12

I'm reading a resume now for a software developer that has had over 9 jobs in 10 years. It's my natural inclination to be nervous about this because we would really like to hire someone who is going to stick around for awhile. This person seems fairly technical and might be able to contribute but it seems like the cost of turnover might be pretty high. Do you judge resumes harshly when the candidate changes jobs every year or two? Is this just such the norm for the software industry that I should just look past it?

To be clear this person doesn't appear to be working on contract for any of these positions.

9

9 jobs in 10 years is an established pattern.

If you want someone to last more than a year, this is not your person.

It's unlikely that someone "just happened" to have their contract end (or get fired) in about a year 10 times in a row.

8 accepted

Do the job transfers show a progression in work responsibility? Can you tell if the position changes are lateral or show signs of moving up the career ladder? Was there more job changes at the beginning period and less more recently?

I've had friends that changed jobs every 6-months for the first couple years out of college simply because they felt the best growth opportunity and advancement was available at other companies. In many cases, they moved up rapidly and received substantial pay increases with each move.

What is your corporate culture? You have someone you are considering with a documented history of job change. Does your company embrace that and look to keep people or do you want to inspire those people to stay and grow as the company grows? Job change happens more typically in the IT industry, though.

Is this your only concern with the candidate? Have you interviewed this person yet or are you in the process of selecting interview candidates? Like someone else mentioned, ask the question of the individual - why are there so many changes?

6

I wouldn't judge the resume based on it but I would try to find out why there were so many jobs in a phone interview and by checking references. It could be bad luck picking companies (projects getting cancelled, going out of business); it could be that he's a poor developer; it could be that he's really good but gets bored quickly; it could be that he's finished every project and the company ran out of challenges for him. He could be an agile guy that always ends up in waterfall companies. It could be that his spouse has a job where she needs to relocate every so often.

It would raise a red flag for me but I wouldn't dismiss it entirely based on 9 jobs in 10 years.

5

Why did they leave? That is the key issue. As was already mentioned were these a series of short term contracts? Companies that failed? Poor working conditions? then the applicant is probably OK, but if he had "issues" with coworkers and supervisors at several different jobs in the last ten years then you maybe looking at a problem.

Today's job market is very fluid. Companies hire and fire with alarming regularity. Consequently employees feel little loyalty to an employer. Add to this the fact that many companies hire managers rather then promote from with in and what would have looked like "job hopping" in the past is today normal career pattern.

5

How did those companies do on the Joel test?

A lot of companies talk the talk but just don't walk the talk. PERIOD! One asks in an interview and the words are spouted. But that's exactly what they are - just words.

I have a friend (800 math achiev.,780 math SAT, Ivy League degree) with close to this number of jobs(say 7 don't know exact number)in 8 years and for every job he left there was a genuine reason to leave (get this one - a "principal architect" said "we don't use templates here"- I guess motivation left over from REALLY buggy MS compiler days), at another one, no STL, at another no exceptions. (All this in non-RT,non embedded code so no real reason for the rule)

At another (3 years ago) a VC6 shop with 15 inch(!!!!) screens,1.2 GHZ single processor machines with 500 mb memory and 37 GB drives.

He was not allowed to build projects with browse file enabled because "the .bsc and .sbr files take up too much space and they take too long to build" He ended up bringing his laptop in to do his work. He had a spare 21 inch flat screen at home and brought that in too. (Guess what - the other programmers there were a bit envious and HE ended up being considered slightly disruptive!) Of course, how one is supposed to (rapidly) learn a VC6 code base without the source code browser is beyond me.

It is incredible how stupid many companies are. They lose half (all right I exaggerate 33%) productivity of a $150000 fully loaded (space, benefits etc.) programmer for a savings of $3000 (3 year depreciable!) capital cost.

Another question is "how many of the 9 jobs were startups?"

Regarding your question as to pursue, I would be MUCH more concerned about where he went to school and how he stands up under a whiteboard interview than a resume. To me a resume is just supposed to get you in the door - Is he "interesting"?

Not to be ornery, but, how does your company do on the Joel test?

If you don't pass, maybe anybody REALLY good will leave in a year.

2

It depends. What are the circumstances of all the job changes? Are these short-term contracts? Why not ask if he/she is looking for something long term or short term?

2

The cost of turnover may have been a lot less for the other firms. If you are worried about the turnover, you should follow up with the references and determine if the previous job changes were due to your candidate "following the wind", or perhaps they had no control over the situation and were downsized, and are simply tenacious at staying employed. It sounds like you have your own considerations for a good candidate, so if you like this particular candidate, do some deeper digging. Schedule a preliminary telephone interview, and ask questions that would give you some indication of what you are looking for in terms of commitment. Perhaps over the last 10 years, your candidate was still completing a masters, or met their significant other, and had to move to be closer, and after 10 years is looking to settle in and seek long term employment. So, I think that you probably have good reason to raise your eyebrow at 9 jobs in 10 years, but you should also inquire about circumstances, past, present, and future.

2

From a recruiter standpoint when I see resumes that look like that I'm always a little skittish. For a candidate like that we dig deep to find out why there is so much change and ask for references from previous hiring managers/supervisors to dig a little deeper.

Like other said, if this person did a lot of contract work that might be ok. If it's all direct-hire and all the changes then you need to find out why. Is he/she chasing money only? Personality conflicts? etc.

1

In software industry, only the knowledge matters. If a person performs well, he will aim for more salary. If the company doesn't provide that, he looks for another job. Since the job is for more income in a limited time.

So just look at his knowledge and his expectation. If it doesn't meet the criteria please do not select the person as he continues to go on.

0

I assume the resume contains contact information for each job (or some of them at least). Call them up and see if they seemed to actually like the programmer's work, or whether they say vague things that seem to be designed to avoid a lawsuit.

I don't think 9 jobs in 10 years is that out of the ordinary, especially if some of them were contract positions.

0

I worked as a contractor for about 5 years and most all my jobs ended within a couple of months after it was supposed to. Ps. I liked the short 3 to 9 month contracts. What I am trying to say is, if majority of the positions were contracts, then I see nothing wrong with that resume considering it is not usually the contractors fault that his contract ends when it does.

0

Depends on the types of jobs, etc.

For a contractor, sure, that's par for the course. That shouldn't be considered an issue.

If the jobs look like they're more stable, especially at stable companies, you may be looking at someone on the 18 month plan. Get a job, stick around long enough to make the position "stick," then bail to the next (hopefully better positioned!) job before your mistakes catch up to you.

That's not saying that everyone that switches jobs is on the '18-month plan.' There's lots of legitimate reasons to switch jobs.

But regardless of why this individual is switching jobs (18-month plan, boredom, whatever), there is an established pattern of doing so, and there's little reason to suspect that pattern will change in the future. If you need someone for the short term, and don't mind rehiring in a year or so, go for it :)

Another drawback of this kind of pattern is not sticking around long enough to pay the price for your mistakes, and learn from them. And we all make mistakes. Having to maintain the code you wrote for 3 or 4 years is a great teacher of what not to do to make maintainable code!