Historically, senior executives with a working history of less than three years with each company have tended to raise eyebrows as it is believed that short stints are insufficient for any meaningful contribution to the organisation.  

In addition, job-hopping is often perceived as a sign of poor decision-making. However, according to the BBC, the nature of employment is changing and factors such as layoffs, salary freezes and the emergence of more flexible employment have pushed people from one job to another.

Moreover, the stagnant global job market has greatly limited the opportunities for ambitious employees who are then prompted to seek new challenges at other companies.

So how much is too much when it comes to job-hopping for senior executives?

Research indicates that most clients nowadays are satisfied with candidates who stay for at least five years at each company.

Evaluate options

Obviously, some career moves make more sense than others, so candidates should carefully evaluate their options and understand how each will fit into their projected future.

In the current global economy, it is increasingly important to gain and secure a valuable set of contacts and learning opportunities. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 49 per cent of CEOs at the largest firms in Europe and Asia had experience in more than one industry and 17 per cent had experience in three or more industries.

Hence, many people job-hop with the belief that moving into different industries can broaden and deepen their expertise. If done wisely, moving from one company to another might prove beneficial in the long run, especially if it is justified by the prospect of a promotion in the near future.

However, the same study found that 40 per cent of job changes are lateral moves, while 20 per cent are actually demotions. Therefore, senior executives must keep their ultimate goal in mind and carefully plan out their career moves. They should not be easily distracted by a bigger paycheck or a larger pool of direct reports.

As a senior executive, it is crucial that you determine whether every move will help you reach your ultimate goal, not hinder you.

For hiring managers who evaluate resumés, it is important to note whether the hops are merely fast upward leaps that don’t often secure long-term success or a slower ascent that includes a mixture of both lateral and upward movement that will eventually pay off.

A study published in the February 2013 issue of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly reveals findings in organisational psychology based on the analysis of the career paths of C-level hospitality executives.


Entrepreneurial drive

It was found that job-hopping could be an early and positive sign of entrepreneurial drive. Essentially, “researchers found that the timing or rhythm of job-hopping was literally ‘musical’ in nature, with a more steady rhythm for traditional organisation men and a more erratic rhythm for opportunistic and entrepreneurial trailblazers”.

While this study only focuses on hospitality executives and its findings cannot be generalised to other subject pools, it is safe to say that, nowadays, companies are more interested in the patterns and reasons behind a candidate’s moves.

Fundamentally, a resumé that can demonstrate a balance between external and internal moves is most desirable. Resumé reviewers are especially interested in the patterns of your work history — evidence that you are able to handle both internal and external changes are crucial.

It is important to showcase that your company promoted you from within the organisation instead of an outsider because you established your reputation and ability as a trustworthy and accomplished leader.

This will help you demonstrate that when you change companies, you can still gain the trust and respect of your new colleagues and be able to adapt to the new company culture.


Article by Ati Simatupang, Head of South-East Asia, Bó Lè Associates. It is the largest executive search firm in Asia with a network of 25 wholly owned local offices worldwide. For more information, please visit www.bo-le.com