Over the weekend, I received a desperate email from a friend who was about to go into a 2nd interview with a firm, and she asked me this question:
“I have been asked to explain my short tenures over a series of jobs for the past three years. Help! What should I tell them?”
Oh my, I get this one A LOT. Here’s my reply:
As a recruiter, I would ask you the same question. Short tenures are often red flags. It is quite expensive to hire and train someone if they’re only planning on a short stay.
Answer honestly; were you not learning enough? Were the jobs temp in nature? You need to reassure the company that you’re a candidate that is looking for a “home” and plan on staying for a long time. They need to know that you are not going to leave after 6 months, so be prepared to discuss this issue.
Here’s the Real Deal
Job hoppers (I’m lookin’ at you Millennials) in general, are not “ideal” candidates in the eyes of the company, especially the HR Department. Do realize that one of HR functions is to save the company money, and act as a gate keeper. One of their missions is to reduce turnover and increase retention. So, they want to make GOOD HIRES. That means hiring candidates that are going to flourish and be assets for the company.
The Burden of Labor
Candidates with a track record of jumping from job-to-job or with long gaps in between gigs look like a risk. And HR is risk averse. The cost of hiring someone is their salary, PLUS the “Burden of Labor” which sounds pretty bad, eh? The “burden” part is the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, taxes and fees associated with employees (Federal, State, City and County taxes), and benefits. You can add 9-19% of your salary and that’s the cost to the company of hiring you.
Plan Your Answer
If you were spending that kind of money, per employee, you would want to hire dependable workers too! So, why take the risk of hiring a candidate with a jumpy work history, when the well is so deep at the moment (and maybe forever at this point)? If you make it to a FIRST interview, I am shocked! So, to get to the 2nd interview, you have done something right. Your job in the second round is to ease their concerns about your flight risk. You need a cogent explanation of your past job tenures, and a well thought out answer of why you plan on staying should you be offered the position.
Here’s what you do: WRITE out what you’re going to say. Read it out loud. More than once. Does it sound reasonable to you? If not, make some adjustments. Here are three reasons recruiters/Hiring Managers might understand:
3 Reasonable Explanations of “Why?”
“The job (or jobs) was (or were) a temp position in the first place and I worked for an agency that placed me in several temp positions for the past 3 years.”
“I had the unfortunate timing at these firms as they quickly downsized once I had been there for a brief period; last hired, first fired. I have endeavored to conduct deeper research on companies I interview with since then; hence, this interview.”
“Once I was in these jobs for a short period, I quickly realized I was not a good fit for them. In my journey since I graduated, I have had to pay my student loans, so work of any nature had to fit the bill. I have searched for a “home” where I can contribute and become a valued team member. I truly want my next position, hopefully this one, to be a long-lasting engagement.”
Job Hopping may have happened out of necessity or through no fault of your own, but you will have to answer for it at some point. Unless you start your own business!!
Do you have a career question? Send it to me Kristi.Enigl@gmail.com.
ps. Millennials – I love you no matter what! You may not stay at job for very long, so emphasize what you bring: innovation, sincerity and great attitudes!
A few things job seekers need more info about is how companies recruit and hire. I used to recruit and hire employees for a variety of firms nationwide and internationally. There are several factors that regulate the way companies hire – and I am considering companies of over 50 professional employees for the sake of this blog post. Most companies have a Human Resource office or Personnel Department. While many employees are familiar with the some of the functions of the HR office — recruiting, payroll, benefits and terminations — HR also plays a critical role in the overall business strategy of the company. There are two major functions that the HR office does that job seekers would benefit from knowing.
1. Talent Acquisition
HR is responsible for budgeting, recruiting and filling all the positions in the company. They create budgets based on labor and burden costs, recruiting, training, taxes, etc. They analyze work flow, anticipate work, and contribute to strategic planning to meet company growth goals (or plan targeted reductions). Talent Acquisition goals are to fill high-level positions with top candidates; often they are “poached” from other companies, and have associated costs of signing bonuses and premium benefit packages. Poaching is labor intensive. Cheap? No. Necessary? Mostly. Typically, companies do not hire their top talent from job boards.
So, what does this mean to the job seeker? Unless you are in the fortunate “poached” category, you are trying to get a job by traditional methods, including applying online. Companies save substantial amounts of money in the recruiting process by using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to filter out 95% of the resumes they receive. Otherwise, they would have to pay an employee to MANUALLY sort through 1,000’s of resumes per year. Once the software filter identifies 20 good matches, the search is almost over. So, you can see the odds are against you for obtaining employment via the ATS. Spending an hour filling out your life-story on an automated applicant system is a BIG WASTE OF TIME!
2. Legal Compliance
One of the major functions of HR is to provide legal advice and enforcement in employment law for the company. There are many, many Federal and State employment laws, and International employment laws protecting “foreign skilled workers”. Lawmakers write the laws, and HR monitors and enforces the law! In hiring, companies are not allowed to discriminate based on race, religion, age, gender, ability, etc. Read more on the Title VII, in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is an amazing piece of legislation, and trust me, most countries have no such thing. In the US, there are also sexual and hostile workplace harassment laws, and laws for hiring minorities, vets and women if the company receives Federal or State funding.
LAWS dictate hiring. Companies need to comply, so they implement screening methods as a way to eliminate any possible discrimination in hiring lawsuits. If you have a picture of yourself on your résumé (for the US), most likely, it goes straight into the “no” pile because could be a possible source of discrimination by the company.
If you’re spending your job search time endlessly uploading your photo résumé into Applicant Tracking Systems, the longer it will take to find a job. Try Linked In, or the phone instead.