Whilst I have always known what the missing features from job adverts were, I wanted to validate this against evidence. Luckily, due to our work on recruitment automation, we have a great tech team and I asked them for a favour. We ran a meta-analysis cross referencing several Asian internet job boards against all the job descriptions we have received as an agency over 10 years, searching for a number of specific phrases. As predicted the 3 most useful, and most undervalued additions to a job description, appeared in fewer than 1% of those that were analysed.
So, without further preamble – let’s address the first of these missing requirements:


Candidate Stability

At The Executives  this is one of the first questions that we train our consultants to ask, and we do this because it’s usually missing from a JD. In an ideal situation, the question should be asked in conjunction with some example CVs and on the phone with a client.
This is the number ONE questions a recruiter needs answered to ensure they are not wasting your time. As predicted during our study it appeared in fewer than 1 % of those adverts analysed.
The topic is more complex that it first appears and can be broken down to 3 main factors:


Expectations V reality

There are two forces at play here – cultural and generational.
Hong Kong candidates move jobs – a lot – this can be seen throughout all functions and industry. When we work with clients who are new to Hong Kong, they are usually very surprised with the perceived “instability” of candidates, but this is the way of Hong Kong, and there are a number of reasons for that, which I will address in a separate blog post.
10 years ago, 24 months in a role was considered acceptable. In the last 5 years that figure has halved and candidates (especially juniors) on the market now believe that 12 months in one role is the benchmark. Behaviour has changed, and those in positions of hiring often have expectations that are no longer reflect the landscape of the candidate market.



In those adverts analysed during out study, fewer than 5% made any reference to preferred tenure at all. Those that did used terms similar to ” Demonstrates a stable working history”.
The disconnect here is that one client’s perspective of someone who is “stable”, often differs wildly from another, whether or not they are aware of the current trend for 12 month period
Let’s take the example of a client asking for 10 years of “stable” experience

  1. One client may only accept seeing 2 roles during this time, whilst another will accept 4-5.
  2. Clients differ on the preferred tenure length of each job – one client may think that 5 jobs of equal length is acceptable, but nothing less. A second client may also be happy to see 5 different roles during this period, but would want to see one of those lasting at least 6 of those 10 years.
  3. The minimum amount of time spent per job, regardless of when that happened. Some clients may outright reject anyone with any roles less than 12 months at any point (even at the start of a career) regardless of a later role lasting 5 years.


3. Temp work/Contract work

By now, most of us a have read the studies showing that those in positions of recruiting spend an average of 7 seconds reading CVs (read more about it) and a stable candidate can be mistaken as “jumpy” with an initial reading and then quickly discarded.
Having worked with thousands of candidates it is my opinion that Temp/contract work should not be mistaken for instability. Labelling a candidate in a permanent position stable and a candidate with some temporary work as Jumpy is like comparing apples to oranges. There is a substantial difference between a candidate actively choosing to leave a permanent job verses a candidate completing a contracting assignment (which is normally for a specific duration). These candidates are not necessarily (and in my experience, are rarely) jumpy by nature. The way to validate this is to ask follow- up questions on whether they fulfilled their contract to its natural conclusion.



So if you are hiring and want to receive the right CVs first time, one of the points you might like to consider including is a bullet point on preferred stability. This can be summed up as follows.
1. review your own expectations and if you want, hold them up against the reality of the new workforce – ask yourself, are these still reasonable? Do I need to re-evaluate my assumption and patterned thinking if I am going to want to find the best candidate for the job?
2. Once you have settled yourself on what is, and is not acceptable, state this as specifically as possible in your JD. This should include the number of jobs acceptable within a given time, the minimum tenure in any single previous role, and your views on whether candidates with a history of contract work need to be held to the same standards.
This will save you time so you can receive CVs that are relevant and useful and, in the end, speeding up your time to hire.

* Whilst I hold myself accountable to my own ethical standard when it comes to hiring, I run companies in Hong Kong and write my advice based on the current employment and labour laws for this jurisdiction at this point in time – which I appreciate are not in line with employment and labour laws across the world.


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