The scariest question recruiters ask is, “How long have you been with your current (or previous) employer?”
Many people believe the job search myth that it is acceptable, even expected, to change jobs every two years. Or that the current downturn in the economy somehow forgives the resume that indicates short stints at recent jobs.
The fact of the matter is, most recruiters (and hiring authorities) won’t even consider a candidate with a pattern of very short tenure. Their clients don’t want to hire them and recruiters do what they are asked. And lately, according to the Wall Street Journal, some employers insist recruiters only interview those currently employed. They won’t waste time interviewing you because they know they can’t place you. No amount of cajolery or conniving can change this outcome.
Even when there are, what you believe to be, perfectly good reasons for your brief stays, prospective employers still don’t want to consider you because they assume you make bad decisions or decisions made without research. Or worse, they cling to the belief that in times of a layoff, only the best are retained. Net: employers and recruiters consider only candidates with a solid track record.
Does this mean you won’t be considered for the best jobs if you have a few short stints? That depends on the whole picture; if you had seven years at one company and only 18 months at another, there is a certain balance. Your next job must be a keeper to cancel out the 18 month job.
Excellent performers tend to stay in their jobs three to five years. They live with the results of decisions they make and they learn from their mistakes. They implement course corrections, bring in new resources and in general, learn how to survive. And that’s why they are valued by prospective employers. People with short tenures are not seen as people who have that very core experience. Your time in service is a vital part of your appeal to a future employer regardless of the good reasons you lack that golden credential.
What’s a candidate to do? If resumes reflect jobs with companies that were acquired, moved, closed or downsized they are still viewed as a job hopper’s history. You want a job and you have credentials valuable to employers. Get to know prospective hiring authorities outside the hiring venue.
Volunteer, go to events where they may be found. Amp up your networking to include the country club and distance biking groups. Anything that exposes you to prospective champions and hiring authorities who can get past your tenure issue because they now know you. Your networking efforts have never been so important. [For ideas on networking scroll down to view the Sneak Peek section of the Products page.)
Don’t let this happen again. Do what you can to make your next job a keeper. Forego what you have to in order to land a job where you know you can be successful and the company will probably be around in five years. Consider your next job in terms of building your career, not just landing a job. And if you want to prevent your recent short tenure from becoming a job search issue, learn to manage your career through personal branding.
It behooves any candidate to vet the company and their manager carefully before accepting any job. Use glassdoor.com and other corporate sites to learn what you can about the company, the management and their market.
Hoovers.com or Vault.com and search engines like Google and Yahoo! all prove valuable when researching companies online. Other research tools are magazines, periodicals and other publications such as Fortune, Forbes, Black Enterprise, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Jungle Media, Hispanic Business, Working Mother, to name a few.
Through best-of and worst-of lists and other featured articles, these publications provide current research on companies. If you are a LGBT candidate, use sites like Outandequal.com to learn about companies with a good track record in human rights.
Consider your longevity with an employer an investment in your career. People with who stay five years always trump those with that mythologically acceptable two year history. You have to love those odds.
Because I posted a link to this post on LinkedIn, I received more than a few comments saying it just isn’t fair and how dare I suggest people need to stay in jobs more than 3 years. I am not proposing indentured servitude; I suggest vetting a company so you can be successful and want to stay in order to repair the damage on your resume.
This isn’t so much advice as it is a report on reality. I don’t make the rules. I do help folks work around them. This economic climate can mean many people have a short tenure somewhere, but if it isn’t a pattern, it is not an issue. And that’s the point. Employer’s look for patterns and have a model in mind when they hire.
If there have been long stints where the deliverable is traceable to the candidate, the point is moot. I have four senior executive clients at the moment. Two have been with their employer 5+ years. Jobs come to them. Recruiters and corporations contact them weekly. My job is to help them put their best foot forward, evaluate opportunities and negotiate their best deal.
The other two have less than 3 years in their last four jobs, all for perfectly good reasons. They network ferociously to get interviews and recruiters don’t treat them well. The only companies interested in serious courtship tend to be second tier companies with second tier compensation. My job is to help them with networking and messaging; marketing themselves and creating a solid personal brand.
I don’t make this stuff up. While we can certainly accuse and berate those employers who expect a resume to show tenure, such dialog does nothing to change the reality. And we can’t hold recruiters accountable for this issue. They are paid to execute on their client’s wishes.
Employers can and do get new employees, especially executives, with a visible track record. That is their insurance against failure. Or so they believe.