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Switching Jobs

So say you are sick of you current job, and you are interviewing for others.  Do potential employers care that you're ditching your old job?  Should you hide or deemphasize the fact that you are currently employed?  Or does it make you seem more desirable if you are?  Would they ask in an interview why you are leaving your current job?

Feedback from those who have actually hired people would be interesting.  thanks.  I'm talking about pretty much entry-level programming jobs here.

Roose
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Employers actually *prefer* hiring people who are already in a job.

T. Norman
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

When I interviewed people I wanted to know whether they were able to work here, whether they wanted to, and whether they were likely to thrive and stay if hired.

I would ask whether you were currently employed. If you didn't come out and tell me why you'd prefer to work for us instead of at your present job (i.e. tell me why you want to come), then I would ask why you want to leave: because, there wouldn't seem to be any point in hiring you if our enviroment would be just as bad for you as the one you were trying to leave.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Well let me be more a little more specific... has anyone here ever NOT hired a qualified candidate just because their record looked like they might not have enough "loyalty"?  I have only been working at my current employer for about a year, and I am leaving for what I obviously think are good reasons (basically management who think their jobs are to be conduits for pressure), but I wonder if prospective employers will view it that way.

Also do employers ever think a candidate is "overqualified", as in too academic?  I have very strong academic credentials and have jumped around into several different areas.  Consequently I don't have that many practical skills in a particular area.  In some sense I am applying for jobs in which I will probably be "smarter" than other candidates, but maybe not as "results-oriented".

Roose
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

"has anyone here ever NOT hired a qualified candidate just because their record looked like they might not have enough "loyalty"?"

Yes. I've tossed resumes because of short term employment. If this is your first job, it's not as big of a deal, but it still may raise a red flag to some.  I was concerned about people that exhibited a pattern of behavior.

"management who think their jobs are to be conduits for pressure"

Many managers are like this, so make sure that you probe for this in interviews. Remember, pressure is healthy in a business, so good managers do apply pressure.  Bad managers only apply pressure and don't do much else (which, I think, was your point).

Nick
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

>has anyone here ever NOT hired a qualified candidate just because their record looked like they might not have enough "loyalty"?

Even in the 1990s I was interviewing the 5 *most* qualified candidates from 100 or more resumes; and of the people who I interviewed I would rather hire a smart one who wants to work with me than a brilliant one who doesn't.

Hiring was a two-stage process for us: filtering by resume, then filtering by interview. A record of job-hopping may not have denied you the interview, but may haved 'failed' you during the interview.

> [...] I obviously think are good reasons (basically management who think their jobs are to be conduits for pressure), but I wonder if prospective employers will view it that way.

Had I interviewed you I would have talked with you about that during our interview: find out what you mean by that, try to tell you what our environment was like, see whether at the end of the interview we both agreed that our place seems better than the one you would have been leaving.

Our management did think it was their job to be a conduit for pressure: they lean on you, you lean on the code, everyone's happy. Or you could say their job was to be a conduit for vacuum, for anti-pressure: they tell you what they need from you to pass on to the customers, and you give it.

At our place though, being a 'conduit' wasn't a manager's only job: for example as 'chief developer' it would have been (a part of) my job to help you cope with managers' needs (for example, by giving you necessary information, and training you in areas where you're weak), just as it was your job to help me.

As a startup, our 'manager' would have been the owner/CEO. He was a 'conduit' too, relaying to us (to development and QA) the needs of our sales and tech support people; he'd also be a conduit for our needs, getting us an office and machines and customers, and making payroll twice a month.

After we were bought by a large (several thousand employees) multinational we had a non-technical 'development manager' or 'site manager'. He was less of a conduit for pressure: for example, he more or less insulated us from the corporate VP of development ... for a few years that seemed like a very good thing; for example, the literature says that one of the things that a good manager does is shield his programmers from administrivia, status reports, 'architecture astronauts', strategy meetings, ISO 9000 auditors, etc... having been insulated from the VP suddenly seemed like less of a good idea when news came via the said VP that this was to be one of the sites they were going to shut down and move to India.

Pressure, or at least contact, can be a (sometimes mixed) blessing.

> Consequently I don't have that many practical skills in a particular area.

That matters more to some companies than others. I was hired by Bell Northern Research (the Canadian equivalent of Lucent or Bell Labs) on the strength of my having worked there as an intern and having a Maths degree from Cambridge in the UK. They were sufficiently rich and long-horizoned that they could afford to hire someone "smart" and let them work for a year as a "Software Maintenance Engineer", even if in the first few months of that I was relatively unproductive. They were also sufficiently well-managed that at worst I would do them no harm during that year: for example they had a complete set of automated regression tests for any software that I touched; for another example, they didn't risk much if any of their most valuable manpower on training me ... it was only after I'd 'proved' myself and learned their tools in that first year that they put me on a development team.

When I was hiring people, on the other hand, it was at a self-financed startup that couldn't afford to wait a year: we needed you to be able to be *some* good to us immediately (for example by knowing the programming language already).

