With summer vacations pretty much over, the September job shuffle begins.
The difference this Labour Day is that the hiring dynamics are changing. Employers find, increasingly, that top prospects are checking their references.
"They are very, very sophisticated job seekers now," said Laura Williams, founder and principal of Williams HR Law and Williams HR Consulting Inc. of Markham, Ont.
"Social media platforms, LinkedIn included, create opportunities to identify past employees of an organization. The trend I am seeing is that when people become viable candidates, they will do a search, find someone who worked there and call," Ms. Williams said in an interview.
"As an employer, you are vulnerable to any candidate learning about the real deal by just contacting someone who was there before."
Research by the professional networking site LinkedIn has found that the majority of its members are receptive to an approach from other employers but are unlikely to job hop without knowing "what it's really like" to work there, said Julie Dossett, a marketing and communications specialist with LinkedIn Canada, which has more than 12.5 million members.
There's still movement, of course. "We are entering an age where loyalty is decreasing. In fact, while more than half of the workforce (67 per cent) say they are satisfied with their jobs, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) still see themselves leaving by the end of the year," LinkedIn reported in its 2016 talent trends survey.
There tends to be a lot more give and take in the interview process, especially when employees have the option of staying in their current jobs. Candidates want to know why the position is open, what happened to the previous person in the role, and what they can expect in terms of career advancement if they join the company, Ms. Dossett said in an interview.
They want "honest and up-front" specifics of responsibilities and workload, and will press recruiters to describe "a realistic day in the life of a person in that job, good and bad."
Everyone understands that no job is perfect, Ms. Dossett said, but only the candidate knows what he or she can live with and what's a deal breaker.
Many employers are being challenged to retain top employees as well as to attract them, said Peter Harris, who recently founded Toronto-based content marketing firm Yackler after 12 years as a researcher, trend spotter and writer for the Workopolis and Monster online job boards.
In a blog post earlier this year, Williams HR Consulting advised: "If managers want their star performers to stay, they need to think carefully about how employees are treated. Employees need to be treated with respect and given a range of opportunities to develop."
As Mr. Harris said: "It's well known that the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs is their relationship with their manager. If you are not getting along with your boss, you are not going to be happy at work and your possibilities for advancement are, therefore, limited."
The opportunity to progress and develop new skills is key, and employees won't stick around too long if they feel held back.
"If, at the year-and-a-half mark, you don't see that [opportunity to advance] happening, this is when people start seriously looking around to find their next opportunity somewhere else," Mr. Harris said.
Similarly, LinkedIn reported in its 2016 survey that the top three reasons people leave their jobs are lack of career advancement opportunities, unhappiness with senior leadership and dissatisfaction with compensation and benefits.
Loyalty only takes you so far these days.
"Everything just happens so fast now, decisions are made on last quarter's numbers or this month's numbers, and that's when departments get reshifted and plans get changed," Mr. Harris said. Your great boss today might not be your boss tomorrow and employees can no longer count on working their ways up the ranks.
In fact, in many organizations there is a view that "new is always better," Mr. Harris said. "It's not that there's anything wrong with their current staff [when new positions and opportunities open up], it's just kind of a psychological thing; we think we'll bring in someone new to head up this new project."
So prospective candidates do far more research on the recruiting company, to the extent of tracking down and quizzing employees who have left for other jobs and opportunities, Ms. Williams said.
"I have experienced it first hand as an employer. In my case, I am fortunate that positive things were said [by ex-employees] and we were able to seal the deal for the talent we wanted to hire."