Why I don’t care about some short term stints on a resume – and why you shouldn’t either

Years ago when I started my career in Talent Acquisition, one of the first “lessons” I was taught was to look at the time period of how long someone stayed at a company on their resume. The prevailing thought was that if the person was 1 – 2 years at a company a few different times in their career then they were a pattern “jumper”. It was said that this meant ultimately that if you hire them they will leave your company too in 1 – 2 years. Rinse, wash, repeat. This thought track has certainly not changed or adapted over the years, and I think we are all slow to evolve on this one as an industry. From this writer’s point of view, it seems as if we are harkening back to a time that we don’t want to let go of, like a baby with its binky. Today is a totally different work climate. New opportunities are coming available constantly and career growth is on hyper-drive. What used to take years to accomplish career wise is now being accomplished in half the time these days with fast track promotions and expanding roles and responsibilities. The “expertise” climate of need is constantly evolving – what’s hot skill wise today has changed dramatically from even just 5 years ago. Skills are in hot demand and companies are pulling out all the stops to attract talent. The days of the “company watch” at 25 years of service is gone folks, and the bond of “employer loyalty” has long since been broken – on both sides. Curiously though – we refuse to let go of this common knowledge when it comes to reviewing resumes.

What would you think if you saw this resume today with 9 different jobs in 23 years? 5 of them 1 year and one 2 year stints? See below:

Organization 1 (7 yrs)
Organization 2 (5 yrs)
Organization 3 (4 yrs)
Organization 4 (2 yrs)
Organization 5 (1 yr)
Organization 6 (1 yr)
Organization 7 (1 yr)
Organization 8 (1 yr)
Organization 9 (1 yr)

I can tell you 90% of folks in Talent Acquisition would have some serious pause about this person, especially with all the short stints. This resume probably wouldn’t make it past the initial review phase in most applicant tracking systems. Now – what if I told you this was the resume of Rich “Goose” Gossage – Hall of Fame pitcher and considered one of the greatest relievers in history? Teams that needed a great reliever certainly weren’t thinking “Well, Goose has a ton of talent, but he only spent one year with a few different teams”. Baseball does a lot of things wrong, but one thing they definitely do right is understand that a career is not made up by how long you stayed at a company or team. They understand your career is your own personal business. We simply cannot expect people to treat their careers any differently than we would expect a company to treat their own business- to excel and succeed. If any company had the opportunity to better itself in revenue or through acquisition or terminating a toxic partnership – you better believe that company would do it in a millisecond. Yet there is an incredible hypocrisy in how the same standards to an employee (better pay, better career opportunity, better culture fit) is looked at negatively. If a business is savvy enough 1 – 2 years into a bad partnership to exit it that partnership it is looked at as being decisive and business savvy, while an employee who enters a bad partnership and exits after 1 -2 years is looked at as a “jumper” and flight risk. Color me confused.

On top of this, we now have statistical data that shows quite clearly that people who leave jobs every 2 – 3 years actually out-earn their compatriots who stay at companies long term. They are getting increases in salary that easily outpace the 3 – 5% average increase “loyal” employees get on average every year. Let’s go back to the business view of this. If a company had a steady increase of revenue at 3 – 5% every year and kept doing the same thing? Probably not the next Apple. Now – the company who goes from 3 – 5% to 10 – 15%? You get the point.

Now don’t get me wrong – if there is a clear pattern of leaving companies due to issues like lack of or under performance, illegalities, hostility, patterns of disruption, etc. then by all means judge away. Also – if a resume is ALL one year stints obviously it is a cause for some serious concern. But I for one refuse to judge a person based on their resume dates unless for the aforementioned reasons. On the employer side, the expectation that a candidate should be with you forever is naive and from a very time long ago. The successful companies celebrate their employees moving on to bigger and better things for the individual. I have seen LinkedIn, for example, celebrate people leaving with their “next play” language and culture. It is no wonder that their alumni look back fondly on their time with the company and continue to espouse them as an employer to prospective candidates. It is also no surprise that the companies that demonize exits of employees have bad Glassdoor reviews and a toxic alumni population.

The times have changed and we need to re-think this issue as an industry. Dismissing candidates with some 1 – 2 year stints on their resume may very well be dismissing some really great and ambitious talent.

Posted on December 1, 2014 in candidate experience, Employment Brand, job posting, Nerd Stuff, Recruiting, talent acquisition, unemployment

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  1. Karen Lalazarian
    February 11, 2015 at 1:53 am ·

    This is the best article Ive ever read. Tank you!

    Ive always been a top performer with many 1.5 -2 yr stints with start up software companies. To not consider me as a valid solid candidate would be a mistake by a potential employer. By the way short time frame stints is very common with many high quality job candidates. Its the employer’s potential loss for dismissing this candidate. Often times, this candidate is resilient, bright, creative, ambitious, hard working and considered the best and brightest in the candidate pool.

    I am a career inside sales rep and there are so many valid solid reasons why one spends 1-2 years at a start up software company. Today that amount of time at a company has become a norm, even for executives.

    Thank you for the enlightening information. Let it be an eye opener for for potential employers.

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