Committing to a Position

Recently, I spoke with a hiring manager. He wanted to make sure a person he thought was overqualified for a position stayed in the job for two years. (!!) He was asking candidates to commit to his job for two years in the interview process.

If an organization can commit to a candidate for two years, it might be okay to ask a candidate to commit to a job for two years. But I don’t know of any organization that commits to anyone for any length of time, never mind two years. Why would a hiring manager ask a candidate to commit when an organization can’t?

It’s still a hiring manager’s market, but not for long.

I realize you’re concerned about people leaving, especially if you think they are overqualified. So, acknowledge that fear. And consider what you can do about it. Here are some options. Say, “You look like you might be overqualified for this position. Do you really want this position?” Wait for the answer. “Why?” Now, you can have a conversation about why.

  1. Sometimes people just don’t want to be managers anymore. I know a bunch of previous development managers and writer managers now developers and writers who didn’t want to be managers anymore. It’s that simple.
  2. Sometimes people can’t find a more senior role in their previous are of domain space expertise. When the telecom area imploded, there were a ton of experts looking for jobs who didn’t change domains. They took successively less-expert roles in telecom. They were overqualified for telecom.
  3. Sometimes people have an overinflated view of what they can do. You’ll learn whether or not that is the case when they start working for you. In this case, you may be happy you did not insist on a two-year commitment!

A two-year commitment is too much like indentured servantship. It’s unnecessary. To me, it’s wrong. If you really want someone to commit to a person, make it an attractive job, one where the job grows and a candidate can grow with the job. An employee will commit to a job where there is real growth.

But don’t ask someone to commit to a job where there is no sign of growth for some random time period, especially because you are concerned your organization may not let you hire a replacement. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are bad reasons to ask a candidate for a commitment.

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4 Comments

  1. A. Nonny Mouse

    You’re absolutely right, and as one of those folks you mentioned, I’d LOVE to get a two-year commitment from an employer. But that never happens – even a contract position has an escape clause, at least for the company. Any employer that asks for a commitment without responding in kind deserves exactly what they get – a “Yes, sir!” with no intention of honoring it.

    Reply
  2. Prateek Narang

    Other than at the time of interview, sometime organizations ask employees to sign a bond, legal commitment, for a year or so when they are provided with some training. As a manager I’ve faced few problems
    1. By asking my team members to sign the bond, I put them in dilemma whether to attend the training or not. Honestly nodbody wants to sign the bond but afraid to say no. They don’t want to leave the negative impression.
    2. Most of the time the real good guys says no and I have to pick from the rest of the lot. It’s not good, but you have to give some names!
    3. For a while, just after the training, team is divided in to two groups. One consisting of people who said no and vice versa. Whatever I do to correct the situation, it makes it worse.
    Although it’s not everyday situation for me, your insight will be helpful.

    Thanks
    Prateek

    Reply
  3. Gordon

    I left a permanent position with a startup when the financials kept looking extremely shaky with no sign of improvement on the horizon. I am now on an 18 month fixed term appointment/contract but it has a 4 week escape clause for me and my employer.

    I have been here 7 months now and I suspect they would have kicked me out the door a while back if they weren’t happy [enough] with me. So, I am secure[ish] for the next 11 months.

    However, whilst I have escaped my worries over company financials I now work on something I find less inspiring.

    It is possible that they will hire me on permanently after my 18 months is finished but it is also quite possible that they will not. One of the things that works negatively against me staying on is that my current contract has no provision for annual leave in it. To compensate for this lack of leave, I will be given a 8% payment at the end of my contract.

    If they really wanted to keep me here, they should have made my employment agreement just like that of my [permanent] co-workers, including annual leave.

    Once this economy opens up a bit I will look elsewhere.

    As for me sticking out to the end of this 18 month contract, I’m not too sure.

    When I have employed contractors in the past, I have paid them a lot more than a permanent employee and guaranteed them a position for a fixed period of time.

    I agree with Johanna. If you want me to stick around, make it interesting!

    FYI, I work in New Zealand and, like all employees here, have a contract of employment. Employment law is quite different from that of the United States

    Reply
  4. Daniel Pritchett

    Commitments like that are worth money to the employee, plain and simple. Give your new hire a retention bonus with a 24-month “pay us back in full if you leave” period and suddenly this isn’t nearly as unreasonable.

    Reply

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