Thursday, November 29, 2007

In today's evolving job market, does frequent job movement adversely impact your job search?

Based on my recent experiences, the short answer is yes! One of the biggest hindrances to a successful job search I’ve seen over my last 12 years as a recruiter has been excessive job movement on a resume. I sometimes hear people say (mostly job seekers) that the standard for job stability in the Bay Area has changed over the last few years: that “nowadays frequent job changes, and a resume that displays abundant job movement has become the norm for the Bay Area job market.”

To some extent I agree with the point that standards for job change have gotten more liberal. As a result of the boom in the late nineties, the volatile nature of Bay Area companies, the growth of consulting/contracting as a career path, and the new standards by which many younger professionals make career choices, exposure and learning based, versus stability based, the standards for job tenure have shortened. In the last few years, I have witnessed a paradigm shift in what is considered “excessive job movement.”

When I first started recruiting in the mid-nineties, having 5 to 10 years at the same job was the desired norm. Nowadays, staying in the same job that long may put candidates at a disadvantage. Their skills might be considered stagnant, not up to date. What most of my hiring authorities like to see these days is a track record of staying in the same job for three, maybe four years. Two years in a job is even considered acceptable. What I’ve also seen is even if there are a few short blips in one’s work history, of say 1 year or 6 months on a job, that could be overlooked, provided there’s a long term employment history that shows stability.

Thus, I have seen a change in the standards for acceptable job tenure. In the last ten years, I believe most employers have gone from expecting 5 to 10 years of job stability to accepting 2 to 4. To me, that’s a huge change, and it’s come as a result of hiring authorities adapting to the influences of Bay Area work culture.

However, I still see job seekers who have a track record of 6 months to 1 year in jobs in the span of a 2 to 5 year period, struggle! In cases like this, I hear hiring authorities from a variety of industries, including technology, asking the question, “why has this person moved around so much?” They express concerns about the candidate’s ability to perform, adapt, be patient, make good decisions, show commitment to an organization, “see the big picture.” Or, “perhaps an employee, who constantly needs to be stimulated with new projects, should consider consulting, or contracting.” All of these are issues I’ve frequently addressed when working with candidates who have excessive job movement on their resume.

The good news for those who have moved around a lot in their career is that Bay Area unemployment is still reasonably low, and we live in an extremely skills based economy. Therefore, if one has up-to-date skills in their field, a good network, and they are able to package their profile effectively, there is a good chance they can garner enough interest in their background to generate interview opportunities.

In January, Alchemy will be delivering a group career program that tackles this subject matter. The program is designed to help job seekers with excessive job movement better position themselves to get interviews, and make themselves more competitive to get job offers. For more information about this program and Alchemy’s career services, please click on the link.

--Steve Hernandez