the 4.2 median tenure across industries in the US, this figure about tech job-hopping certainly begs the question, what is it about the tech industry that makes turnover and voluntary resignations more common?

If your first thought was money, you’re not wrong. 89% of tech workers that changed jobs sited money as the top reason, but closely behind were seeking career advancement opportunities, great benefits, and work-life balance. Talented developers know it’s a candidate’s market, and their desire to work for great companies pushes competition among businesses to attract that talent. Racking up a list of various jobs is also due to the nature of the tech industry, which is constantly evolving. Many developers prefer working shorter term projects on a contract or part time basis over full-time positions.

It is worth repeating that lack of opportunities for growth, poor management, unrealistic expectations, and too little recognition are the dreaded hallmarks of why people move on. So, what is it that workers, regardless of their age bracket, really want? In general, people are motivated by opportunities where they have a chance for advancement, a sense of purpose or being connected to meaningful work, and high-quality management. These desires have only grown after a successful nine months of remote work; tech workers are choosing jobs that provide flexibility, autonomy, and genuine investment in their careers.

Why You Need To Think Twice Before Dismissing A Job-Hopper

The biggest takeaways from our research on job hoppers in tech are that it is not about work ethic or entitlement from a certain group of people. Job hoppers in tech are common due to the nature of the industry itself, from constantly changing technologies to frequent mergers and acquisitions. We made a short list of reasons why your hiring team should think twice before dismissing someone with more frequent job changes on their resume:

  1. Job hoppers are risk-takers, in the best way. Candidates that have confidence in their abilities know that they have more to give towards new opportunities. These are the kinds of people that push the envelope on innovation and creative business solutions.
  2. Job hoppers in tech are dynamic, and their varied experience can lead to a broader scope of knowledge. As tech is ubiquitous across industries, hiring a candidate that’s worked for a few different companies can bring insights on how other organizations operate or utilize technology.
  3. In a tight labor market, job hoppers are often the folks that crave fast-paced work. They have built up the skills to tackle steep learning curves and complex technical issues. More than one study highlighted this type of job hopper as someone that is willing to move on if a position does not offer the learning and growth opportunities expected. Provide those opportunities, and you could be hiring a key player onto your team.
  4. And finally, remember the data does not support the narrative that job hopping is happening more frequently or at a higher rate now than in previous decades. HBR recently sited a paper that found the share of workers with less than one year at a job fell 4% in recent years, as compared to data from the 80s and 90s. Also, the number of people staying at a job for more than 20 years has increased. It is time to destigmatize job hoppers in tech and dig deeper into industry or cultural reasons for these trends.

Reading Between The Lines

While we laid out several valid reasons someone may have changed jobs, it is not to say every job hopper is a stellar candidate. There are a few questions that can help demystify a candidate’s work experience background like, did the jobs require an increasing level or responsibility or were they lateral moves? Were the job changes in a period after a graduation or certification that reflect a time of exploration or career change? Did they have to move due to a family situation?

These are all ways to gain a better understanding of a candidate’s work experience. And once again, in tech, job changes come with the territory. Investigating job hoppers in tech uncovers a deeper connection between opportunities for advancement and longer tenures. Tech workers today know their value, and are willing to make a move if the incentives are attractive enough. From this, businesses can gain insight into finding and retaining talented employees.

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