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I am actively interviewing for positions and one issue that keeps coming up is that in my last four jobs, I had tenures of about 2 years per job.

Reasons why I left these jobs involve financial instability in the organization, escaping a toxic and dysfunctional work culture, or the opportunity (as I saw it then) to expand my skillset and career by taking on a major project or switching to a larger, more prestigious organization.

One way I thought I would answer this question is to flip it around and state what would make me stay at a job for the long term. Because I do intend to stick around long-term — for at least five years — in my next job. My script is below

What would make me stay in a job for the long term are:

  • Stability. I am looking to be in a role or organization where there are no issues with funding or serious financial instability
  • Flexibility to accommodate the challenges of raising a young child. Benefits, work-life balance, flex schedules, telecommuting and a decent commute are as important to me as salary at this point in my life
  • Work culture. I would like my workplace to be where colleagues treat one another with respect, are able to collaborate and communicate effectively, and if there is disagreement, people are able to work them out in a civil and professional way. I am not happy in a setting where problems are allowed to fester over time. I am happy in a setting where there is mutual respect, transparency and open communications between staff and those who manage them

[EDITED] Is the approach I take above something that could allay hesitations or suspicions on the interviewer's part about my long-term potential for their organization? Is it an effective answer to the questions raised about short term stays?

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    Sorry what is your goal (seems like you are just polling for opinions and thoughts)? Are you saying you are worried that those 2 year periods may raise suspicions? – DarkCygnus Oct 25 '17 at 18:41
  • My goal is to answer their concerns if I may bolt from their organization in two years or less if they hire me. I want to be clear and honest what would make me stay and for them to evaluate me according to those criteria. I want to be open what would make a good mutual fit – libarts Oct 25 '17 at 18:43
  • Basically is the approach I take above something that could allay hesitations or suspicions on the interviewer's part about my long-term potential for their organization? Is it an effective answer to the questions raised about short term stays? – libarts Oct 25 '17 at 18:48
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Let's take a look at the interviewer. What is he really asking here? Basically, "reassure me that you intend to stay here longer than 2 years". Your answer should be (a) true, and (b) relevant to that. I interview a lot of people, and I will often ask directly: "I notice a lot of short-term engagements on your resume. Are you looking for a longer-term position now?"

Therefore, you should be prepared to discuss why you left each of those places. Financial instability is an easy sell. Great opportunity, not bad. "Toxic work environment" might flow better as disagreement with the corporate culture.

After that, or if interviewer doesn't ask about specifics, you can say that you are at a point where you are looking for stability. This is where your points about company stability, work/life balance, and so on fit in.

Just my two cents. Good luck!

  • Thanks! I think this is the approach and perspective I need. My life and priorities are different now that I have a young and growing child that has entered elementary school. Every decision I make about jobs and fit revolves around being able to work my job around my family responsibilites and schedule. I definitely am looking to stay longer at my next job. The biggest factor for me is long term stability and the three bullet points I wrote. If I find a company or organization where there is a good mutual fit I intend to be there long term. – libarts Oct 25 '17 at 19:57
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If you "flip it around" then you will not be answering the question they are actually formulating. You can be lucky and get out with it, but it is also possible that they reiterate the question until you answer the "un-flipped" question.

By answering evasively a clear and direct question they may even think that you are afraid/reluctant to answer truthfully, suggesting that you may actually leave them after 2 years but don't want to say it in the interview.

If they eventually ask you that question I suggest you don't evade it. Instead, you can use those points in your script and reformulate your answer to something like:

I quit those jobs for personal reasons, mostly because their Work culture changed over time into something I did not agree with and that affected my performance. My knowledge of this company so far is that you have an interesting and efficient work culture, which I am sure is something I can definitely work with in a productive way.

Have in mind that mentioning that it was also because you wanted "to expand my skillset and career" may not be a good idea. Whatever you say, try to keep it simple and honest enough, so it does not seem like you are making it up just to land this job. Hope this helps you decide on your course of action.

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To be honest I think stating these things will hurt your chances on landing another job. These points you made are great and are valuable to you but in today's volatile market, anything can change. There is no guarantee that your workplace can/will comply all 3. Even if they did in the beginning, these can change at any given time.

What you are really saying here is that when the direction of the company changes, you will most likely move away. If I were interviewing you, I'd definitely pass on you. Not because you aren't the right candidate, it's because these 3 items is not something any of us can truly control.

Rather than just giving you an answer, I would to offer you another perspective and a change of attitude. I think where you want to be is to be the kind of employee that's flexible while working towards your 3 goals.

What you can say to the interviewer is something along these points:

These are the points that matter and most important to me. I believe these qualities will produce a positive environment for everyone and well aware that companies may / may not have all of them lined up. There maybe even times of changes within the company and all 3 can't be accommodated. However, it's important to me that the direction of the company is working towards these same set of goals.

Good luck

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Is the approach I take above something that could allay hesitations or suspicions on the interviewer's part about my long-term potential for their organization? Is it an effective answer to the questions raised about short term stays?

It's hard to say.

Some companies and interviewers tend to be optimistic and might feel that they match all of your criteria, and thus would have a chance to earn your employment for a long term. Other companies would conclude that you have a laundry list of job requirements that wouldn't stay satisfied for long.

But one question that will surely be asked - If you are very clear about what would get you to stick around, why haven't you picked such a company in your past four attempts?

Four short term jobs in a row can come across as a pattern of someone who will never be satisfied for long.

I understand your points about financial instability and toxic and dysfunctional work culture. But your points about expanding your skillset, taking on a major project, and more prestigious organization - those don't seem to match any of your "what it would take for me to stay" requirements at all.

You need to be able to answer "Why will this time be any different than the past four?" I'm not sure your script does that.

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