42

I am a picky person. I have a stable financial situation. I am not married. I don't need too much to live (cheap lifestyle). My problem is: it is hard to find a job that I really like that fits my style and modus operandi.

I believe that you can't tell how good or bad a job is until you have spent two or three months there.

EDIT: Ok, sometimes I know within the first week, but then even I'm not crazy enough to quit in the first week. So I stick around to see if I am making a wrong assessment and if things will improve after 2-3 months, so as not to make a premature decision.

So my question is: Can I just jump from job to job, until I finally land on a place that I really like?

I am talking about going to a place, working 2-3 months, going to another place, working 2-3 months, until I finally find a good place to stay for 2-3 years. I foresee that this will take at least 5 job jumps.


Follow up: The recruiters' opinions are obviously biased but they are welcome as they probably reflect the companies' side on that debate better. That said, I am taking the advice of some people: ask as many questions as you want. Send emails to your boss. Ask him questions about the work, even if it will eventually cost you the job offer. It won't always be possible to bug your soon-to-be boss like that but it is worth the try. Better than jumping on-board blind.

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    Comments Removed - Hi JavaPickyCoder, on Stack Exchange, we try to focus on questions that fit a Q&A format. More specifically, we avoid questions that lead to extended discussion. I've removed the discussion in the comments here to try to keep this thread a constructive Q&A piece. If you have another question that can be presented in Q&A format, please post it as a new question instead of as a follow up edit, as this can potentially lead to answers posted that don't answer the question in its current form. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Mar 1 '13 at 5:25
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    There is a related (closed) question on Programmers asking if job hopping is a problem. You might be interested in checking out some of the answers there, although it specifies changing jobs every 1-2 years instead of 2-3 months. Job hopping, is it a problem? – Rachel Mar 1 '13 at 14:50
  • I defense of any recruiters, your initial post didn't reflect that you cared for the company at all. Being upfront with a potential company, is admirable. Contract to hire is getting popular, they may view you as less of a risk. – user8365 Mar 1 '13 at 18:26
  • Note that if you do this on a regular basis, it will show in your resume and you will find that recruiters notice and that you will be asked why. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 6 '13 at 9:31
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    It is in the best interest of nearly anyone that reads your question that you stay where you are. – user2973 Mar 12 '13 at 20:40
66

I suspect that by the time you've done this a couple times, you won't be getting many interviews at companies that you'd like to work for.

Realistically, unless you want things out of a job that very few other developers do, the sort of companies that you'd want to work at are the sort of companies that a lot of other developers are applying to as well. That means that these companies have the ability to be very picky about who they hire. A recruiter may give you a free pass for one very short term job since everyone is entitled to an occasional mistake. But a string of 2 or 3 jobs that lasted only a couple months would be a huge red flag that would be almost impossible to overcome when there are likely to be many highly qualified people to choose from.

At the sort of companies that you would, presumably, want to work for, the assumption is that a new hire is likely to be a drag on team productivity for the first few months. They're going to be investing a lot of time and effort teaching you about their systems, explaining their architecture to you, helping familiarize you with the code base, training you on technologies they use that you may not have worked with, etc. They invest all this time in the expectation that you're going to be around for at least a few years and that these initial investments will pay off in improved productivity for years to come. Plus, the companies that you'd want to work for are spending a ton of money recruiting candidates and ensuring that they're hiring people that are worth that sort of investment. A recruiter that sees someone with a bunch of short-term stays at permanent positions is going to expect that if they hire you, they'll invest a bunch of resources only to have you walk out the door in 3 months and have to restart the hiring process again. No company worth working for wants that.

Potentially, you would want to look for short-term contract work. There are plenty of companies that want to bring someone in for a couple months to work on a particular project. There are, however, likely to be problems with this approach. Companies looking for a developer for a 2-3 month contract are generally going to treat the contract developer very differently than a permanent employee (and the type of companies looking for short-term contract help may not be the type of companies that would have an environment that you would find satisfactory). You'd be coming in to work on one particular project, often along with a bunch of other contract developers, so the company wouldn't be investing much time in helping you learn their environment. They're much more likely to dictate designs and architectures and treat the contract developers as interchangable parts rather than giving you the autonomy that they might give a permanent employee. And the social interactions you have as a short-term contract employee are likely to be different than what you'd expect as a permanent employee since everyone expects you to be gone shortly.

If you have very particular requirements, you would really want to make sure that you understand what those requirements are and that you communicate them in the process of interviewing with a company. If you won't be happy without an office or without a high-end development machine or dual 32" monitors or scrum-based agile development process, ask the interviewer about those things and only take a job where you're going to be happy. It certainly shouldn't take a lot of trial-and-error to find a place you'd like to work.

