Job Stability? The Myths are Debunked!

Every employer and recruiter wants to see job stability on a résumé; and who doesn’t? It is a reflection of how a person was either able to grow within an organization or was able to fend off obstacles in order to remain within a company. There’s nothing better looking on a résumé than seeing how someone started at the bottom/trenches, etc. and worked their way up over a number of years. That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

Some of us have had the ‘luxury’ of fairly stable job careers while others haven’t. As discussed previously, there are many reasons for (perceived) job-hopping. While these last 2-1/2 years have been trying on all of us and have affected many in the job market, there are still those out there who apparently think that nothing has happened in this economy and everything that has happened to workers, positive and negative, are of their own doing.

Let’s break this down. We see many people; good people, out of a job. A recent phone call came from an outstanding and well-respected salesman from a top switchgear company. He was just released as part of a company-wide lay-off. Was it due to poor performance? No-in fact he hit his numbers nine out of ten times. Was it due to a personality conflict? It doesn’t appear so. Was it a numbers-crunching/stockholder issue as the reason that he and 13 others were dismissed? Yes. Did it help that he was with his previous employer for 10 years? Nope.

Now, not every résumé looks like his; and far from it. However when I see talent, I go to bat for candidates nearly every day in convincing companies and hiring managers that simply because someone who either doesn’t have a job today, or has some excessive movement, should not be discounted. But there are always those other people that seem to have a pattern of bad luck. I mean five jobs in seven years are hard to explain away; no matter what the reasons are. I’ve spoken with some people that appear to have a black cat strapped to their leg as they can’t seem to catch a break. I’ve seen reasons that run the gamut from illness in the family, companies just shutting their businesses, terrible management, company relocation down to employee relocation.

Employers are tasked with finding the right employee fits and sometimes they now have to look more closely and find the silver lining. What I have learned in recruiting is that not all résumés are created equally and many of them are just really bad; but they all tell a story. It’s just not that every story is fluid and cohesive. On a résumé, there’s really no easy and comprehensive way of providing information on why people leave their jobs. I now look beyond an ‘unstable-looking’ résumé and try to find what someone has really done and what they can bring to my client. Fortunately my candidates have the confidence in knowing that the ‘real’ story will get out during presentations to clients.

Just as HR people want to see job stability, what about tenures that last too long? There is also the opposite effect in that the hiring manager’s perception for someone who has worked for the same company for 10, 15 or 20 years either 1) hasn’t been exposed to the ‘outside world’ enough, 2) they just haven’t grown enough in their careers to be considered, or 3) they haven’t shown the initiative to be challenged elsewhere. Are those good reasons to discount someone? Maybe but they all are valid. It’s really a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation. Just as the ’40 years and a gold watch’ days are over, the days of employees remaining at their jobs for even 10 years are very scarce; and most of those people are either vested nicely with their companies or have a nice equity plan which keeps them there. I’m now content to see 3-5 years at any given company on a résumé.

I think that some companies are finally coming to the realization that there are always going to be those ‘hiccups’ on résumés from the years 2007-2012 and maybe even out to 2014. Once employees can provide proof that poor job performance (or anything else negative) wasn’t a factor in their movement between companies, then the perception will gradually change to the side of the candidate and the benefit of the doubt will finally go their way. As times change, so do views and opinions. To quote John F. Kennedy, “We would like to live as we once did but history will not permit it.”

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