How to Hire Long-Term Candidates: Beyond Job Tenure

December 22, 2021

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer

Job hoppers may not seem like an ideal candidate, but there’s often more to the story. Retain top performers by hiring the long-term candidate with these interview questions.

New graduate student holding resume application with pen coffee cup keyboard and notebook for applying for a job.

According to Indeed, when sourcing for new candidates, recruiters only spend an average of 6-7 seconds reviewing each resume before determining if they’ll pursue them further. Just for reference, it takes longer to tie both of one’s shoes! What do recruiters look for in these few seconds? Level of education, technical skills, applicable experience, etc. It’s fair to say recruiters have to make some assumptions during this initial screening process, but what happens if we assume wrong? Let’s examine the following example of 2 candidates, shall we: 

  • Candidate 1 has been a steady employee of his current company for 5 years.  
  • Candidate 2 has had 3 different employers within the last 2 years.  

Ironically, the time it took you to read those bullet points was likely about 6-7 seconds! Based on that information alone, any recruiter would likely be quicker to add Candidate 1 to their pipeline over Candidate 2.  

What if I were to tell you, however, that Candidate 1 has had multiple disciplinary actions and would leave at the drop of a hat if offered more money, whereas Candidate 2 is a top performer but experienced unforeseen layoffs due to the pandemic… This is a simplified example of why previous work history alone is not predictive enough of future job performance – and why judging a book by its cover (so-to-speak) can cause hiring managers to miss out on quality, high-performing candidates.  

Unfortunately, some job hoppers are just that – job hoppers. So how do we determine if they are likely to continue job hopping, or if we can be confident they will stick around as high-performing employees? Here are some red and green flags to watch out for while interviewing these candidates: 

Red Flags – More likely to be a short-term employee: 

  • It’s all about the money! The first question the candidate asks is to see if they can make more money – which will make or break their interest in speaking further.  
  • They left past employers because of disagreements with management, issues with coworkers, or other conflict-based reasons. Looking for established patterns as opposed to one off instance is always important. There is always a story and a candidate who has been through a tough time will likely find a way of still looking for the positives in the situation. 
  • They are not interested in hearing about the long-term plans of the company or their mentorship or growth opportunities. A long-term candidate would be energized by the potential they see for themselves when hearing about these factors. Yes, items such as vacation time and salary are undeniably important too, but a candidate who is both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated will be more likely to stay long-term. 
  • When discussing one’s future career path, they allude to items that don’t align with the role at hand. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has a clear, defined career path in their mind. However, if the candidate’s future plan is a complete 180 from the role such as wanting to change industries, the interviewing team should definitely dive into this topic further.  

Green Flags – More likely to stick around long-term: 

  • Uncovering the story behind the job hopping by asking interview questions such as: What led you into the position? What you are most proud of in the role? What led you into your next destination? And the wording is key here. This last question is designed to be forward thinking as opposed to the commonly phrased “why did you leave” and sets the candidate up for the ability to be transparent. 
  • They demonstrate a robust alignment with the vision of the company. When one’s passions mirror those of the organization, they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated for the long haul.  
  • They can define their greatest career accomplishments that exemplify not only behaviors of top performers, but also behaviors of engaging team members. It is important to listen intently for who was involved and how they interacted with their team/superiors during this accomplishment. 
  • In addition to the above accomplishment, they show an achievement pattern that includes promotions, awards, and perhaps repeatedly outstanding performance reviews. This helps separate the candidates who are loyal but may be more average in their performance vs the candidates who are culture shapers, impact makers, and growth innovators. A humble candidate may not outwardly showcase these on their LinkedIn or resume, so it is vital to request examples that they may not have otherwise thought to bring up themselves.  

    So, how do we uncover these potential red and green flags?

    Here are some key questions that, when incorporated into the interview process, can help you reveal these: 

    • What motivated you to explore this opportunity? Are they looking for a new challenge? Why? What are they not getting at their current company, and can you offer them this? Is there a heart alignment that is so compelling that this would be a dream opportunity? 
    • What about the organization or the job description resonates with you the most? This will connect directly to what is meaningful and fulfilling to them. It also shows you that they have taken the time to research and consider the opportunity and they are already demonstrating investment. High performers are looking for challenge, impact, stretch and growth. 
    • Tell me about your core values. What drives the candidate? Is there a reason behind the reason? What does integrity mean to them, for example? Identifying their core values is going to give you an indication of how they will approach what they do and, again, what connects to them. 
    • What would be your dream career/role? This is such a valuable question as it enables the candidate to talk openly and gives you the chance to ascertain whether the growth opportunities of this role align with the candidate’s vision, determining whether this opportunity represents a true win-win. 
    • What has been your greatest accomplishment? What was it that made that achievement so fulfilling, what drained you of energy and what, if anything, would you have done differently? Again, this all about gaining insight into patterns of achievement, how they work with others and how this person may align with the team. 

    These open-ended questions foster transparency are designed to get right to the heart of the candidate. When you ask these questions to a candidate with a spotty work history, or someone who has experienced multiple career shifts/changes, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and enable them to either strengthen their candidacy for the role or disqualify themselves. 

    In addition to these insights, we can also deepen the experience and apprehension of critical knowledge by utilizing tools such as the Predictive Index’s behavioral and cognitive assessments, which can help generate questions that are specifically targeted to one’s behaviors, responses, communication style, and potential scenarios the candidate might find themselves in. For example, a candidate who may be more of a lone wolf might be asked the question: How did you involve your team in completing this task successfully, or tell me about a time when you chose to delegate a task that meant a lot to you; who was involved and what was the outcome? In doing so, we can increase prediction of job performance from 34% via traditional interviews to an astounding 58%! 

    There is always a story behind work history: A company is acquired, a company shifts their values in the wrong direction, or perhaps a candidate is simply just looking to find their feet (how many people are working in a field conversant to what they studied at college?). Getting to know the story, how a candidate responds to questions around that story, what they learned, and what patterns they demonstrate will increase your ability to put the right person in the right seat – giving you new hires that will be there for the long run. 


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