A while back, I posted a blog about “Why I Don’t Care About Short Term Stints on a Resume” and the response was all over the place from readers. Some people giving me a “Right on Ed!” and others thinking I just drank a fifth of Jack Daniels when I wrote it, with one person calling me “out of touch with reality”. That one was particularly priceless. The time that has passed has only furthered my resolve – a few short term stints on a resume is more the norm these days than not. Sometimes, we as very fallible humans, make poor decisions for ourselves. Yep – even the best batters in baseball don’t bat .1000 and as job candidates people can very easily join a company or take a role that is simply a bad fit. Why should someone stay in a role for several years they clearly are not happy with – for resume’s sake See “What to do when you immediately recognize your new job is a bad fit”? Yet, there are still recruiters and hiring managers out there who look at this as a negative when evaluating a resume. I just don’t get it and would ask those folks if they ever had found themselves in a similar spot. Yeah – I thought so. Anyhow – lately I see another trend developing with my fellow recruiters and hiring managers that is at the other end of this discussion – long tenures.
As recent as 3 years ago (by “Ed” calculations) long term tenures on a resume were perceived very favorably by employers. “That is one loyal dude/dudette” and “Wow – they must really value him/her” were refrains heard in recruiter/hiring manager conversations around the world. Man – the times they have most definitely changed from what I have seen in the industry these past few years. Lately – and very wrongly I might add – the response has been the exact opposite. Now the view seems to be that people who stay at companies for a long period of time are, for lack of a better term “risk averse”. The sentiment I see these days is that not only are these people not prone to change and risk, but that they have been in “sailing” mode – meaning that they are content in a job that doesn’t challenge them and that they (perceived) are OK with this “sailing” in a comfort zone. Another one I have heard is that these people’s skills have become “stale” by staying at one company for a long period of time. While there is still a sigma against short term stints, there now also seems to be a stigma against very long ones too (and by “long” I mean 8 + years at one company). This, in my opinion, is sheer lunacy on several levels. Let me explain by destroying these opinions, 1 by 1…..
“These people are risk/change averse” – Poppycock. Poppycock 10,000 times over. Did I Just say “Poppycock”? What an assumption for someone to make without talking to and getting to know an individual. You know what they say about assuming, right? Just because someone has chosen to stay at a company for a long period of time does not equate to one being afraid of risk or change. Look deeper at their backgrounds – chances are they have grown and been promoted into different roles and departments over their tenure at the company. Yes – it is still under the same company, but they are indeed taking risks and changes by learning new skills, roles and responsibilities. Of course, there are always exceptions and indeed some folks might indeed be “fat and happy” (aside – if that is a bad thing sign me up!) but on the whole to dismiss a candidate’s resume outright by making assumptions on their willingness for risk or change without understanding their history with that company will no doubt result in you missing out on some truly exceptional candidates who indeed are risk takers. Take the time to actually learn about the person and leave your assumptions at the door.
“Their skills become stale by staying at one company a long time” – I cannot give this as big a “face palm” as it truly deserves. Really?! See the above response. People who stay long term at companies on the whole have continued to be promoted or, most likely if not promoted, they tend to be worked out of a company. Unless my thinking is wrong here, when you are promoted you are asked to do and know things you weren’t doing prior. Hence, they are learning new skills and responsibilities. Now – if the person who stayed at a company for a long time in the same role this may indeed be true, but on the whole the opposite is more likely. They have indeed been learning new skills, but often times the recruiter or hiring manager is too lazy to actually read the resume to see their progression in roles and responsibilities. They often see the “2000 – present” and dismiss them outright. For shame.
I often wonder what exactly hiring managers and recruiters deem the “right” tenure to have at a company. Is it 5 years? Less? More? Let me be one of the few to say on the whole the length of tenure is not nearly as meaningful as the person and their respective stories behind them. How can someone possibly make all of these (often wrong) assumptions by solely looking at how long someone was with a company? Yes – if you see a resume of 6 month tenures every 6 months then there are some flags – but even in a situation like that there may be more to the story – perhaps that person has been a career contractor? Please understand fellow recruiters and hiring managers that most candidates are not professional resume writers. Learn their stories and don’t make broad based assumptions based on your own inherent biases. You might just be missing out on your next great hire.