How Many Jobs Are Too Many?

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Aug 6, 2015

In this day and age, with a “rent-an-employee” corporate mentality, many candidates have résumés with what some interpret as too many jobs. In fact, many good candidates often get rejected because a company believes that someone with, say, four jobs in six years, cannot be a long-term hire.

It just isn’t so.

No candidate should be outright rejected for this reason, at least not without a simple phone screening, especially if that candidate has been vetted and screened by a reputable outside recruiter or by a reliable friend or trusted employee.

Many companies, particularly advertising agencies, find it easier to simply lop off an entire account group – creative, media, account managers, planners, etc. – if an account is lost. That is easier and less time consuming than actually evaluating people and keeping the best as once was done. Consequently, many really good people find themselves on the short end of the stick – often multiple  times.

Also, there are some good candidates who get on a carrousel of failing companies or companies which run into trouble or companies that lose business or which are constantly in flux and reorganizing. It happens. There are too many advertising agencies and other marketing companies who hire employees for a specific account or for a specific situation. If the account leaves or the situation is resolved, the candidate is often asked to leave through no fault of their own. And their candidacy should not be judged based on this.

There is no question that some employees are job-hoppers. Or they are perpetually a “consultant” which is often a cue that someone has been hired frequently and does not work out. This can be evident from reading the résumé carefully or it can be easily checked during a routine pre-screening reference.

No question that a 35-year-old with 12 or 14 years of experience who has had eight jobs, has some issue which is indicative of, perhaps, instability. But on the other hand, someone who worked at a company for eight or 10 years and then has had three jobs in five or six years should be looked at more carefully. Perhaps those companies have or had issues, not of the candidate’s fault. Perhaps their reasons for taking and losing those jobs are very valid and indicate nothing more than bad luck.

Contrary to some thinking, long-term employment at one or two companies is not indicative that they will stay at a new company for a long period. It just may mean that the timing was right for them and the situations in those jobs aligned making sense that the employee should stay. It behooves an interviewer to determine why that person remained at previous employment and to assess whether the new company can provide a similar experience.

Many potential employers tell me that they are looking for long-term new people, but they have not really put into place either the opportunity, or the program to keep those new people motivated to stay.

(There is an opposite issue which I would like to mention. Someone who has stayed at a company for 20 or 30 years may have stayed too long to be able to adapt to a new environment or culture.  That, too, needs to be carefully evaluated and explored.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that an average worker will have about 11 or 12 jobs in a lifetime.  Average tenure is 4.7 years. I am sure that in advertising and marketing the number may be higher and, more often than not, candidates are not responsible for jobs coming to an end.

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