Job hopping: Career crack for losers

Over at Business Insider, Mark Suster laid down a rant: Never Hire Job Hoppers. Never. They Make Terrible Employees. A buddy of mine sent it along and said she thinks it’s entirely one-sided from the employer’s perspective.

I don’t endorse everything Suster says in his posting (he says a lot), but I think he’s generally right.

Any job hopper who’s fool enough to be one of 1,000 resumes on some manager’s desk deserves to be dumped into the trash can. Gimme a break — your work history shows you bounce around like a ping pong ball and you expect a manager to overlook it until she gets to meet you in person to see what a wonderful, unique individual you are and that your job hopping was due to extenuating circumstances that you can explain, given the opportunity?

Just stick a fork in your butt — trust me, you’re done. You not only job hopped, you’re advertising it to the world by applying for jobs with a resume. Do you really expect a manager is gonna “understand” when she doesn’t even know you? You are revealing that, on top of being a job hopper, your judgment sucks.

(If you try to hide your job hopping on your resume, you’re gonna get busted. Those clever techniques for obscuring when and where you worked — they make you look like you’re hiding something. Which you are. So cut it out.)

Does this mean your career is over? Of course not. I write this blog to help people deal with in-your-face problems, and this is one of them. But that fork sticking out of your butt — it’s real, and it hurts, and pulling it out is gonna hurt even more. There is no easy fix.

I’ve never known a job hopper who was not in pain. And I’ve never known a successful professional who wished he had five jobs in a six-year career. The fix is not to sell a little career crack to job hoppers and tell them that we envy their exciting lives. The fix is to help them become more stable and to build a healthy reputation.

Two suggestions:

  • First, toss out your resume. Trash it yourself, before an employer trashes it for you. And I don’t mean you should get a better resume. I mean, Stop using a flyer that says KICK ME on it. Period. No resume. Search for a job strictly through personal referrals and face-to-face contacts which enable you to make your case before your butt is kicked into the can.
  • Second, find a place to work where you can stay put. Penelope Trunk — who tells you loyalty doesn’t matter and job hopping is good — is sticking a needle in your vein, pumping you full of happy juice, and leaving your career to die while she drives off to the bank to deposit the GoogleAds checks she collects for advertising career crack to confused GenY’s. Stay off the juice. Stay put. Establish a reputation. Then trade on it.

You don’t have time to do all that hard work to be successful? That’s your problem, not an employer’s.

Now, here’s the coda: You don’t have to be loyal, and the reason might be that employers haven’t been loyal to you. You might have doubled your salary in each of the six hops you made in ten years. You might be the guru of whatever it is you do, free to wander anywhere you like. Good for you. Congratulations.

But when you can’t find your next job because you’re viewed as a job hopper, hop along. Remember that your career record is your own choice.

When Lazy Careerist Penelope Trunk offers you the needle, just say no. Kudos to Mark Suster for delivering tough love to job hoppers who want to get straight, and to savvy professionals who want to stay clean.

(If the distinction between job hoppers and consultants, and between temporary and full-time employees suddenly makes you nervous, check out Journeyman Or Partner?)


Readers’ Forum: Initiative

Discussion: April 27, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A: Last week at the Chicago Booth School of Business I gave the keynote presentation to an alliance of the top 30 Executive MBA schools in the world — including Stanford, Harvard, London School of Business, INSEAD, Duke, UCLA, Northwestern. In attendance were the career center directors from these schools — the folks who coach working professionals about career development and how to get their next jobs.

My topic was The New Interview. And what I discussed was the importance of initiative on the part of the job hunter — executive or otherwise. I told them that the in-your-face question people want an answer to is, How can I stand out?

Without a clear demonstration of initiative, there is no standing out. You’re just another candidate. If you’re an Ask The Headhunter regular, you know what I’m talking about.

What does initiative mean to you when you’re job hunting? If you’re a manager, what have candidates done to demonstrate their initiative to you in ways that matter? (Alternately, how do people blow it? If you’ve got a personal disaster story, please share that, too… we won’t tell anyone… and we might learn something from your experience.)

[UPDATE: Due to lots of requests, today’s edition of the newsletter is now available online: click here.]


How to Say It: Is this a good place to work?

Discussion: April 27, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks How to Say It:

When I’m in a job interview I figure I get very limited time to figure out whether this is a company I really want to work for. (Even if they decide to make me an offer!) So here’s what I’m trying to figure out how to say. What can I say or ask that will give me the best idea of whether a company is going to be a good place to work?

