Don't Have A 'Stable Work History'? These Employers Don't Want You

stable work historyJob ads that list "current employment" as a requirement are becoming less common, thanks to a chorus of outrage, and laws declaring it illegal discrimination in several states. But some employers seem to be adopting a new approach -- requiring applicants to have "a stable work history" -- which may, in essence, serve the same purpose: To weed out the unemployed.

The Porter Group, a sales management recruiting firm with $3.4 million in revenue (as of 2008) and offices in New Jersey and Maryland, has over three dozen ads on its job listing board that mention "stability" as a requirement, from "stable experience" and "very stable work history," to "must be stable" and "STABLE." One of the ads says bluntly that only "currently employed" workers should apply, but the other ads stress stability. For example:

Well funded, research driven Pharmaceutical Company seeks a sales representative with 2+ years of documented, STABLE success in Business-to-Business sales for a Baltimore and Annapolis territory. Sell established products! Opportunity is open due to recent promotions. Qualified candidates MUST have a 4-year degree and stable work history.

Stable employees are better workers?: In an interview with AOL Jobs, James Porter, the CEO of the Porter Group, said that his clients -- employers that he wouldn't identify -- wanted him to include this language. He defended "stable work history" as a way to screen out job-hoppers. Employers "want to see people who are going to be part of the company, and grow with the company," says Porter. "They're going to spend a lot of time training them."

More: 4 Million Openings: Too Many Employers Await Ideal Candidate

He acknowledged that it might also work to weed out applicants who have had a bout of unemployment. If a sales person has been laid off, he explains, there's a good chance that they weren't on top of their game. "What company in their right mind is going to lay off the top seller? ... They're going to let their weaker performers go first."

It's all over the place: This isn't just a requirement in the technical-sales field. Nor is it just directed at execs -- or entry-level workers. A search through ads shows that giant companies across industries are using similar language when hiring for all sorts of positions:
  • An ad for a shift supervisor position in Warrenton, Miss., at Papa John's, the $1.5 billion pizza delivery chain asks applicants to have an employment history that is "stable and successful."
  • Baker Hughes, a leading oil services company, is looking for a electrical assembler in Claremore, OK, with one or two years of experience, and "a stable work history."
  • A stable work history is even listed as a qualification for an entry-level call-center job in Tempe, Ariz., at the country's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan, Papa John's, and Baker Hughes did not respond to requests for comment.

"It's tough because employers have a good reason to want" someone who isn't a job hopper, says workplace consultant and AOL Jobs contributor J.T. O'Donnell. "Training costs so much money, and you want someone to stay put. An employer's greatest fear is to lose talent."

But, she adds, requiring a stable work history can "discriminate against candidates who could be great, but had some bad luck." Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers, agrees. "There are a lot of bumps in the road that have nothing to do with their qualifications for the job," Emsellem says. "That's where this kind of language can create a real problem."

Another way to say "unemployed need not apply"?: Many studies have shown that the long-term unemployed are widely discriminated against in hiring. In response to the problem, the states of New Jersey and Oregon and the District of Columbia have banned discrimination against the unemployed in job ads. But this protection doesn't extend to the subject of work history.

More: Employer Explains Why He Won't Hire The Unemployed

Last month, a much further-reaching New York law went into effect, banning employers from having any job requirement that could disparately impact the unemployed, unless the employer can demonstrate that the requirement is substantially job-related. A "very stable work history" could very possibly fall into that category, according to Emsellem.

For while certain skills and years of experience in a particular field are relevant requirements for a position, it's not as obvious how "stable work history" is a bonafide qualification.

"There may be some job where it's absolutely critical that they have a stable work history, whatever that means," says Emsellem. "But what jobs are those exactly? What are we talking about?"

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Lol! And this is what most supposedly intelligent employers really think. There is currently no research to support such stupidity. I made a conscious decision to stay out of the traditional workforce because I saw an opportunity to get my graduate and post graduate degree. During this time I did assitantships, volunteer work and free skill building work in the career I wanted to go into. I also stayed out a bit longer to home-school my daughter which actually made me smarter. However, when a company only relies on computers, recruiters and dumb trends to tell them if someone is "working" or not they miss out on the cream of the crop employees. During this time I have taken computer classes to keep current with technology and I am fabulous for work, management and training others. I think the joke is on the employers that think they are so smart though. Myself and others like me have found power in low level jobs where we move up quickly and share our talents with the underdogs. Don't waste your time trying to prove yourselves. Go out and look for small private companies who really want awesome employees, who want to really take the time to get the best and not just some dud who is good with keywords and faking through the system. The term "unemployed" doesn't even mean to these folk what you think it means. To them anything other than a traditional job is unemployed to them. So if you have been self employed you are unemployed. They have very narrow ways of seeking qualified applicants which is why they usually end up with high turnovers. If you skip the know it all companies and go to the ones most people look down on you will be in a top position before you know it and you will have the very companies who trashed your for being unemployed seeking you out. While you are not working educate yourself and keep your skills current and you will shine.

June 29 2014 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Additionally, its near impossible to create a 'stable work history' with the more offshoring of jobs corporations do, combined with all the layoffs they do to save a few bucks, while managers don't take paycuts but take extended vacations.

Companies should be grateful if the average worker has been able to maintain a working history of 30 out of the last 60 months in the past 5 years. Its not like many workers are getting get picked right back up up right away when there are little to no jobs to apply for that match their work background or skillset.

February 11 2014 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A 'stable work history' is no different than any other discriminatory tactic, such as credit history checks for jobs that aren't in the financial sector.