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    +1 for the suggestion of contract work. Very acceptable to decline further work for a particular client due to "fit". Consider temp-to-hire as well. You will never know everything you need to know up front, but if I took a permanent role I would gut it out for at least 1-2 years. Otherwise, employers may assume the worst and brand you as a flake (no interview!), where short term work will actually help you get hired long-term. – JAGAnalyst Feb 28 '13 at 21:02
  • Also recruiters can have terms in their contacts with the employers where they forfeit their finder's fee if the employee doesn't work out within 90 days. You may have a harder time getting arecruiter to sell you to a company if they think they might not get their fee for you. – Eric Jul 18 '15 at 11:22
22

This is completely legal (in the United States) and certainly not unethical, but it is bad for your resume because you look like a "job hopper". Investing money in hiring a new employee and training them is a net loss for companies if the employee winds up leaving before he/she provides any labor of value, not just because they aren't productive while they are learning but also because they are usually asking coworkers for help, which lowers their productivity as well. If a situation is a dilbert comic you probably shouldn't do it.

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    +1 for the Dilbert comic line. My first job out of college, we had a manager who thought the PHB was a shiny example of management and would have actual situations from Dilbert occur the same day as that Dilbert at least once or twice a week. – AJ Henderson Mar 1 '13 at 21:47
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Considering frequent-hopping tactic, one should take into account word of mouth impact it could have.

"Working 2-3 months" in, say 5-6 companies in the row will likely have an effect of 50-60 ex-colleagues who'd recall the "hopper".

Given mobility of programmers between different companies, it is quite likely that soon some of these 50-60 ex-colleagues will change their jobs to other companies where you would want to apply. One would better think beforehand of what these guys would tell about them when asked for feedback.


Case in point: about half year ago, my ex-colleague has been rejected based on, well, unfavorable word of mouth "from the past".

It went pretty simple: recruiter just asked team members around if any of us know the candidate. Me and other guy said yes and then we've got to sort of round table: two of us and the hiring manager.

Discussion went about like this...

- Me: I've been working with candidate for about N years in M company and I believe he's excellent, for <the following reasons>.

- Other guy: I've been working with candidate for about N/2 years in K company prior to M and I believe he would be a bad fit, for <the following reasons>.

...After that, manager evaluated our feedback and made a decision to reject candidate.

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    +1 for the "small world" reminder, especially in the development world. I've very often had people ask "oh, do you know so-and-so?" when they see a particular company in my job history. – Shauna Feb 28 '13 at 21:25
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    I do not agree. If you work for 2-3 months at a time, five or six times in a row, there will be 50-60 ex colleagues, most of whom don't remember a damn thing about you. Forget about references. :) – Kaz Mar 1 '13 at 0:07
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    @Kaz - in the Linked-in world, its not hard to find someone who you know who worked in the same company. – dave Mar 1 '13 at 0:26
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    @kaz strongly depends on how well you managed to leave. If you left a big mess for others to clean, they tend to notice and remember. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 6 '13 at 9:35
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    @Kaz - "He worked at ABC over a period when I was there... Doesn't ring a bell" agree that sounds fine... once. If someone else says in addition "...at DEF when I was there, can't tell anything", and someone else says same about "GHI", now that could sure ring a bell. I'd think twice whether I want the guy incapable of leaving any trace in prior two-three jobs. – gnat Mar 6 '13 at 9:48
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Legal? Yes. Ethical? Technically. A good idea? Not really.

Employers will forgive short term stuff if you're a contractor or freelancer; they'll even forgive a little bit of "job-hopping" from the past 5 or so years (since the economy tanked, and in a lot of cases, the only way up is out), but people talk. You won't be able to pass your job hopping off as "contracting" if it really wasn't (if it was, then that can work to your advantage, since it's easily and viably dismissed as "the contract ended"). Someone is bound to know someone at one of your previous jobs, and you can bet they'll talk to them, with or without your consent. When they do, they'll find out that not only are you a job hopper, but also a liar. So, at best, you're a job hopper, and at worst, a dishonest job-hopper. Pretty soon, people will just stop contacting you.

What it sounds like you need is a change in approach in how you look for a job and what you want from a job. If you make your needs and desires concrete, I'm willing to bet that you'll be able to find a good fit far sooner than several months in (even as soon as the in-person interview).

Start out with the easy stuff - pay, benefits, etc. Is the prospect willing to pay you what you're worth? Do they have the benefits you want? If so, that's points for them. Do they have benefits that go over and above, such as nap pods, catered meals, a gym, or beer fridge? Bonus points, especially if you're interested in what they have to offer.

