Are you a banker in Asia with a track record of moving between banks after short stints? You may want to stick with your current role for many more years.
Job-hopping is high on hiring managers’ lists of pet hates in Asia. Bin Wolfe, managing partner of talent at EY for Asia Pacific, told us yesterday that China was awash with job-hopping candidates. And earlier this year, Nicholas Johnson, an MD at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, bemoaned receiving “bits-and-bobs CVs”, while Andrew Hendry, Asia managing director of M&G Investments, said there were too many job hoppers in Singapore.
But the tide may now be turning against career flip-floppers as cost-conscious banks in Asia shy away from investing in candidates who may not be with them for very long. “Most investment banks now count the number of jobs you’ve had, and if it's more than one firm every two or so years, you're ruled out,” said Vince Natteri, a Hong Kong-based director at recruiters Pinpoint Asia.
There are many reasons why job-hopping is in fact very bad for your career in the long run. Here are 15 of them:
You might try to provide positive reasons for job-hopping, but interviewers will soon dig out the more likely motivation: escaping the horrors of your current role. Eventually employers won’t even bother listening to your excuses. “A job seeker I saw recently had moved every 12 months for four years for a range of reasons – from not liking his boss to general job dissatisfaction,” said Gerard Milligan, strategic account director at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “He wants to move again, but is no longer receiving any responses.”
Banks love to reject candidates with a history of money-motivated moves, especially if they only received modest pay rises. “Banks will always pay more to lure people across, but changing jobs for this alone puts you back in the same place – needing to earn trust and prove yourself,” said Ben Batten, country general manager at recruitment firm Volt in Singapore.
Most job-hoppers simply haven’t stayed put long enough to receive proper training. “At some stage you will need training, coaching, mentoring, perhaps an MBA,” said Henry Chamberlain, director of Henry Chamberlain Consulting in Hong Kong and a former head of selection at Standard Chartered. “These will make you more marketable, equipping you for more critical roles. If you don’t have a concrete plan to get these training opportunities, you may be overtaken by others who do.”
Job-hopping can be a poor substitute for internal promotion and, worse, it suggests you’re a poor performer. “If you had to move externally to get a promotion in the past, it begs the question of why your performance didn’t enable you to achieve this internally,” said Singapore-based Paul Endacott, managing director, Southeast Asia, at recruiters Ambition.
In the current stagnant job market, banks in Asia are typically in no rush to hire – a state of affairs which will work against you as a job-hopper. “Prospective employers are now trying harder to attract those with a stable career history, even if it takes longer to find them than someone who has moved jobs a lot,” Endacott said.
Hiring managers want a return on the training and time they invest in any new hire. “But rarely will a new employee show ROI in their first 12 months, so I have recently seen firms rejecting candidates because they have moved job every 12 to 18 months. It’s simply too big of a risk to hire them,” said Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore.
Interviewers want to hear a clear career plan, said Alex Wong, a former banker who’s now a career consultant at EntreNet Careers in Hong Kong. Job hoppers, by contrast, will struggle to answer the standard “where do you see yourself” question. “If you don’t know what you want in your career, how can I trust you with a permanent job?” Wong added.
Think job-hopping has turned you into the consummate banking professional? Think again. “I've seen many candidates give an outward appearance of progression through job-title changes, but their development in terms of leadership and projects has remained relatively the same,” Batten said.
“People underestimate the importance of internal connections to their own career success and these connections are lost when you move,” Johnson from J.P. Morgan told us in August. “Moving every 18 months, or less, limits the capacity to develop these strategic relationships and can diminish your future earning capacity,” Milligan from Randstad added.
“I recently assessed high-performance talent for a financial institution and found that even the most junior members of this elite pool had been there for more than a decade,” Chamberlain said. “These executives were groomed and given choice assignments and development opportunities for 12 to 20 years. Their knowledge and experience made it very difficult for new arrivals to compete with them for top jobs.”
Success in banking largely depends on your ability to make good decisions under pressure, but job-hopping suggests the opposite – you run away when the going gets tough. “Banks will ask whether someone who makes frequent job changes has good judgement,” said Chamberlain. “Short stints in several jobs is often associated with a lack of focus, direction and maturity.”
Prematurely jumping ship will put your boss’s nose out of joint and make it less likely that you’ll get a good reference. Your manager will question why you didn’t discuss your career ambitions with them before deciding to quit, said Craig Fletcher, a senior manager at Volt in Singapore.
One job-hop too many could mark you out as a serial offender before you even apply for your next role. “I know of one candidate in Singapore who has had eight positions in less than five years. It’s almost impossible for them to look for opportunities as they are well known in the market already, and credibility is minimal,” Batten said.
If the job-hopping was under your “When the reasons for changing are strong enough – for example being made redundant in a bad market for no fault of their own, or the bank going out of business – potential employers still tend to interview them,” Natteri from Pinpoint Asia said.
Even if you think the above 14 issues don’t apply to you, banks will tend to disagree. “Perception is reality and as job applicant, you must manage perceptions related to your loyalty and judgement. But unfortunately, the perception of employers may mean that your employment record gets you screened out before you even get the chance,” Chamberlain said.