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Staffing leader Marcus Edwardes discusses how tenure bias can cost you your dream candidate

“Believing that tenure history accurately predicts the loyalty of a candidate is wrong because the employment experience is a two-way street, and there’s a host of legitimate reasons why a totally reliable candidate may appear jumpy.”

Marcus Edwardes
Recruitment Coach & Podcast Host
Marcus Edwardes on tenure bias

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Last week, a listener (to the podcast Recruiting Trailblazers) reached out to me on LinkedIn to tell me that her client would only consider candidates with at least five years of consistent tenure in their previous two or three roles. 

This can lead to you losing high-quality candidates, all to tenure bias. You do not want that.

So it’s time to stop measuring a candidate’s reliability and steadfastness on previous job tenure!

The pitfalls of tenure bias

Hiring managers believe that tenure history accurately predicts how loyal that person will be in the future.

But I’m calling foul because, while that might be anecdotally true – it also creates a huge potential blind spot for your recruiting efforts.

Because along with that mindset comes the assumption that candidates who don’t have a history of long tenure with their previous employers are summarily unreliable, unsteadfast, and therefore disloyal. 

And that simply isn’t true because the employment experience is a two-way street, and there’s a whole host of legitimate reasons why a totally reliable candidate may appear “jumpy.”

Subjective & objective forces influencing tenure

Tenure is the product of a wide spectrum of subjective and objective circumstances experienced by an employee, many of which are extremely fluid and can change at the drop of a hat.

Subjectively, we’re talking about any number of potential changes in a person’s situation or even a shift in their goals and pursuits. 

But objectively, we’re talking about compensation, leadership, work from home, flexibility, recognition, work-life balance, growth opportunities, internal relationships, company culture, and many more external fluctuating forces, a change in any one of which can potentially and legitimately upend a person’s desire to remain in their current seat!

The strength in being ‘jumpy’ and the challenge of employer loyalty

Often, when circumstances out of your control necessitate a career re-evaluation, it makes sense to unhitch your wagon and move on. 

But the way I see it, none of this means they’re not steadfast. I’d argue it could mean the opposite; that they’re steadfast in the pursuit of an opportunity that authentically and meaningfully aligns with their individual career goals, needs, and desires.

But instead, they get labeled as “jumpy.” The blame for shorter tenure rests, for whatever reason, squarely on the shoulders of the departed employee.

And that’s just wrong.

After all, if you ever feel like you’re serving a voluntary prison sentence or if you ever get a nasty case of the Sunday scaries, it might just be time to move on and keep moving on until you find the right company, the right culture and of course, the right people to match your needs.

Life is too short to be miserable. Let’s face it, it’s incredibly hard to find an employer who ticks all the boxes and then continues to tick them year in and year out. 

Often, you’ll even find yourself thinking, after six months, “Hmm, they didn’t turn out to be the person I expected them to be when they first interviewed me!”

And don’t even get me started on unexpected and unwelcome layoffs – and how they impact an employee’s resume when it comes to tenure!

Ironically, it’s become much harder to find an employer who will stay loyal to you (especially in times of economic instability) than it is to find candidates who won’t quit prematurely!

Assessing candidates through a new lens

So, my suggestion to recruiters is to ask your Hiring Managers to look at the tenure issue through a different lens. 

Candidates who appear jumpy on paper may actually represent the best opportunity for a great hire – because they are the ones who are most sincerely looking for a place to hang their hat and stay!

And if the culture of the organization and the career opportunity are so stellar – stop worrying about tenure history and focus on what really matters when it comes to assessing candidates:

  • Do they have the attributes and experience to thrive in the role? 
  • And do you have what it takes to make them happy and keep them happy?

The last few years have been tumultuous for so many people – and so much of what has happened has been out of the control of the worker. 

So let’s get rid of tenure bias once and for all – and see every candidate for who they really are!

Author

Marcus Edwardes

Marcus Edwardes is a British recruitment leader. He started his staffing journey in London before moving to California in the late 90s. During the course of his recruiting career (as a producer and leader), he’s covered the entire spectrum of contract, permanent, and executive search markets – specializing in technology, video games, and, most recently, talent acquisition professionals. He’s the host of the Recruiting Trailblazers podcast, with 150 episodes and counting. This podcast explores the mindset, methods, and magic of top industry professionals.

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