Hey, I know this one with my eyes closed… And I’ll share my suggestion after the rest of you post your ideas. How do I know this is a good company to work for?

How do you say that?


Readers’ Forum: Spanking HR

Discussion: April 13, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A: (Well, it’s not a Q&A!) This week I printed comments about the corporate Human Resources function that bear thinking about. A seasoned HR manager says HR should get out of the business of hiring and recruiting and go back to making sure paychecks have the right amount of money in them.

I agree. I think HR has no business handling recruiting and hiring. In fact, I think HR has a conflict of interest.

What do you think? Can companies get by with managers doing their own recruiting and hiring? Would these functions be better served if HR stopped doing them? Is HR actually doing companies a disservice by mucking around in the hiring process of corporate business units?

I’d like to know what you think. (The full article from today’s newsletter is here: Time for HR to exit the hiring business.)


How to Say It: Can I try again?

Discussion: April 13, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks How to Say It:

I was interviewed but did not get the job. I’ve heard of cases where the right kind of thank you letter has resurrected candidates and led to other jobs in the same company. The format I’ve seen goes like this: “Thank you for interviewing me even if you did not hire me. I am disappointed, but I hope you’ll consider me for other positions in the future.” It sounds kind of hokey to me. There has to be better wording. How would you say it?

It seems simple enough to me, and very clear: I’d like to try again if you’ll have me.

Is there a better way to say it? Have you succeeded at getting a second chance with an employer? How did you do it? How did you say it?


How can I change careers? (audio)

Whether you’re changing careers or changing jobs, your challenge is to make yourself stand out from your competition — and your competition might be fierce. You might be competing with people who are more experienced than you, and whose resumes look better than yours.

In this short presentation (from a recent teleconference), I explain to a group of job-hunting executives what it means to stand out — and how to prove you’re worth hiring into a job that’s new to you.


To learn more about how to carefully select your target companies, how to use a business plan rather than a resume to apply for a job, and how to demonstrate your bottom-line value to a company, check out How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers — it’s a powerful tool for changing jobs.


The down side of job hunting

About 15 years ago, when I first started publishing Ask The Headhunter online, I met a fellow that I’ve stayed in touch with on and off. Recently we renewed our acquaintance — and I encouraged him to start a blog.

He prefers to remain anonymous. He calls his blog Unemployed and Clinically Depressed in the Midwest. I’ll call him UCD. Though his medical diagnosis is “clinically depressed,” what’s notable about UCD is his candor and forthright perspective on who he is, what he’s been through, and where he’s going. He minces no words. UCD doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He reveals both his confidence in his future, and his fears about the things that confront his confidence.

Unemployment exacerbated UDC’s depression, and his story quickly pulls us into a realm that none of us want to look into.

There are a lot of people unemployed. Some get depressed as a result. Some suffered from depression to begin with, and the agony of unemployment has pushed them to the edge. Some jump. Some find the courage to turn around and take a new direction in their lives. Some, like UCD, find strength and power in teaching others — and in learning more about who they are. UCD has taken control of his next steps.

UCD has written a an anti-suicide note to the world. It’s his story, blunt and direct, honest and hopeful. It’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve read: Suicide. It’s about getting up from the down side of job hunting.


How to Say It: Got a fish? We need a fish NOW!

Discussion: April 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader wants to know How to Say It:

One thing that really bugs me about the tech industry is this focus on Skills, as opposed to Ability to Get Said Skills. When I interview for management roles and I am asked about the types of people I hire, I always lead with a comment to the effect of, “I’ve never fired someone because they weren’t technically capable, but I’ve fired people because they weren’t capable of getting the necessary skills.”

I know that I’ve lost at least one opportunity because the interviewer strenuously disagreed with me on that point. (Not that I would want to work in a company that focused on skills as opposed to skills acquisition…) What’s a good way to explain my position? How should I say it?

This is a fine point in management. Do you hire someone who can do exactly this job now? Or someone who can quickly learn how to do this job and the work that comes next, as well?

Many managers are dopes. They’d rather hire someone who brings them a fish, than someone who knows how to catch more fish. (I cover this in more detail in Talent Shortage, or Poor Management?)

How do you explain the difference between having skills and being able to get skills in a job interview? How do you say it?


Readers’ Forum: One page resume?

Discussion: April 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader wants to know:

Are one-page resumes really “the thing?” I don’t feel I can adequately present my strengths on a one-page resume, more like two pages.

Er, ah, I don’t wanna touch this one with a ten-foot pole! Well, I could suggest you not use a resume at all and stop worrying about it… Okay, folks? How long should that resume be?