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I have an interview soon for a technical sales position. I initially got the interview through a temp-to-hire service, and the woman who initially interviewed me has advised me that the company I'm applying at really looks for employees interested in long-term employment. She recommended to show that I'm interested in being dedicated and staying with the same company for 10-20 years.

I know in advance that I won't be with them anywhere near that long. I'm fresh out of college and ultimately interested in startup. I'm looking for places to start to develop my skills, not places to plant myself and take root for the next two decades. What's more, all the reviews I've read of the company I'm applying to indicate that it doesn't treat its employees as though it wants to keep them longterm. On Glassdoor, people say that the company is poorly managed and prone to favoritism, with expensive benefits and fickle profit sharing. I also know from reviews and from the temp-to-hire agency that they tend to lowball their salary offers. It doesn't sound like a company I'd want to stay with for two decades even if I was looking to plan out the rest of my life now. It seems like a good starting opportunity to get some experience and develop real skills and I'm very keen on the position, but I'm not interested in it beyond a few years.

How do you navigate this sort of situation in an interview? I don't want to come right out and say that I don't see myself here more than a few years, but I also do not want to make promises I don't intend to keep. (Even if there's no way they can hold me to anything, I'm extremely averse to making promises or agreements of that nature - it feels like a contract to me.) How should I present my interests and answer questions concerning my long-term plans in a way that doesn't flagrantly scream that I'll be gone as soon as it suits me?

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    Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/138693/59602 – Bebs Jul 18 at 11:49
  • @Draco18s Never heard of anyone having 5 "serious" jobs in roughly ten years. With serious I mean not jobbing while going to university but full-time contracts. So it is quite some generalization to say that this generation does this. (I am just above 30). And I would personally advise to stay at least 2 years if not 3 on a position to really learn what is going on there. Still this is just opinion. And maybe this is regional but still please stop generalizing. – Kami Kaze Jul 18 at 14:35
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    @KamiKaze staying at each position for two years comes out to 5 jobs in 10 years. I'd say it's pretty common in software. – BooleanCheese Jul 18 at 15:22
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    P.S. If you like words and like to use the right one in the right situation, you might be interested in looking up the difference between adverse and averse. – CodeSeeker Jul 18 at 16:50
  • @eckes Of course, that only matters if you're interested in stock options, right? – CMB Jul 18 at 20:14
167

"Great! As long as I'm fairly compensated and challenged to learn and grow, I don't see any reason to change jobs!"

Obviously you are pretty sure you won't be fairly compensated and challenged to learn and grow for long, but that's on them. This is true and stated very positively, so threads the line between lying ("Of course, it's my life goal to die in one of your office chairs!") and too blunt ("So, a job for felons and screwups, then?").

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    That's a very wide line ;) – Cullub Jul 18 at 15:43
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    I would personally add in what I would consider a white lie, namely that you see these opportunities in the company. Both makes the line even less confrontational and blows a little sugar up the interviewer's behind, which, sadly, is rarely a bad thing in the interview process. – xLeitix Jul 19 at 8:06
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    @xLeitix Is it really even a lie? If all the Glassdoor reviews happen to be wrong (major change in management, salty employees lying, etc) and the company actually ends up paying OP well with good benefits, and challenges them to grow and foster skills... would OP really have a reason to leave? They say one of their big motivations is growing their skills, and if this company can provide that and not overtly undercompensate... there could be something there (asking for decades of loyalty at interview time is silly though) – Delioth Jul 19 at 14:10
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    What's the worst that happens? You keep growing your technical and business skills and keep loving your job with reasonable pay? What a nightmare! =) – corsiKa Jul 19 at 17:59
  • This doesn't really seem like a white lie, my personal motivations for leaving a company I've almost always been career goals and compensation related. If my compensation doesn't change as my skills and duties do, and I'm not challenged in ways that fit my career goals, it's time to move on... – Douglas Gaskell Jul 27 at 19:20
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Keep in mind that in most companies you may "be gone as soon as it suits" them as well, too. I know from personal experience that this is hard to do, but: Don't feel attached/loyal to your company, be loyal to your job and profession. Since noone else out there is looking after what's best for you, you're the only one who can look out for your best interests. Thus, for your current situation, my advice would be:

