I am seeing more and more resumes with multiple employers over a short span of time. I’m not talking about contract roles, or law firms that merge or practice groups that move. Those are all situations where a resume might look confusing at first, but it makes sense, especially when someone has been working on an assignment basis. My two cents for law departments: if you like the candidate, do not hold that type of movement against him or her.
I want to focus on direct hire in-house positions with Senior Counsel, Assistant General Counsel, and even General Counsel titles. I recently reviewed a resume with six employers over a ten year period. Each move was logically explained. The reasons included an acquisition, moving geographically for family, and a “step up” opportunity for a better title at a financially more successful company. The attorney we were evaluating had terrific academics and excellent interviewing skills.
Moreover, we are in a tightening market for high quality experienced in-house counsel, especially those in specialized and in-demand subject matter areas. Let me share my initial reaction to this resume: 1. I thought this candidates’s experience, qualifications and charisma were all good fits for the job we were filling. 2. My gut told me it was a bad idea. And it was. At some point, too much job hopping raises a red flag.
I realize this is no longer the 1950s, or even the 1990s. People generally don’t stay with the same company for decades. In fact, a move once every five to ten years can send a message of growth and diverse experience. It’s a tricky topic, as multiple employer resumes have become the norm.
My guidance for companies on candidates with a lot of movement is this: 1. Insist on references from people who are still with the prior employers. When the candidate is only giving references from former colleagues who used to be at the same company, stay clear. The only exception here is if the company in question is defunct. 2. Be skeptical if the candidate has more than one employment tenure that lasted less than two years. 3. Listen for clues in the interview. Reject candidates who start to talk about what was “wrong” with a previous employer. Only consider candidates who talk about how they have improved based on an experience and take ownership of their moves.
This is a really gray area, because culturally we have become accustomed to movement. We even hear the opposite concern on occasion. When clients see a one employer resume with a very long tenure, they worry if the candidate can adapt to a new culture. It is a trust your gut decision.
Finally, I recommend managing your own expectations as the General Counsel or executive making the decision. If you really need and want this to be a long-term hire, shy away from the hoppers. If you are in a short-term window yourself or need expertise to reach a shorter term objective over the next couple of years, then let that truth inform your decision as well.