What Does a “Bad” Decision Look Like on a Candidate’s resume?


In his comment, Gregbo asks what I mean by “bad” judgment.

Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Frequent job changes, at least one job a year for several years
  • Months of no discernible work or lag times between jobs.
  • Titles that appear to move up and down the ladder.

There are more, but those are the common ones. Sometimes, people take jobs because they need a paycheck or health insurance (or both). Those people tend to feel as if their jobs are sucking the souls out of them. If you see a resume like that, don’t discard it. That candidate wants a good job–and may almost be desperate for a good job.

I once had a job for two weeks. The same week I was hired, I got a call to report to headquarters in another state, where they laid me off. I made a bad decision to take that job. Luckily, the hiring manager at my next job thought it was funny, and didn’t consider that small interlude a problem job.

So that’s what I mean by a “bad” decision. Candidates can’t tell if a company is on the skids, or will cancel the project they got hired for. If you’re a hiring manager or a recruiter, you have the opportunity to offer the candidate a great start in your organization. Don’t let your prejudices about length of service persuade you to avoid this candidate.

7 Replies to “What Does a “Bad” Decision Look Like on a Candidate’s resume?”

  1. Why is moving up and down the ladder bad? Personally, I’m at a crossroads where I have to choose between continuing as a manager, or going back to a technical oriented position (which is what I really love).

  2. Moving up and down the ladder isn’t necessarily bad. But if I have a candidate for a test analyst role that has a manager title or a team lead title followed by two short term analyst/tester roles, I’m going to make darn sure that he’s not going to be bored/unhappy or unchallenged by the continued demotion.

    When interviewing mostly what I look for is continuous employment for one or more years at the same job. If they’re a contractor, were they kept on or, even better, asked back for another project? If they’ve been with the same company for a long time, have they progressed or been promoted? If a candidate has left a lead or managerial role for a technical role, I’d expect to have them explain in the interview why they did so, or why they are interested in doing so. I’d also be sure that their skills are up to snuff…..

  3. What has been lost (among other things) is the concept of the hard worker who gets the job done. Instead, companies complain that they can’t find qualified people, but they turn people away who they feel may be “bored” or “unsuitable”, even if they have the skills to do the jobs. Everyone is not independently wealthy. Some people have to work to pay the bills. They shouldn’t be turned away just because in the past, they took jobs outside of their ideal career path because they had financial obligations and commitments.

  4. Gregbo,
    I guess my comment was misconstrued. I intended to mean that if the candidate had two (or more) short-term tester/analyst positions after a lengthy time as a lead or manager. It would then appear to me that he/she was job hopping in the hopes of landing a managerial or lead position again and thus, the training dollars I would spend on him/her would be ill-spent — if not wasted altogether. I did say, I would expect that there would be a good explaination for ‘down grading’. e.g. – tried it, not ready for a management position – tried it would rather take the technical challenge…etc.

  5. Ok, thanks for the explanation, Liz… It makes sense.

    As I wrote, I am at a point in my carreer where it feels as if I have to make the choice soon. A friend sent me this blog post, which further made me want to go back to more technical work again.

    But I am still not sure what to do… Any advice?

  6. Liz,

    Fair enough, but you are still taking the stance that in a hiring situation, the company has more to lose by hiring a non-perfect fit. What about people who take a job that they want very much, and are a good match, but are laid off, or the company goes out of business? Didn’t they risk just as much instead of going to work somewhere else?


    When I was younger, I said I wanted to be a manager, but I think what I really meant is what is now called a “technical lead” or a “software architect”. Such a person does software development, but in consideration with larger, longer-term strategic goals about what the project (and perhaps the company) should be. There is a lot of brainstorming, design work, prototyping, etc. There isn’t a lot of what is usually asked for in most s/w eng interviews, such as highly detailed questions (“What tcpdump option prints out DNS packets?”) or questions unrelated to the job at hand (“I see you have Perl experience on your résumé – are you sure you want this network software development job?”).

    There are also a lot of s/w engineers who go into management because it provides more job security. The managers, after all, are usually the ones making the hiring decisions.

  7. i wanted to ask- im currently going through a temp agency to find employment-The recruiter liked my resume and mentioned that he had alot of work for me with my experience. I have an appointment to come in and take a typing test, but the honest truth is that my unemployment hasnt come in all month and im really low on gas. I need my gas to pick up my children and go to grocery store…these place are all near my house about 5 blocks. The temp agency in on the other side of town from my house. Will it look bad on me if i cancel coming in for the typing test and social security card. This will be my second time though canceling if i do cancel. Will it make me look bad and make the recruiter think im irresponsible, because im really not, but right now financially, things are tough for me. I really want to go, but i dont have no family or friends to take me and again no money for bus or gas until my unemployment arrives..i just dont want to make myself look bad when so far im looking good from my resume

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