Employment History – Let’s Take a Look in the Mirror

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Employment history has been a long standing requirement in regards to applying for a job and being taken seriously for the position that you are applying for. It tells the recruiter or hiring manager what you have done, for how long, and with what organization, all in the hopes of assisting them determine, just initially looking at your application or resume, whether or not you meet the minimum requirements of the position.

What Employment History Tells us

However, employment history usually also tells us a little more in way of longevity. How likely is this candidate going to work for me over “x” duration of time based on their longevity with previous employers? Many recruiters look at longevity as a crucial component of whether or not they want to consider someone – heck, I couldn’t agree more. Who wants to employ someone who has had fifteen jobs in a matter of a year? I surely would not.

Yet I am starting to see a shift in the workforce when it comes to employment history. Yes, you can still find those people who have a decent track record of employment history (i.e., four years at this organization, three years here, etc.), but what is becoming increasingly alarming is the number of people – across all generational groups – with sporadic, broken employment history. Why is this?

There are a couple of reasons I have seen the uptick in sporadic, broken employment history:

  1. Economy – the economy has not been nice to workers over the past four to five years. Therefore, it is understandable if layoffs have impacted someone’s work history
  2. Choice – more and more people are making the choice to leave their employers – pay sucks, boss mean, etc. However, many have made the choice time and time again without any real duration of employment at an organization

The latter of these two – choice – is what I am concerned with. It is important for you to be happy in what you do and where you work, but having a new job every nine months tells me part of it might be you. Even more concerning is a lot of the people I see with the many changes in jobs are industry colleagues (i.e., recruiters, HR generalists, etc.). And HR is typically the first group to condemn a candidate for poor employment history.

As I see it, it is time for us to take a look in the mirror.

Give it Some Thought

I know Generation Y has changed the workforce in way if they are not happy, they will talk with their feet. But have we ever given it some thought that eventually there won’t be a job for them to go to – the options run out. And unfortunately, it is proving true day in and day out in today’s economy.

With any relationship, it requires some give and take. The work relationship is no different. Sure there are going to be situations where the boss makes us unhappy or we do not get our way on a project, but is this a reason to quit your job every six to nine months? No, it is not.

Instead, take these opportunities you face in the workplace and grow your skill sets. Make yourself a stronger player in the mix. Work with a mentor to get some perspective. Take charge of your development and growth versus always walking way. Keeping in mind, all this takes some time – nothing will happen overnight.

To get some reflection on your employment history, take a look at your resume? Would you initially consider you for a position simply based on your employment history? If your answer is no, then let’s work on that!

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  1. While in principle I agree with this piece, I must take slight exception. We are living in a world where the technological and economic changes over the past twenty years have occurred more quickly and been more far-reaching than ever before in modern history. Any ideas that cling nostalgiacally to the good old notion that the longer one stays at any job, the better, are simply that (nostalgia) at best and at worst, counterproductive in the greater scheme of overall employment and US productivity. Companies nowadays turn on a dime. They remake their entire business model every time a new wrinkle appears on the face of the global economy. They shift workforces from one continent to another in a matter of weeks. They can, and do, completely reconfigure their org charts in even less time in the wake of any merger or acquisition. And the best companies do these things constantly, and as shareholders, that’s precisely what we want them to do.

    IT professionals around the world have gotten used to this trend, and many of them have resumes that are dated in terms of months rather than years. We all know that staffing and technology are the two areas in any large organization that will change most frequently. Yet we still hold fast to the idea that recruiters and other HR specialists are supposed to spend four or five years at every job at a minimum. Groupthink of this type keeps overworked staffers, managers and entire organizations stretched too thin when they need to add talent and it also keeps plenty of talented people on the sidelines when they could be contributing. I am reminded of the guy who decries manufacturing jobs being outsourced who does all his Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart every year.

    matt mcdonald |
    • Hi Matt,

      I can agree with many of the points you make and to your point, more professionals (HR, IT, Ops, etc.) are realizing that consideration has to be given to workers with less than stellar employment history because that is the nature of today’s workforce game. However, stability is still crucial. If you are hopping ship every year, why would an employer want to take a gamble on you? Especially since it usually takes people a minimum of six months to learn the business. Therefore, I only get six months or so of good work.

      Understandably, I know organizations today change staff often. Again, that is the nature of today’s workforce game. If you are unfortunately caught in that mix of being laid off, my point is to ensure you also define why you were let go if it is a situation where you were laid off. That at least explains the short tenure with an employer.

      To your point of more organizations flipping staff these days, this is the reason why more orgs are hiring contract workers versus full-time workers. If they recognize this is what they do, then why employee FT people? But again, define on resumes/apps that it is contract work. Otherwise, my belief is that you just cannot hold a stable position and I can tell you no recruiter is going to call 400+ people on initial review of resumes to verify if the person was rotated out or if they just quit.

      Chris Ponder II |
  2. In Ghana where the pay cheque can
    barely feed the employee, walking out of
    low-paid jobs for better ones is a necessity
    just to keep body and soul together.
    To follow a nice “eomployment history” will
    only ruin the employee’s economic life.
    Recruiters and HR managers should know that the
    relevance of employment history depends partly
    on economic factors of a region as well as the
    academic background of the worker. Thus it
    would be better to interrogate the employment
    history of a job applicant rather than a blanquet

    John Awute |
    • Hi John,

      Every location is different and that can come into play when recruiters are reviewing resumes. I do understand that people have to make a better life for themselves, but to your point of walking out of a lower-paid job for a better one, does this occur even if you just worked there for a couple of days, month, what?

      If a recruiter gets 400+ resumes/apps for a job, do you really see it feasible to go through and call every person to get clarity on their employment history?

      Chris Ponder II |
  3. As an internal recruiter I think while 15 jobs a year might allude more to the candidate’s instability, it surprises me the number of candidates who have have short tenures or are even not currently working and don’t explain WHY in a cover letter… We understand things happen sometimes personally, sometimes to the company but if candidates don’t tell us WHY we can only make assumptions, can’t we?

    Vanessa |
    • Hi Vanessa,

      I cannot agree with you anymore. To your point, I am not against someone who has had short tenure in positions, just be able to explain it and quickly.

      And yes, candidates need to explain gaps. I see it more and more today that candidates fill out applications half hazardously and don’t put reasons for leaving jobs. When a recruiter gets 400+ applications, they don’t have time to call everyone to see why they left some place.

      Chris Ponder II |

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