Do they allow telecommute? Even if you don't use it yourself, their attitude toward working remotely can say a lot about a company. In my experience, management that truly allows working remotely on some level will likely care more about your work than about politics (the more liberal the remote work policy, often the more results-oriented they are). This is a very good thing and can save you a lot of headache in the long run.

When you talk to the people at the company, what are their personalities like? Are these people you think you'd like to be around for 8-12 hours a day, five days a week? In the interview, do they stick with purely work-related stuff, or do they ask about non-work stuff beyond the almost-obligatory "what are your hobbies?" boilerplate question? Did you get into a discussion with one of the employees about the latest GitHub Drinkup, or the last boss in Final Fantasy? If you're there long enough to observe behavior between employees, what's it like?

What is the office like? Cube farm, offices, a giant round table? Quiet? Loud? Is the setup something that you'd be willing to work in all day? Don't forget to take note of the acoustics. It might be quiet now, but does it look like it's always quiet? If not, can you hide in an office when necessary? Is there a good amount of natural light? Are people's desks decorated (even with practical stuff), or sterile?

What was their screening process? Not everyone has to get 100% on the Joel test, but does their process for hiring someone show that they care about the quality of the people they hire? When do the engineers get involved? Is there any kind of committee interview or decision process that involves the people you'll be working with and/or for (and do you know how much say they have in it)?

Don't be afraid to ask questions The interview process is as much about you finding the right employer as them finding the right employee. Ask questions about the company. Are there impromptu group outings (or other thing arranged by the employees, and not just the cheesy stuff by management)? Are they understanding of the needs of the type of people that the high tech jobs attract? Do they plan in going a different direction, or making major changes to their structure in the near future? I've had cases where a company was a fit at first, but then changes happened and it was no longer a fit after several months, or even years. It happens. Sometimes it's foreseeable, sometimes it isn't. Ask. If they're planning major changes and they can tell you about them, you can either try it and see if it works out (sometimes, the change stays in line with what made the company a fit, sometimes it doesn't; if it doesn't, you can explain in your next interview that the company moved in a different direction from where you wanted to go), or you can turn down the offer.

Write down and prioritize your list of needs and wants. I have recruiters calling and emailing me on such a regular basis about job leads (we have far too many agencies in my area) that I ended up coming up with a response that details what it is that I'm looking for in my dream company (for some of the more progressive stuff, I include an example of someone pulling it off successfully, such as GitHub's remote working policy and results-oriented nature) and that I'm going to be picky about what I consider. What it did was force me to write down exactly what it was I wanted in a company and make some kind of prioritization for it. I found this to be an extraordinarily good thing, because then the recruiters know what I'll turn away and what I'll look at. I've also found that, because I have this pretty solidified, I can weed out a lot of "cool-but-not-a-fit" employers at the job posting, before I even get to an interview, because I know what I want and need to thrive at any given job.

Set high standards You know what you want. If you've been through a few employers already, you probably also know what you don't want, so don't accept anything that has too much of what you don't want or not enough of what you do want. You may not get a 100% perfect fit, but it's a balancing act. For example, my current job has us in cubicles (which to me, isn't ideal), but our office has a ton of natural light (all of the exterior walls are glass), there's not much in the way of office politics, and we're free to listen to music with headphones. For me, this more than balances out the cube farm, which was more toward the "rather not have, but not necessarily dealbreaker" end of my list. However, had the office been loud, I likely would have turned down the position outright.

If you have a company that you absolutely drool over to work at (such as an animator wanting to work for Pixar, or a developer working for Google, or whatever), see what it is, besides the prestige, that makes you want to work for them. Then, look for that in your prospective employers. If they don't have enough of those qualities, then turn them down.

Sleep on it When you get a job offer, you don't have to accept it instantaneously. If you're unsure about whether you want to take it, ask if you can respond in a day or two. Take that time to consider whether you really want that job.

There's a rule of thumb in (women's) clothes shopping - "if you don't absolutely love it in the store, you'll hate it when you get home." I think the same principle applies to most jobs, as well. If you have doubts for whatever reason about a company, then don't take the job. Before you get hired, no one's out anything except a little time and you're not as likely to burn any bridges. Could you have potentially missed out on something really awesome? There's a slight chance, but to be honest, it's not likely that the company you just turned down would be the next Google or Facebook, and even if they are, there are tons of other opportunities to get in on something else that's really cool.

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    Here's a link to the Joel test, for those who aren't familiar. – employee-X Aug 29 '16 at 2:11
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The best time to quit is the first time you think about it. Don't sit around and try to convince yourself that you like something. You won't be productive, you won't be useful, you'll just be a drain on your team. If you find you can't settle down, then start hitting up the small startup world and try to make friends with someone looking to start something new. I would strongly recommend getting involved with projects outside of work that complement your professional life. I work on several opensource projects and interactive art projects that convey my dedication to potential employers. Don't settle for second best. No I'm not a recruiter, nor would I want you working with me, unless you're really good.

