Recently, we were looking at two candidate's resumes for a senior level position. Each appeared to have the required work experience and education for the job, and appeared to be capable of performing the essential duties for the position. But, one had a history of changing jobs every 18 months for the last 10 years, and the other had been at one company for the last 18 years. I scheduled a call with the hiring manager to discuss both candidates, and attached their resumes to the meeting invitation so that he could preview them before our conversation. When we got on the phone, he said he wasn't really interested in talking to either candidate, based on their longevity with prior positions. I knew where he was going, and why, and was prepared to speak to his concerns because I'd already vetted them with the candidates. But, this situation is so common, I thought it might be one worth sharing with job seekers who might benefit from understanding what sometimes happens "behind the scenes" in the mysterious and frustrating "apply-phone interview-wait-hear nothing-receive decline email" cycle.
What do hiring managers (and some recruiters) conclude from the resume of a person who has changed jobs every 18 months? Here's the ugly truth:
- You can't hold a job; you don't get along well with others; you can't stick with something; you abandon ship when the going gets tough
- You will leave this job in 18 months, too
- You don't know what you want to do; you take the first job offered; you don't ask the right questions in the interview process
- Series of layoffs; company closures/mergers/acquisitions; company relocations/restructures
- Moved with spouse who is primary breadwinner (this is absolutely legitimate for the candidate, but not necessarily reassuring for the hiring manager, see item #2 above)
Ok, let's take the alternate scenario: a candidate who has been with one employer for 18 years. Here's what hiring managers (and some recruiters) are saying behind your back:
- You havn't grown professionally for probably the last 10 years
- You're set in your ways and don't deal with change well
- You only know how to do it one way and haven't been exposed to anything different for 18 years
- Progressive movement up and around the organization; variety of roles in different departments that have kept you growing professionally and personally
- Company worked hard to retain you over the years due to exemplary performance; salary couldn't be matched elsewhere
- Company worked with you during the phases of your life (children, illness, advanced degree programs), earning your loyalty and commitment
Many hiring managers and recruiters operate with these unfair and limiting assumptions, to your (and probably their) detriment. Your best bet is to be aware of them and prepare for them as best you can, on your resume and in your interviews. I haven't even addressed all the unfair assumptions that are being made about people who have been unemployed, due to the economic situation...that's a topic for another day.