NOWADAYS, BUSINESSES, especially small business, are just trying to stay afloat. They are trying to keep their doors open by supplying their customers with the best products and services available. More often than not, a superior staff will produce a superior product. The staff with the most talent, the most (or best) education, and the most experience will deliver the best product. The delta that most business owners have to settle on, however, is how to get the best products or services out of the best staff member that he or she can afford to employ.

Beyond the quality and talent of the staff, a more important facet has emerged: loyalty. Business owners have found that a company filled with new people (regardless of talent) will not perform as well as a team that has worked together on multiple projects for an extended period of time. As such, during an employment interview, the intent of the employee can often weigh more or the business owner’s decision to hire them than their credentials. The reason is this: it is not uncommon for businesses to operate on projects beyond the scope of typical education. In short, what you learned in high school or college might not have anything to do with what the company or position for which you are applying is currently working on.

This fact, combined with the fact that it costs the company a lot of time and money to train someone and get them up to speed on a project or position, means that someone applying for a position may not get the job if they seem unsure about how long they would like to stay with the organization with which they are applying.

Think about it: why would you hire someone if they seemed like they were going to jump ship at the next slightly better offer that came their way, or if it seemed like they were just bringing in a paycheck from you until their real dream job came along?

I have a friend who graduated at the top of his class and is an extremely talented graphic designer--about as good as I’ve ever seen. The guy’s a visionary. However, he recently expressed to me that he is having trouble getting somebody to hire him. Having seen his work, I couldn’t believe it. I asked him about his employment history after college and his answer clarified his situation to me. 

My friend was basically recruited out of college by a big design firm at a respectable starting salary. Not long after he settled into his first company, he was extended an offer slightly better by a different company, so he went for it. Not long after that, he was offered something slightly better from a third, so he went for it. After four companies in less than three years, the economy took a dip and because he was the “new guy” at his newest company, he got the ax first. Because of his multiple movements before he was let go, he was labeled disloyal by his industry and had trouble finding employment because, now having to interview, his new potential employers wanted to know why he had had so many jobs in such a short amount of time. It might have even been better for him if he was laid off from those jobs because at least he would still have the trust of the business owners in his industry.

This is why interviewers ask about your “five-year professional plan,” “where you see yourself in ten years,” or “what your dream job is.” They are looking for loyalty; someone who wants to be rooted with them for a long time because previously discussed, it costs time and money to bring even the most talented new employee onto the team.

The moral: be smart and stick around for a while. You’ll be better off in the long run.