there is one constant conundrum in the profession of a recruiter as well as for our clients and our candidates. It is the problem of having too many jobs in a short period of time. We’ve known some organizations that consider more than two jobs in five years to be excessive. Most people would agree that three jobs in three years is problematic. A hiring authority and his or her company are looking to minimize risk. A candidate with three jobs in three years is considered a risk. Most hiring authorities assume that, no matter what the reasons, a candidate with that kind of record is only going to be with their company for three years.
candidates with short tenure and companies will always have “reasons” for why they left or were forced to leave. Some are more valid than others. Some of our clients simply won’t, under any circumstances interview a candidate who has had three jobs in three years. I understand.
but the truth is that the complexion of business has rapidly changed over the years. Companies are more fluid than they have ever been… Ever! Feature the facts:
- in 1973 (the year that I got in this profession) the average company in the United States was 59 years old.
- in 2012 the average company in the United States was 15 years old.
- In 2014 the average company in the United States was 12 years old.
- the average turnover rate of a survey of 40,000 businesses in the United States was 15%
- average turnover rate for small businesses was close to 20%
- the average job in United States lasts 2.5 years
think about it. Businesses come and go faster than they ever have in turnover rate is as great as it’s ever been.
I spoke to one of our hiring authorities, Danny, just yesterday who claimed that he just didn’t want to see any candidates that had more than two jobs in the last three years. He said that they would be with him for about that amount of time and he just wouldn’t interview anybody like that. Danny stated that he was 55 years old and it only had two jobs in the last 25 years. He couldn’t understand why people these days would have so many different jobs in short periods of time. In other words, why weren’t more people like Danny? Well, Danny was a performer but he was also lucky!
I explained to him the above statistics. Companies come and go faster than they ever have. The candidate whose company got bought, shutdown or merged may be a really good employee. His or her reasons for leaving the job may not have anything to do with them, but the company that they were working for. Danny reflected for a moment and admitted that his company, a few years earlier, had bought another company and laid off 60% of the people in that company because there was a duplication of jobs.
Danny and all of the other hiring authorities out there with the same mentality might want to reconsider a candidate’s “too many jobs.” To eliminate a candidate carte blanche without investigating as to exactly the reasons for the job instability is not only unfair to the candidate but shortsighted on the part of the hiring authority.
Having said all of that, however, a candidate with three jobs in three years had better have some really good reasons for leaving the companies they have left. “It just didn’t work out,” or “they just didn’t know what they were doing” or “we just couldn’t agree” or “they just didn’t pay enough, so I left” or “I got fired”… (You get the drift)… ARE NOT good reasons for leaving a job. When a prospective employer hears things like this they automatically dismiss the candidate. their attitude is that the candidate will leave them for the same stupid reasons they left the last people they were working for.
On top of that, some candidates are simply attracted to risky organizations. They become serial risk takers with their jobs and wind up with more jobs in a short period of time than most employers like. I’ve placed some candidates with risk oriented attitudes who wound up becoming millionaires because they caught our clients at the right time in their evolution. I have to admit, though, that I have placed many more who took a risk and wound up calling me again in 12 or 18 months explaining that the company was no longer around. Free enterprise is a wonderful but treacherous experience.
Here’s the lesson. “Too many jobs” is relative. Just because a candidate has had three jobs in three years doesn’t mean that he or she be on his next job for only one year. The important thing to do is investigate thoroughly the reasons the candidate left the jobs he has had. Dig deep, check references thoroughly. You may end up eliminating the candidate with too many jobs but at least you’ve given yourself, and him or her, the benefit of the doubt. And every once in a while you may uncover a real gem.
A year or so ago, I was reminded by one of my associates that she had way too many jobs before she came to work here. She was a top producer and retired from here after 14 solid years.
P.S. just got an email from a potential candidate, “my former employer just shut down US operations in November and while they offered me a role in Mumbai, India, I live here in Dallas with my family and we cannot relocate.” It’s his second job in three years.