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Tricky interview question: You’re a serial job hopper. Why should I hire you and not someone who’s stayed in his role for four years?

The question

During an interview for a team-leader job in the commodities department of a global investment bank in Singapore, a candidate was asked the following question: From your resume, it seems you do not have a specific direction in your career. You have changed jobs four times in just three and a half years. So tell me, what makes you the better candidate than the last guy I interviewed, who was able to stay in his previous role for four years?

The candidate’s reply

In my first job doing settlements for derivative products, most of my team was asked to leave after our bank suffered heavy losses during the subprime collapse. It was a tough period where many candidates had to take almost any job that came their way. I was no exception. I joined an oil trading firm, but after two months I discovered it was not what I enjoyed doing.

I left to work for a US bank, under a new boss who I grew to admire throughout the one year we worked together. When he decided to leave, he asked me to join him at his new investment firm and promised me greater career progression. During my two years there, I realised I had a desire to lead a team and would eventually like a management position.

This team leader role that your firm is hiring for is precisely what I want. It would allow me to take my career to the next level. Besides the job requirements – which I believe are a close fit to my work experience – I think it’s time I move out of the shadow of my current boss.

I’m the best candidate because of my broad exposure to various asset classes. My mentorship under my existing manager gives me an advantage over the typical rank-and-file employee, who lacks the ability to look at the big picture of how things operate from a management perspective.

How he would have responded in hindsight

We live in a period where employability takes greater precedence than staying in the same routine job for years. It’s tough to find the ideal role these days, but when you do find it, you grab it by its horns. I certainly feel this is what defines the zeitgeist of Gen Y employees today.

Despite my past history of job hopping, I was offered the position and have now been at the bank for three years.

How would YOU have answered?

Use the comments box below to suggest a better response to the interview question above.

Comments (15)

  1. This tricky interview question seems to be the least far fetched and most relevant interview question i have seen so far posted on this forum, personally alot of my gen y friends have encountered this kind of interview before and have lived to tell the tale! Respect!

  2. In restrospect every movement was justified in its context. The first was a forced move due to external factors and the subsequent ones were due to follow a mentor whom I could learn more from than repeating the same routines day after day in the same old position for many years. Therefore I am not a job hopper per se.

    In addition, my employability is further strenghtened by one: steering through the tough times; second: gaining solid exposure to broad asset classes; Third: remaining true to my original aspirations. The four-year candidate may have the third quality but possibly not the first two traits of mine.

  3. go on, encourage more job hopping. churning is what makes fees for recruiters

  4. My response would be:

    CVs are confidential and also, there are so much more about a person that can’t be written on his/her CV. That’s also a reason why we are having a face-to-face interview now.

    So without even looking at the CV of another candidate, I would presume we both fulfill the entry requirements. Then I would just reaffirm of my values to the position I applied for. And it’s up to the hiring manager to believe and trust I can deliver.

    I will show I am not threatened by the CVs of the other, who may or may not be much more impressive than mine.

  5. The disregard for loyalty that any ‘job-hopper’ has does raised valid questions about integrity.
    This however is not the only factor, the depth of experience will be far less than that of their peers as they typically leave before the knowledge gained in the learning curve can actually be applied and embedded.
    Additionally those seeking to manage people as part of their career growth need to see through the cycle of performance management several times to develop the skills required to deal with managing people long-term.
    Finally staying with a firm does not mean ‘the same routine’ it’s up to the employee to seek mobility with that firm to diversify their experience.

  6. I like what Baimor said. That is the most constructive answer.

  7. I actually think his response was great. It was honest.

  8. Probably looking at 2 different school of thoughts here – a more conservative one and one that embraces changes – its a coin toss and both sides of the coin could be right

  9. I like his hindsight answer. I had a similar situation, moving only because there was no point in staying.

    Some personality types are also suited to moving all the time until they find something that suits their self. In fact, it’s better to be proactive than to sit there and lump it. The type of candidate who wallows in their misery is the type who would overlook a growing compliance problem, like a frog in boiling water.

  10. This is a kind of under the belt hitting. When a recruiter knows that he is in front of a job hopper, he is bound to grill him to check his suitability. He would be scrutinizing you to know whether you would do the same to him as well.

    My opinion is that one should stay positive and calm before such questions. You can always say that the new role is quite challenging to me and I’ve found a proper fit in this profile. On being asked, why you think yourself as a proper fit, you can resort to some ready made points.

  11. But I have come across bosses that said “despite two of your jobs are over 5 years, your average is just about 2 years per job. Look at me, I have been staying for at least 7 years in each job.”

    It all boils down to supply and demand, your competition, and how much your boss likes you.

  12. Every company is doing the same thing to keep the human cost as low as possible. If only one or two staffs left due to the underpaid salary, it won’t change anything unless it happened to the majority. As a senior, I doubt why you don’t know this common sense.

  13. I had 4 jobs in 6 years thanks to the crisis, which is killing me, I have to stick to my current job no matter what

  14. The classic stupid interview question designed to massage the ego of the asker but incredibly inaccurate in assessing the mental agility of the candidate.

    Interviews ought to be required by law to be published publically to prevent this sought of twaddle.

  15. I think as long as you can justify each move, an honest answer will be the most appropriate. I guess interviewers want to understand a candidate’s thought process and motivation. Which brings me to another question: Is job hopping ie. gaining experiences in variety of products/industries/scope of work but at a superficial level , the new norm?

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