Does Job History Matter?

I cut my talent acquisition teeth within the agency recruiting world.  My former employer’s internal hiring strategy is simple; find hungry, motivated, and aggressive individuals with little to no recruiting experience. Break, and then rebuild them using a developed and defined method.  Think of it as a “recruiting boot-camp.”  Similar to the military, you emerge more structured, more processed, and less independent.

 During training, they clearly define what makes a solid resume, ergo a solid candidate. Evaluating a candidate becomes a quantitative process of checking the boxes; the more boxes checked, the better the candidate.  While this dedication to an efficient and accurate recruiting strategy is important, it neglects a fair representation of the candidate’s capability.  When the focus is entirely metric-based, you miss fantastic potential employees because a box wasn’t checked on their profile.  My most favorite example of this mistake is the scrutinizing attention to job history.

As a recruiter, how often have you asked a candidate about their job history in one form of question or another?  Why?  My guess is because you assume past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.  Am I right?

    • Short job history? –– “Job-hopper; they won’t stay committed.”
    • Relocated often? –– “They get bored easily; difficult to manage their insatiable appetite for change.”
  • Quit, laid-off, fired? –– “Forget about it, the best always stay employed.”

As a hiring manager, you have to make educated assumptions on a candidate based on the information you have available to you; resumes, interviews, references, social networks, etc.  But our REAL job is determining the compatibility of the candidate to our company.  Let me give you a couple examples to illustrate the danger of judging someone based on job history.

How many people did you date before finding your wife/husband/partner?  Now imagine if during the dating process, you were out to dinner, and your date said, “Tell me about all the people you’ve dated in your past.  Why didn’t it work out?”  See what I did there?  It’s ridiculous!  As I mentioned in my previous post, finding a job is like dating; sometimes it takes several of the wrong type to find the right one.  Smart people use life and career experiences to learn and grow, becoming better prepared and more qualified for future opportunities.  Just because someone’s past job history isn’t stellar, doesn’t mean they won’t be stellar for your future.
Here’s one for you sports buffs.  Michael Jordan tried out for his high school varsity basketball team during his sophomore year.  He didn’t make it.  At 5’11”, he was considered “too short” to play at the varsity level.  Over the course of the following year, he trained hard, grew four inches, and the rest is history.  Imagine if his high school coach judged and dismissed him based on his performance as a sophomore.  We could have been robbed of the best basketball player to ever grace a jersey!  The game as we know it wouldn’t exist.  I’m using Jordan’s story as a metaphor in this instance.  Like Jordan, all people have the unlimited potential to grow and be great at something.  We just need the right opportunities, the right mentorship, and the right environment to develop.

Agree, disagree?  Let me know your thoughts!

Read More about how to value capabilities and cultural fit over experience in “4 Conversation Starters for the Interview Room.”

recruiter With an educational background in entrepreneurship, Travis Baker’s views tend to build from a broader business perspective.  Born in 1985, he’s a true millennial.  He believes we’re all citizens of a global community, and we have a shared responsibility to society.  His experience as both an agency and corporate talent acquisition professional has taught him that people are the real drivers of business. 

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Travis Baker With an educational background in entrepreneurship, Travis Baker’s views tend to build from a broader business perspective. Born in 1985, he’s a true millennial. He believes we’re all citizens of a global community, and we have a shared responsibility to society. His experience as both an agency and corporate talent acquisition professional has taught him that people are the real drivers of business.
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