The seven year itch in recruitment

  • Reading time:6 mins read

It is said that 50% (or more) of marriages end in divorce. That’s a scary prospect which makes many think hard before proposing or walking down the isle.

So why is it such a surprise that many employee and employer relationships end in what I call “recruitment divorce’: Employee Leaves Employer.

The love at first sight during the interview process often turns sour because the assessment was artificial and the employer fell for the candidate’s well practiced dance.

Too many get duped into assessing presentation over performance. You have just been outmaneuvered by a candidate who had prepared better than you. Basically, you have fallen victim to the 4A syndrome.

I know the feeling. You have been hunting for that special talent for months. You received a decent resume. In front of you sit a person who is:

  • Articulate
  • Assertive
  • Attractive
  • Affable

It’s your lucky day. You tell yourself to stop on the way home to buy a book of lottery tickets.

Here’s the problem when you get trapped and are fooled by a candidate’s presentation. You start talking too much; you use the rest of the interview to confirm that first impression; you stop probing and instead of asking tougher questions, you lift the foot from the pedal and go easy. You are now measuring style and not the substance you are paid to do. Don’t forget that energy and enthusiasm is definitely not the same as motivation.

You hire people you should not have…

…and don’t hire the people you should.

I’m sure you are familiar with the Seven Year Itch. A concept made famous in the film starring Marilyn Monroe. The film contains one of the most famous images in cinema history – Monroe’s dress blowing up over a subway grating.

The 7-Year Itch is the inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage. That supposed urge for infidelity after seven years of marriage is the meaning we now have for this phrase. It is now often extended to refer to an urge to move on from any situation, and not even limited to those of seven years’ duration.

You see the same as I do? We are not only talking about the itch in terms of marriage. You can replace the word marriage with employment or recruitment and you have the reason why so many employees divorce their employer.

Now throw in the nightmare of Gen Y workers who have a tendency to change jobs more frequently than ever seen before.

The average employee of all ages now stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest Gen Y employees is about half that. Job hopping is surely the new normal for Gen Y or also called Millennials.

According to a study by Future Workplace, Multiple Generations @ Work, over ninety percent of Gen Y (born after 1976) expects to stay in a job for less than three years. That means they will have about 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their career. Nuff said.

Stupid things interviewers do include being arrogant and looking down on applicants or candidates coming for an interview (this is the number 1 cause of offer rejection). Other stupid policies that were normal 25 years ago include filling in application forms, rescheduling interviews, taking phone calls during interviews, keeping candidates waiting, being disorganized or asking silly questions. And talking 90% of the time because you were not prepared.

Are you hoping that your retirement comes first and before this monster of a shrinking work force combined with Gen Y moving every two years? Everything points to a divorce rate in employment that will outpace the marriage divorce rate.

Our future in HR is bleak and offers little hope or excitement. However, the future for executive search firms is unbelievably promising; that is if you as a recruiter or company do not take the easy way out, meaning just shopping around for resumes on the internet.

Your future as a recruiter is bright if you know how to cold call candidates, passing the gate keeper, and convincingly present your client’s or your line manager’s Employee Value Proposition and Unique Selling Points. Remember that these “cold” candidates have a job already and are showing no reaction to your question if they are interested in a new job. If you are not trained in selling job opportunities over the phone, using a well drafted script that asks the right questions, you will not be successful.

David Packard, the co-founder of HP, says in his Packard’s Law: No company can consistently expand revenues faster than its ability to accumulate enough of the right people to carry out growth and still become a great company.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.