By Wendy Ferguson – CPHR – Ferguson HR Consulting
Policy, Recruitment, Employee Relations, Legislative Compliance, Executive Advisory, Conflict Resolution, Performance Management, HR Planning and Administration.
March 21, 2017
Some recruiters or employers in the oil patch will label you as a bad hire if they perceive you as a job-hopper. They will search to see if you’ve remained at any one place for more than 3 to 5 years, look for any gaps in work history, anything that looks suspicious…and if your resume isn’t convincing you could very well be tossed aside during the pre-screening process. You may be viewed as high-risk and tagged with a high turn-over cost (estimated to be 16% to 213% of your annual salary, depending on your level in the organization) In other words, you can probably kiss the opportunity goodbye.
To me, there is nothing more irritating than a recruiter or employer starting an interview with, “Why did you leave your last company?” then you answer and they ask the same question again and again until they have exhausted your departure list. Let’s get real here…if you have ever met this recruiter (and most of you have) or this employer, really all they want to know is whether you got fired or if you abandoned ship. Their intent is to gauge if your stunted tenure may be a result of your bad work ethic, ongoing personality conflicts, lack of loyalty, a quick jump for something flashier, or countless other motivators. In my opinion, it’s a negative approach to what could otherwise be a positive and productive interview.
I personally went so far as to write a brief explanation under every company on my resume as to why I no longer work there. It gets a bit much after a 20+ year career, and takes up a lot of space, but I was so tired of the question or, I might say, the judgement.
Many of my colleagues use those search parameters, but I DON’T and here is why…
The world has changed dramatically over the past few decades. It would be an extreme rarity for anyone in 2017 to retire with a pat on the back, an honour plaque and a full pension from a company they have dedicated their life to. [Some do exist, like Eastman Kodak — they boast a median employee tenure of 20 years and half their employees are over 50, but that is the exception and as an interesting and important side note – they foster a “culture of appreciation”]. But the reality is that the very concept of employee-employer long-term loyalty has become nearly obsolete. Lifetime careers and pensions have vanished. The infidelity goes both ways.
Most of us know that the average person changes jobs and careers several times in their life. A 2014 study conducted by Workopolis scanned 7 million Canadian work histories and found that:
- 51% of Canadians have stayed in jobs for under two years
- The average Canadian will switch career paths 2 – 3 times over their lifetime
- Gen Xers average 3.4 years in a job
- Gen Yers average 2.7 years in a job
Some of the world’s leading companies have incredibly low tenure averages, such as Google at 1.1 years, Amazon 1 year and Apple 2 years!
The Workopolis research results contradict Statistics Canada’s recent 2016 report indicating that both full-time and part-time workers remain in jobs for an average of 8.5 years, with Alberta and BC slightly lower at 7.5 and 8 years respectively. Of course some industries vary greatly, like agriculture on one end and hospitality at the other. Regardless, I was in disbelief when I read the 2016 government data because from my direct experience as a recruiter, I would say the average tenure is 1 to 4 years. I see thousands of resumes and I would agree with Workopolis, that job-hopping does appear to be the new ‘normal’.
I am fully aware of the real reasons people usually leave their jobs, and getting fired is absolutely not the leading reason. So why do most people leave a company? Sometimes it is because of a hot economy, and in good times people will leave to advance their careers (I’m not sure I really blame them). Then there is restructuring or downsizing that takes place after an acquisition or merger that frequently results in layoffs. Often, though, employees will leave for a new opportunity because of issues with their boss or management. Lack of appreciation is another huge factor. Boredom, lack of balance, lack of opportunity, company culture, project or contract temporary work terms, job dissatisfaction, stress…the list goes on.
A candidate who has a resume showing they’ve worked for one or two companies over the course of 20 years (I’ve maybe seen this twice) may scream loyalty, devotion and stability. Sure…interview them, but it depends on what attributes you are looking for. Keep in mind they may have also been lucky enough to work for a company that fostered a culture of mutual loyalty. Just don’t cast the job-hoppers aside! These people probably hopped for very good reasons and they can still offer much to an organization. They come with vast networks, they are adaptable to change (critical), they offer a broad range of skills, often are fearless and have incredible drive, diversity and creativity. They are also the majority now, so it’s hard to avoid them in our current market. We need to get used to it.
We’ve all been there, even as recruiters, so we KNOW why people leave companies and why they job-hop. I don’t understand why it is such a surprise? This is why I don’t let it deter me from proceeding with a qualified candidate. I don’t let this factor rule my interviews (don’t get me wrong, if someone was repeatedly fired for misconduct, it would be another story altogether, but I have never actually come across that candidate). My objective has always been to hire for attitude, competency and skill and then focus on retention within the organization, and I will say I have a pretty darned good track record of amazing hires. As I’ve said before, it’s up to the organization to engage, motivate and retain their staff. If you work for a good company, hiring a job-hopper shouldn’t be as much of an issue.
About Wendy Ferguson
Wendy Ferguson is an Alberta based Human Resources Generalist and Consultant with over 15 years of combined experience in the areas of HR, Business Administrative Management and Marketing.
She has worked within a broad range of industries, including: oil & gas, architecture, law, information technology, accounting and business consulting firms. She works with companies on both a full time and part time consulting basis to help them address their HR management, recruitment and policy needs.
For your HR requirements contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Management HR Advisory
Alberta Employment Standards