  • Note: Get a new job THEN quit. But to a certain degree there is merit here. If you are genuinely unhappy with a job it'll wind up reflecting your work, home life, etc. Dragging on a job you're unhappy with could be more costly than a job hop. Note: Don't be a repeat offender. If you contemplate switching jobs when <condition> before you start a job, well you already have a problem... – RualStorge Apr 17 '14 at 18:27
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If you've never stayed anywhere for at least a year that would make even me a little skeptical and I haven't stayed anywhere for over a year and a half in the course of a 6 year career. Just make sure you clearly label contracts in your resume so they don't assume you're just getting canned all the time. It's not uncommon for developers at the lower experience levels to do a lot of contract work.

Another thing to keep in mind is code culture. I'm a JavaScript dev. We're flighty mercurial bastards and everybody knows it. Java... I think the only time somebody raised an eyebrow at my own resume for being a little jumpy, it was a Java dev.

As others have pointed out, it seems like your real problem is that you're not identifying the stinkers before you start working at them. But what you may not have considered is getting them to out their crummy culture for you by trying my patented self-filtering approach by basically committing what a lot of people tell you is interview suicide.

Be Excessively Honest About Why You've Jumped Around

This might turn your flightiness into an advantage. Tell them point-blank that you're picky and people keep offering you new jobs at points where you get tired of the old ones and that you're hoping to find the right fit for a change because you'd like to get some years+ work on your resume. You obviously don't have problems finding new gigs so it could give a good impression of your skills at the interview. Or they'll decide that you don't have what they think of as "loyalty" which often means they want someone who can trudge daily through pointless mediocrity with no way to correct obvious duh problems with process that are making it impossible for you help them create a more competitive product because management is 100% down-hill with zero reverse-accountability. (not that I'm thinking of anyone specific) But that fits your (likely) goals of not working for wankers so there you have it.

At at Least One Point, Tell Them Why They Shouldn't Hire You

"Don't hire me if months out from now it seems likely I'll just be perpetually pruning symptoms on a disaster of a code-base rather than actually fixing the real root problems and solving the occasional new one. I get bored and distracted when that's all I'm doing and you won't like me as an employee at monthe #5 of doing that."

This level of honesty is something they can't not respond to. Usually when that's the reality of their workday experience they won't try to sell it to you as such but they sure as hell won't hire you when you expressly told them you will suck if they do and that really is the way things are at their workplace even if they only acknowledge it deep down in their subconscious.

Be Very Straightforward About What You're Good At and What You're Not Good At

This either impresses people or it makes them hate my guts and think I'm an arrogant twit on the one hand and someone who's not serious about trying to get the job on the other. So you'll never work for a total tool/hypocrite who's heavier on judgment than critical thinking basically. More importantly if you have a good self-assessment of your abilities, they'll trust you're being honest about your strengths because everybody tries to downplay their weaknesses and that will make every little bit of evidence corroborating you are what you say you are all the more believable. And once again, they won't hire you to do things you're not good at and don't want to be good at because you told them that you're not and that you don't.

Honesty, Honesty, Honesty

It's really the core rule. Treat it like a matching process where you want them to know as much about what's not going to work for you as what is, and where you present yourself in such a manner that they might be able to identify that you won't be a fit for them and will simply leave in 2-3 months (because you can and said you had in the past). And that's a good thing. You don't want jobs you're not a good fit for. So stop trying to win the interview. You appear to be a good at that. Just give them every reason they may or may not want to hire you. If you're lucky they might start being equally honest with you. I can only imagine that that's the day I'll find a place I want to work at for 5+ years but the strategy has found me the first jobs that lasted beyond contract-to-hire phases where I wasn't ready to commit sepuku after a few months and stuck it out for a year+.

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Only if it's not reflected on your resume.

If they see you with 2 months stay in one job and another couple months in another job then they probably not going to hire you.

BUT, you don't have to put those down. You still need some resume fodder to make your resume look good like a year or two years at a job. Having few of these long term jobs will make your resume look good.

Unless of course your skill is highly in demand they might over look that. Or if it's contracted work then you should state that on your resume.

  • 3
    Hi mythicalprogrammer. Welcome to The Workplace SE! To avoid downvotes, you should add facts or references to back up your answer as an edit. Alternatively, you can back up your answer by sharing experiences that happened to you personally. This will help give your answer some credibility and avoid it from possibly being removed at the community's discretion. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Mar 1 '13 at 5:35

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