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Job Hoppers – How Much is Too Much?

The topic of job hoppers, or employment stability, is a critical yet poorly understood topic.  Few employers like job hoppers but fewer still have any tangible data on what’s acceptable, what’s not and why.  In a perfect world, reject anyone with more than 2 jobs in the last 5 years.  But what if that leaves you with a qualified talent pool of zero?  Are there situations where you’re setting the bar too high?  In this blog, I’ll share some hard data as well as a few key points to consider regarding job hoppers and how much is too much.

Job Hoppers – How Much is Too Much?


At the end of the day, we’re hiring sales professionals to turn a profit. In black and white terms, if hiring a given sales professional will result in a strong ROI, the clear answer is to do it. To that end, do you know what the break-even point is with an average sales hire? 8 months? 18 months? Find your break-even point and you’re well on your way to figuring out how much tenure you should be screening for. An additional factor is the company’s goals. A startup trying to hit a critical revenue milestone within the next 12 months is clearly in a different position than a company trying to achieve a 5 year objective.

Our Research on Job Hoppers.

Our own research on job hoppers (at least job hopping sales professionals) revealed that people do follow their previous patterns. We looked at approximately 70 hires with the same client over a four year period. The variable we examined was the # of employers a hire had in the 60 months prior to joining my client. Looking at which reps were still with our client 24 months after joining them; the results were clear. There was very little variance in retention between hires that had 1 or 2 employers in the previous 60 months. Almost all of them were still employed (approximately 90%).  The turnover rate roughly doubled if the hire had 3 employers.  Shockingly, the turnover rate with those hires that had 4 employers was 100%. Statistically speaking, we only had a few hires that fit into that category but we had found our answer regarding job hoppers and how much was too much.

Finding Your Too Much Point.

Use the answers to the questions above to map out what is acceptable with regards to employment stability. With the client mentioned above, they have an 18 month break-even point.  The company has a mix of both short and long-term goals and most importantly, a significant amount of knowledge and sales momentum is held by the sales reps.  Hiring for stability is a top priority and can be more important than even raw talent (to a degree).  With these factors in mind it was easy to develop a formula.  We NEVER hire reps with more than 3 jobs in the previous 60 months.  Those reps with more than 2 positions in the past 60 months must be exceptional.  The way that we make those exceptions is explained below.

In our eBook “The 7 Things You Should Know About Hiring Top Performers” – downloadable at the bottom of this page – we discuss looking for candidates that Can Do the job, Will Do the job and Fit your organization.  To this criteria we add Risk.  Sometimes a candidate is so exceptional in the first 3 quadrants we are willing to accept a little more risk than usual.   This also comes into play for particularly difficult to recruit for markets such as the Bay Area of California.

Holding the Line.

A company may already have all of the right answers to the questions above and still find themselves making the wrong hires. The problem lies in who you are empowering to make hiring decisions.  For example, your Sales Manager might have an agenda that’s completely different from the company’s.  Maybe he/she knows that blowing out their #s this year will get them that next promotion or worse, they know they’re leaving your company soon. Clearly what happens two years from now with their hires is not a consideration. With that in mind, there needs to be someone in the hiring process with the authority and oversight to prevent major hiring mistakes.

In my next blog, I’ll explore the other side of topic of job hoppers – “Beware of Reps That Have Been at a Company for Too Long.”

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. Our posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at:
[email protected].