Few people realize that there are two job markets. One offers ill-defined jobs; the other clear career opportunities.
Consider that around 20 percent of the people in any job category are actively looking to change positions at any given time. Most of these people are willing to take jobs that represent lateral transfers. Most of the other 80 percent are open to changing positions but won’t unless the new position represents a true career move.
While companies actually want to hire people interested in career moves, they continue to advertise jobs. This is the result of a misguided talent-acquisition strategy. As a result, they narrow the field to people who are skills qualified, who are active candidates, and who are willing to take lateral transfers. Since the jobs are ill-defined, it’s not clear that they will be satisfying in the long term.
I contend that this is why the U.S. employment disengagement rate has been at a dismal 70 percent for the past 15 years. To me, easy access to open jobs and too much short-term thinking are the causes. For example, when a job situation becomes difficult or too challenging, it’s easier to change jobs than to work through the problem. As a result, we’ve made job hopping acceptable. This is a problem every job seeker and every hiring manager needs to address and avoid.
I started realizing that short-term thinking was a real problem more than 30 years ago, when a candidate of mine rejected an offer a client was making to accept another one instead. He told me the other offer was for more money (about 5 percent), a better title, and a shorter commute (30 minutes per day), all of which seemed preferable to him despite the fact that this other job was in an old line-industry versus one involving the latest manufacturing techniques.
I told him he was making a long-term decision using short-term information and that he should think about it. He called me the next day, agreed, and accepted my client’s offer. Eight months later he called and thanked me for the short- versus long-term advice. He had just gotten promoted with a big salary increase.
Multiple experiences like this eventually led to the development of the Job Seeker’s Decision Grid, shown in the graphic above. An interviewer can use the grid during the work history review to determine if the candidate is a job hopper or a discriminating career mover. Job seekers can use it too to avoid taking jobs for the wrong reasons. Here’s how.
Determine the reasons for leaving. During the work-history review, ask the candidate why he or she is looking to change jobs. This is the bottom half of the grid. Categorize the person’s answer into either the short-term extrinsic reasons on the left, or the long-term intrinsic reasons on the right. Job hoppers tend to emphasize the short-term problems.
If the person isn’t leaving. Passive candidates and career movers tend to have fewer reasons for leaving. In this case, they might say they’re open to have a discussion about a possible career move.
Validate the reasons for changing jobs. Ask the person what he/she wants in a new job. Most people will say something about career growth. Regardless of what they say, ask “Why is this important to you?” Most people will then tell you their true reasons for leaving.
Job hoppers tend to leave jobs for short-term problems and accept them for short-term positive reasons. This is represented by the upper left quadrant; what a person gets on the day he or she starts a new job–a title, salary, location and company. Career-oriented people tend to emphasize the lack of career growth for leaving a job but every now and then they get seduced by the short-term rewards. To separate the true career movers from the more common job hoppers, you need to dig a little deeper.
Determine the historical reasons for changing jobs. For the past few jobs, ask the candidate why he/she changed jobs and if the new job delivered on the goal. If it didn’t, the person is likely changing jobs again within a year or two. This is what job hoppers generally do. To verify this job-hopper pattern, find out the criteria the candidate used to evaluate each new job. Job hoppers tend to accept jobs based on the short-term positives with little understanding of the actual job duties. Career movers take longer to decide and conduct more due diligence before accepting an offer, but even they make a mistake now and then.
Overall, too many candidates leave jobs for short-term problems and take new ones to obtain instant relief. This job-hopping mentality leads to the vicious cycle of underperformance, dissatisfaction, and excessive turnover shown in the graphic. Even career-motivated people can fall into this trap, being seduced by short-term promises, big bucks, and a nice title.
As I told my candidate many years ago, make sure the new grass is really greener. Don’t make long-term decisions using short-term information. No one should.