Corporate greed has got to be taken out of the equation. Its that simple. Quite a bit of that corporate greed still lies within healthcare, pharmacy, and medicine related fields as this article noted quite well.

Papa Johns is getting more republi-con-artist by the day. Not to mention their Pizza isn't exactly all that tasty of a treat anyway. They're a company I already do not do business with, and don't see that changing any time soon.

Most people who already are employed wouldn't be looking for work in the first place, unless it was work that is paying better than what they are receiving currently as it were. So I really don't get employers logic there. Would I leave a job paying me $25 an hour for another one that pays the same or less? Most people would not. Nevermind the fact Papa Johns jobs probably don't even pay that high of a wage as it were.

And what about the fact that most of these companies listed in this article, vote republican and or- support the republican party with special interest money and campaign money?

So much for the good-natured conservative family values and values of spirituality of loving neighbors as thyself from the good ol GOP. Those ideals today are out the doors and windows of that party, in the spirit of Greed Over People and Profits Over People. I guess to them such ideals mean, earn as much you can while screwing everyone else out of a chance to pay bills or pay for their own place to live. We can't abort the baby, because we need to starve it as a child, then watch it wither away and die on the city streets- homeless or killed otherwise.

February 11 2014 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In today's job market where the unemployed are seen as a liability, when the unemployed do manage to find a position they often already have two strikes against them. The position that you have landed is likely not very desirable, i.e. abusive manager. Your prior unemployed status is almost as if you already have your performance final warning on file with HR. After losing my job at the beginning of a down-ward spiral for my employer, I was unemployed for almost 4 months with no prospects. I wasn't even getting phone interviews with HR when I landed an interview an hour away at a company I had never heard of through a recruiting agency. I wasn't overly excited about this company's product, but upon meeting the management team that I was working with I decided that this was a company that would offer some growth potential and maybe I could learn to appreciate the product. It didn't take long before I realized that almost everyone in the company had gone to the same college and this was the only company most had ever worked for. My manager was a lazy myopic micromanager that hadn't developed any new skills in over 20 years. He had simply delegated those responsibilities to others and continued on an outmoded management model that was suited more for a floor supervisor than a corporate manager. Whenever my boss came into my office it was to scream at me. Once I finally figured out what he was screaming about, it was usually not because I did anything wrong, but I arrived at my solution through a different path. He engaged in management through rumour. I didn't even have to do any thing wrong. All he needed was a story, and I was obviously in the wrong. I still remember the two times that he pronounced, "This must have happened at your last job, and that is why you got fired!" I did end up getting fired for not meeting expectations, but those expectations were never explained even when I asked for clarification. I was simply told that after having been working in the industry for as long as I had that I should just know what he wanted. I guess I missed Clairvoyance and Mind-Reading on the job description. The one thing that I have learned is that every department does things differently.

January 26 2014 at 7:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sometimes businesses aren't stable employers. Workers should reject unstable employers. We must remember that a worker is a business man/woman of One who hires other businesses to work with to produce goods and services. It's a two way street. The term "worker" is a misnomer created by Socialist during the early part of the Industrial revolution. We're all business persons!

July 24 2013 at 2:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a Electrician my work history ever since I bought my house is god awful, I can;t even get min wage jobs like target, sears, and other retail store because they know once I do land a job in my field I will be right out the door, I just applied for a job at a local amusing park they will pay me 10 dollars an hour and 40 hours a week, what a joke, as it stand I make more money on unemployment which I currently have. How can I just simple shot myself in the foot?

July 23 2013 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Daniel Johansen

I'm not often involved in hiring people, but once when I was, we were looking to fill a high-skill technical job and we got a resume that showed 6 months at one job, 3 months at the next, a few weeks at another, etc. This person had gone through over a dozen jobs in just a few years, with the most time at any one job being a year. My immediate thought was: I don't know if this guy gets fired from every job he gets, or if he quickly gets bored and quits. Either way, why in the world would we want to hire him? He's not going to be around long enough to do any useful work. I can readily understand why employers would want "stable employment history". As one of my co-workers said at the time, if you see that someone had 3 years at job A, 2 months at job B, and 5 years at job C, you say, okay, so he took that job and then realized it was a mistake, or he had some personality conflict, or whatever, no big deal. But when every job he's had lasts just a few months, that's not bad luck or one mistake. There's some fundamental problem there. Maybe some employers use "stable" as a code word for "currently employed", but there's very good reason to want "stable".

July 23 2013 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sometimes a corporation will have one of its best employees switch sides to either spy on or throw the monkey wrench into the clockwork of its competitor. Sometimes a worker with a perfect work record becomes the fox in the henhouse. A worker with less than a perfect work record is less of a security risk. The only worse thing than a fox in a hen house is a smart fox in a hen house.

July 22 2013 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just because a person gets laid off doesn't necessarily mean that she is a loser. Sometimes the people with less seniority are the ones to get laid off first. Also, sometimes a company will just decide that they can do without a certain position during a recession, and it has nothing to do with the employee's job performance or qualifications. More rarely, sometimes a person is laid off or fired due to politics or backstabbing. Also, sometimes an employee worked in a position for which they weren't quite qualified. This employee may work better in another position with less responsibility or may work better in an entirely different career field.

July 22 2013 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The last thing that an employer wants to do is compliment his best workers because this makes his workers feel as though they should be paid more. Compliments also give his workers the idea that they may do better elsewhere since they are so indispensable. Workers who are job hopping are the ones who think they are indispensable. They each get a rude awaking after they ditch their current complimenting employer for one who puts 'em down no matter how well they work in order to make 'em feel unworthy for an advancement in pay. How do employers expect to keep a job hopper with a good work history who feels that she's indispensable.

July 21 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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