The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

May 09, 2017

Despite Job-Hopping Trend, Employee Stability Deserves Hiring Managers’ Respect


Photo by Antoine Gady.

Abacus Group’s recruiters have seen an acceleration in “job-hopping”—holding a relatively high number of positions in a short period of time. As the days of a “job for life” have passed, the opposite phenomenon has come about. Applicants who have held eight full-time roles in 10 years are no longer a rarity.

How prevalent are these rapid job changes, and, more importantly, how should hiring managers react? Is it smarter for hiring managers to favor candidates with a diverse background in multiple companies and industries? Or should candidates who exhibit stability receive priority?

Although Accounting & Finance Executive Recruiter Brian Regan has noticed a definite increase in job hopping, he continues to encounter candidates with stable professional backgrounds as well. In contrast to the individual with eight jobs in a decade, a “stable” candidate is someone who, at the 10-year-mark in their career, is working for approximately their third employer, according to Brian.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics via the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that, while job tenure is dropping, the decline is surprisingly small. “Median employee tenure…was 4.2 years in January 2016, down from 4.6 years in January 2014. It’s the first dip recorded by the biennial survey since 2000.”

Further, Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Indeed, tells SHRM that there is not necessarily “more employee churn in today’s workforce than in previous decades…Over the past 30 years, job tenure has been relatively stable.” Moreover, the country’s recovery from the Great Recession in 2014 and 2015—which were “the strongest two years of job creation since 1998 and 1999”—has fueled workers’ confidence to change jobs more frequently.

Numerical evidence demonstrates that the job-hopping trend is not as large as it seems. But John Feldmann, contributing writer for The Business Journals, expresses concern that employee tenure has “become a liability.”

“[T]here is a downside for those less mobile workers. When they finally decide to seek new opportunities, they realize what was once a sign of success is now considered a weakness,” Feldman writes. “[But] [e]mployees with extensive experience and years of institutional history can greatly benefit a company.”

Brian Regan and others at Abacus Group share Feldman’s sentiment; a candidate with a stable background has a lot to offer.

He or she has demonstrated a relatively high degree of loyalty to his or her past employers and, therefore, presents less of a flight risk to potential companies. Hiring is an expensive and time-consuming process. Few employers can afford to refill a position annually; this makes the stable candidate a safer investment.

Additionally, this type of candidate is less concerned with compensation than his or her job-hopping peers. One reason professionals change jobs so frequently is the regular advancement in salary. A monetary focus is a red flag to hiring managers; employers require assurance of a candidate’s passion for the job.

Finally, by reducing one’s career to just a few employers, there is an immense opportunity for challenges and internal growth. Staying with the same company for, say, four years, provides the opportunity for promotions and increased responsibility. It also allows a professional to develop a thorough understanding of business cycles, to observe ups and downs, and to learn how to respond accordingly. 

At the same time, a candidate who has remained in the same position for too long is not particularly valuable to prospective employers, Brian notes. Someone who has been completely stagnant for seven years—without promotions, new responsibilities, or other changes—presents risks like inflexibility or a lack of ambition to do more than the bare minimum. Thus, the objective for hiring managers and recruiters, as partners, is to identify candidates who can immediately make an impact while providing long-term value to the organization.

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