The Wall Street Journal reports, “40% of all executives leave their jobs within 18 months.” And every one who does potentially causes serious long-term career damage.
Employers believe people who stay in jobs 4+ years are better than those who move around. The first thing anyone who views a resume checks for is the pattern of longevity. Any candidate with a sturdy work history aces those without.
Of five career coaching clients, two had less than 3 years in four recent jobs, two had a pattern staying 6+ and one had 11 years with the same company.
11 years = Job opportunities came to him which were all significantly more senior than current roles. He went from GM to CEO in a 3-month process. He was approached about six unique CEO options and more would have been forthcoming had he not taken a new position. Investors have him on their radar.
6-year pattern = Hiring authorities and investors tapped them for similar roles to the current role with greater responsibilities and or more $$. Any would be significant career moves.
Less than 2 years in more than 2 recent jobs = No one reached out and their job search was long and difficult. Only second tier companies were interested and compensation was not as high as in the other two scenarios. First tier companies where they were referred in only considered these candidates for positions lower than the ones they left.
There are no reasons or circumstances employers accept when faced with a choice between short- and long-tenured candidates. Preserving your resume is critical to your career success and financial gains.
To protect your resume and career, you must avoid taking the wrong job.
Employers are very good at telling an executive candidate what they want to hear. The Board is in on the game and because they pride themselves with hiring the best, tend not to feel one pang of conscience.
How do you know your prospective employer is the right employer for you?
When you interview, everyone is in “sales” mode to keep you interested in working for the company. Even if they tell you about challenges, they don’t tell you the real downsides to working there and every company has downsides. They distract you with manageable issues and encourage you to focus on solutions which are easily achieved. Don’t be fooled.
Why is finding out the dirt so important?
Your career/resume are sacred. Employers want to know you have lived through the results of your decisions and have built collaborative relationships; that you have staying power.
Most people change jobs for reasons other than money. Which means vetting your prospective employer is vastly more important than negotiating every last dime. It’s not how much money you make, it’s about how successful you can be in that job.
To get past the sales pitch and learn what the company is really like, talk to the techies. Once you are in serious consideration for an opportunity, ask to talk to the QA manager and both the Sales Support and Customer Services Managers.
When you talk to the Board and ‘C’s, be fearless in your questions. Once you are at the second or third interview stage, it is about acquiring information to decide if this is the right company/job.
Ask pointed questions. For example:
- Are there personnel changes in the works or near term I should know about?
- The unique visitors number looks good, is it going up or down?
- What is the pattern and what affects it?
- What is the strength of those variables?
- How are decisions made?
- Tell me about the last crisis and how it was handled and the results.
- What part of the house is on fire?
- Are you in talks with investors or prospective buyers?
- What keeps you up at night?
Give the top line management every chance to reveal what is actually going on. Let them talk without interruption. The more silent you are, the more they will say.
Want to dive deep?
Talk to the customers, former customers and people who have left the company. Then talk to the sales person whose numbers are in the middle of the pack. Don’t let them force the high roller on you. Ask about the challenges, the competition, resources and anything else related to making or preventing the sale.
Take a look at glassdoor.com and other sites where employees comment on their employer confidentially. Don’t use them as the ‘be all to end all’, only as an alert and guide for questions. To test the sites, see what people say about your current or most recent employers and do a reality check.
Use LinkedIn to find former employees. Invite them to chat with you confidentially.
Use the search engines to find blogs that comments on that company. Check Digg, Gist and other news aggregators to discover who the executives really are and what is top of mind for them. Find out what others say about the management team and Board members.
Are the investors well thought of? Will second or mezzanine financing be easy to get because of good press?
What is their financial run-way? A company with only 9 months spendable may be a short term employer. One former client was told he was the right person for the job and the Board and ‘Cs’ were unanimous. Checking online revealed the company was in serious financial trouble and they needed my client’s reputation and connections to gather new investors. Imagine his response had he taken the job and not known this.
Get a bead on their financial health from sites like Yahoo! Finance or Hoovers. For public companies, read their 10K and financial rags.
Observe employee morale. Do folks walk around and chat; are they smiling? Is the rest room clean? What does the lunch room look like? Are employees encouraged to engage with places to congregate? Are there office recognition traditions? What is the turn-over like, especially the sales force?
Since every company has a downside, keep a pros and cons list to provide balance in your decision. Consult your Go/No-go list to make sure none of the concerns rule this employer out of consideration.
It’s not about winning by getting the job, it’s about winning the right job under the right circumstances.
More information on creating your own job security can be found here:
For support on career development and job search methodologies, consider career coaching and/or reading my books filled with examples, scripts and advice from hiring authorities.
Clients who take my advice get the promotions they are after and the jobs they want. In the last 3 years 98% of my clients achieved their goals within six months. In the last two years 100% achieved their goals in well under that time.