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Talent Talk: When Recruiting, Keep in Mind the ‘COVID Exception’

It’s time to set aside conventional wisdom related to younger candidates' potential stability based on their recent job history.

Paul Sturgeon

May 20, 2024

2 Min Read
remote job interview
Insta Photos/iStock via Getty Images

Job stability is an important factor to consider for companies that are hiring. The obvious thinking is that if someone has had a relatively stable job history that will continue with their new company, and that the opposite would also be true.

On a side note, isn’t it a bit odd that we say “past performance is not indicative of future results” when investing in a stock or mutual fund that has been around for 100 years, but when it comes to hiring human beings, we are certain that it is just the opposite? But I digress.

A question of division.

HR and hiring managers will continue to count the number of jobs on a resume, divide that by the number of years, and conclude that the person is either stable or a “job hopper.” It would be nice if I could be more sanctimonious, but recruiters also do it. However, what I have found and want to share here is that we need to consider what I’m dubbing the COVID Exception.

We all need to look at resumes with an open mind during the approximate 2020 to 2022 period. For it being such recent history, sometimes it seems we have already forgotten how disruptive it was in the business world. Hundreds of thousands of companies closed their doors, filed for bankruptcy, or, at a minimum, had a major loss of revenue.

In defense of job hopping.

Record-breaking numbers of Americans quit their jobs, while more than 10 million jobs remained unfilled. Strong employer demand enabled workers to pursue better opportunities. Job-switchers obtained substantially faster pay increases than people who stayed put.

There were 47.8 million quits in 2021, up from 35.9 million in 2020.  More than 3% of US workers quit in November 2021 alone. This was the highest on record for a single month, resulting in the label, the Great Resignation. In 2022 the trend continued with 50.6 million quits, the highest annual level in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey history.

What the numbers mean.

That is a lot of numbers, but what does it all mean? It means that if you are hiring and want to attract the top talent available, you must consider the COVID Exception. And one final note: While this could apply to anyone in the workforce at that time, it disproportionately affected those early in their careers, who had nothing "normal" to compare with their situation.

About the Author(s)

Paul Sturgeon

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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