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Longer Tenures Make Recruiting Tougher

Shortly after I left Tyco Electronics and began recruiting in the electronics industry, I presented a candidate for a technical position heading up R&D for a major electronics manufacturer. The candidate held a PhD from a prestigious university and spent 16 years at a single company, progressing through a series of positions with increasing responsibility.

I was shocked when my client asked “What's wrong with the guy? He has been with the same company for 16 years?” The first thing that came to my mind was “loyalty.” I was surprised that long tenure with a company was suspect when it came to the hiring process.

Job hopping has become so mainstream that staying with a single company for more than three or four years now needs to be justified with evidence of accomplishments and career advancement, much the way job hopping has had to have justification behind it. Some reports say that the average person entering the workforce today will go through as many as 20 jobs in a career.

It's a trend that was true of male workers from the early 1980s through the late 1990s. In that time frame, the average tenure of wage and salaried male employees over 25 years old fell from 5.9 years to 4.9 years. Since 2002, however, the median male tenure actually has grown from 4.9 to 5.5 years. Over that same period, the median tenure of women grew from 4.4 years to 5.4 years. Tenures of women had also grown in the decade and a half when male tenures were falling, but that is largely attributable to a change in the career mix of women that began to favor longer-tenure professions.

Rob Romaine, president of MRINetwork, was quoted recently as saying:

    The 1980's and 90's was a period filled with tremendous opportunity, when employees discovered the power of being free agents and the salary advantages of changing jobs. Since the turn of the millennium, though, the economy has been markedly less stable, and employees have been less likely to seek out unnecessary instability by changing positions.

So, somewhat surprisingly, tenures are growing. For employers trying to find top performers, workers staying in their positions longer means simply finding them becomes more difficult. The longer someone isn't actively in the job market, the older and more out of date their discoverable footprints become. LinkedIn profiles go unmaintained. Resumés in databases grow so old they are irrelevant. Romaine notes in the above referenced article:

    Finding top talent that isn't trying to be found requires constant surveillance and proactive network-building. There is nothing automated about the process and it's challenging for an internal recruiting apparatus to proactively build a pipeline for key positions that a company may only be hiring for every few years.

I'd like to get EBN readers' thoughts regarding increasing tenure. Are you seeing it in your space? Is it a positive trend? And do you think company in-house recruiters are adept at finding talent not always wanting to be found?

6 comments on “Longer Tenures Make Recruiting Tougher

  1. ITempire
    October 21, 2012

    @ Carla

    These days even people working in the best of the companies are looking for a job trying to encash their employer's brand name so let the people in medium repo companies be. So if someone hasnt been able to make a switch, recruiter is likely to doubt the potential of the person though it would be unfair. I believe loyalty is something that should be greatly valued if the recruiter is able to assess that not switching a job was intentional. Most people would lie to that so recruiter has to be careful. 

  2. Anna Young
    October 21, 2012

    Carla, The employment market is forcing people to remain at their current jobs. However, we should on no account assume this is a sign they are satisfied with their current job status or their current employers for that matter. If, and when, the market situation changes, you can bet people will leave in droves.

  3. _hm
    October 21, 2012

    It is very difficult criteria. It is better to read full resume and find alternate way to judge him and her. Working in one organization for two decades should not at all considered bad.

  4. elctrnx_lyf
    October 22, 2012

    Certainly there seems to be a reason for considering long tenures as disadvatages. An employer employee relationship depends on lot many things more than work opprtuniites and career advancement. But this will change from case to case basis and certainly there is no single best assessment tool available to recruit a candidate.

  5. Carla Mahrt
    October 23, 2012

    In general, I recommend that employers (as well as recruiters) take the time to dig deeper into a resume to explore the story behind the job experiences.  It's really only at that point can you understand whether job hopping or conversely long tenure mar or enhance the resume.

  6. t.alex
    November 1, 2012

    Being a job hopper myself, I agree some of the points here. I realize some people still stick to the same company due to being too comfortable with the company itself. Some companies do reward promotions to long-staying staff though. 

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