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

stable work history
stable work history

Job 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."

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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 ashift 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.