My Mum has a story that when she founded a Montessori pre-school (40 years ago now), the first teacher they hired was fully but newly-trained. That teacher left them after the first semester: apparently her training had been mostly "academic" and it wasn't until she started working with the kids that she realised that she didn't like them very much: needing to cope with all their "snotty noses". That's the kind of risk that B.N.R. was willing to take with me and people like me, and that I was less willing to take in a relatively less wealthy and high-pressure startup environment.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Most places I know do not like resumes that show a long string of 6 month stints at numerous companies for obvious reasons. Chances are you are either truly unqualified but good at hiding it on a first date or that you are qualified but will leave the company before you become truly productive.
It is always preferable to get  a candidate who is still employed elsewhere, if the story is clean.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

>It is always preferable to get  a
>candidate who is still employed
>elsewhere, if the story is clean

Employment is leverage on hiring.

1) If you get an offer you don't like, it's much easier to turn it down.  This forces the companies to try to make it a *good* first offer.

2) For some reason, there is a stigma or "loser-ness" to the unemployed.  It might not be thier fault, they may be stellar, etc, etc - but, on some level, the hiring manager is still going to feel that way - especially if joe has been on the bench a long time.

3) Stints of > 1 year are less damaging than six months.  Switching jobs that you lasted > 1 at earlier in a career is forgivable.  Once you get to 8 of them in a row, though ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Last year I got rejected because I didn't have a job.
This year I've been rejected because I hadn't been working for more than a year.

Sometimes you just can't win - unless you're blackmailing the CEO...

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I graduated college five years ago, and I've never worked at the same company for more than a year and a half.  As far as I know, it's never hurt me.

When I've done interviewing in the past, the frequency of a person's job switches was not a major factor in my decisions.

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

In teaching its different because the time scale is much longer but resumes where somebody has never worked more than a year raise a red flag.

On the other hand one three year stint among a collection of one year stints normally allays my suspicions. After all, as a colleague of mine remarked, if you'd worked at the places he had you wouldn't want to stay more than a year either!

"Why do you want to leave your present job is the one quesion I will always ask at interview.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I was asked in one interview why I had so many jobs on my resume - five different companies in ten years.

My responses - "Closed the office, merged, went out of business, dream job, dream job went out of business."

I can't imagine I'm unique. The days of spending 10 years at a single company are for the most part OVER, and I think it's rather unfair of employers to dump a resume solely because of this.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Yes, when I was hiring (a whole other economy ago), many short jobs always threw up red flags.  Someone like that never made it to the interview.  To be a really good programmer, you have to around long enough for your code to mature.  If you only work on a project for 6 months and jet, you may never learn that your code leaked like hell or that it was impossible for others to read.

Also, people like that never change.  They'll likely leave their next job in 6-8 months.

Similar story with a "too" academic background, although that one's a bit tougher to read.  In a strong economy, it's a bit of a red flag - it may be someone who doesn't like real world pressures of time/money.  In today's economy, I'd have to assume that many people turned to grad school because there were no jobs when they graduated.

David
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Two interesting comments from different people:
"Yes. I've tossed resumes because of short term employment. If this is your first job, it's not as big of a deal, but it still may raise a red flag to some.  I was concerned about people that exhibited a pattern of behavior."
and
"On the other hand one three year stint among a collection of one year stints normally allays my suspicions. After all, as a colleague of mine remarked, if you'd worked at the places he had you wouldn't want to stay more than a year either!"

I find the whole business of employment length kind of interesting. Back before I figured out that I could earn a living as a programmer, I used to trade jobs with some frequency. I never really counted, but my Dad did, and he had it pegged at 30 or so. Once I got going, I had no trouble changing jobs because many employers were looking at 'plug and play' positions. With my diversity of experience and solid references, they were comfortable that I could be up to speed in days instead of months.

Now I'm a freelancer where, once again, diversity of experience and clientele is one of the things that attract new clients. "Hey, this guy can do anything!" In reality, things are a lot more alike than most people seem to realize.

I say don't sweat it, but try not to quit one job until you've got a replacement.

Ron Porter
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Quick question - how many people here that say "short jobs bad" also say in other threads "if your job sucks, leave"?

Because those two pieces of advice are in conflict.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Not necessarily.

If you've just been somewhere for three or four years then you can leave the next couple of jobs after a few weeks or months if they suck.

Now, if you have a long period of instability you want to think of keeping a job for a longer period in order to put your resume back in order. So basically you've just got to decide how much it sucks.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Lots of short jobs could mean you're you keep getting offered jobs that don't challenge you, and also that you do a good enough job to get new jobs.

This means you're a cut out to be a consultant or run your own business. Accept it; decline offers of staff jobs, retain rights to your IP where practicable, and have fun.

.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Phillo -- there's a difference between leaving one or two jobs that suck and having 5 years of experience at 8 companies.

Lots of short stints always cause concern for hiring managers. This is especially true for places that build products (as opposed to custom apps or consulting shops). I really like to see people who took a product through several major releases, had to deal with customer feedback, issues, etc...

As far as original question - you should always tell them you're still with your last company. Just make sure to have a good explanation why you're moving on. Make it tailored to the place where you're interviewing (cf. Joel's note on cover letters). 

igor
Thursday, June 19, 2003

Who has more designing and programming experience: a programmer who spent 10 years on the same job or a programmer who spent 10 years on 5 jobs?

coresi
Thursday, June 19, 2003

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