  1. Pursue the job offer
  2. Do your research and find out what your salary should be; add 15%-20% on top of that and when asked about it in the interview name your (hefty) price. Since you are ambivalent about this job, you have nothing to lose by gambling here!
  3. If they agree to your salary terms -- great!
  4. If they don't agree to your salary terms -- bullet dodged, I'd say.
  5. Avoid making any concrete statements about your long-term plans, keep it as vague as possible.
  6. Once you have the job, decide from there where your career takes you; maybe you'll stay for a few years after all, maybe not. Who knows? Remember to look out for yourself and your own best interests.
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    This doesn't really give the questioner anything to say at the interview if asked for long-term commitment. – The Dark Lord Jul 18 at 21:36
  • While I don't offer them pre-formulated sentences to say, like the other answers already do, I do advise them to keep it as vague as possible in point 5. – Niko1978 Jul 19 at 5:11
  • Adding 15-20% might come across as unreasonable and shut down the negotiation before it starts. Maybe 5-10% would be smarter. – DJG Jul 19 at 14:57
17

She recommended to show that I'm interested in being dedicated and staying with the same company for 10-20 years.

Imagine that you get an offer from the company, accept it, start working there and discover that none of the negative reviews you've read are true - the environment is great, you like the job, the compensation, the people. Would you still be as eager to change jobs in a few years as you are now? I guess if the circumstances are right you may well end up staying at the company for 10-20 years. You won't be making any false promises by giving this job your best shot, and leaving in a few years if it doesn't suit you.

Another way to look at it is whether the company itself is able to commit to keeping you for 10-20 years. There's never a guarantee that things won't change in a few years and they'll have to let you go. They're not making any false promises to you by offering you employment which can potentially last for many years.

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    well said. I ALWAYS go into a job interview under the assumption it's the job I'll keep until retirement, unless the opening is explicitly for a limited term. What good is a job where you don't enjoy the work and environment enough to want to stay with the company long term? – jwenting Jul 19 at 10:16
  • The reason people don't stay in one company for 10 years is that their salary will be much lower after 10 years than had they taken on new positions every now and then. – Juha Untinen Jul 20 at 6:39
6

After a good response like @mxyzplk suggests, you could easily turn around and ask them the same question - "if I get this job, can I keep it for 10-20 years?"

It's about as ridiculous as the original. Neither of you can really make that commitment in advance, things both inside & outside the relationship can change.

Clarification: I don’t actually encourage doing this literally, I meant it more as a thought experiment in advance of the interview.

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    This is not necessary. – Vahid Amiri Jul 18 at 16:25
  • I don't think this is a good response. You're not out to win an argument with the interviewer - you don't get bonus points if you prove a question is stupid. All you'll likely do is sink any chance you have of getting the job - and the OP's not asking because that's the resolution they want. – Kevin Jul 18 at 19:53
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    It sounds like it'd be satisfying to say, but it would really send a signal that you're prone to out-of-step bluntness when faced with awkward questions during negotiation. Might not be a deal-breaker for a technical role, but the interview is for a sales job. – Jason Jul 18 at 22:17
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    As long as the second paragraph of thought is not included in the response, it could perhaps be included as a light joke if appropriately chuckled after. – DJG Jul 19 at 15:01
1

TLDR: Don't convey a commitment of anything longer than five years. Because anything longer than that is just crazy talk.

If I had interviewed someone that said that they would be willing to commit for 10+ years, I would assume they were just trying to play up to me.

She recommended to show that I'm interested in being dedicated and staying with the same company for 10-20 years.

Perhaps the recruiter is probably reacting from feedback on the last candidate. Perhaps he was declined because they thought he might not stick around for long. And she's going to make darn sure that her next candidate doesn't give off that same vibe.

I don't know much about sales, but I know in technical positions, where there's a lot of training, mentoring, and growing before a new hire can become as efficient as the existing staff. As such, many companies will want some indication that you'll stick around for them to realize their investment in you.

I would not recommend entering an interview by openly speaking about a number of years. If they asked during an interview "how long do you plan on staying", then the answer is something akin to the above:

"I'm making plans for the long term. I want my first job out of school to be where both my immediate career and long term career interests can be met. I don't want to be job-hopping and always looking for the next big thing year after year. So I think it's important that any job I accept is going to be a fit for multiple years, just as you would evaluate me."

Then state your immediate career goal is to ramp-up fast and have impact for the business as soon as possible. If they press on about a specific number of years, then the appropriate answer is:

"I can't predict the future, the economy, or the where the market will be in the years to come. I can try to visualize my career in 4-5 years, but beyond that, it's just a guess. But here's where I want to be in the next few years."

But if they start pressing on about a longer commitment, or unless you are interviewing for a C-level position, then the answer should be a definitive no followed by restating you are only thinking ahead "4-5 years out". Either they will be impressed with your honesty and directness. Or they are insane to believe anyone else that says yes.

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Sales, ok unless you really want to stay in sales, otherwise if you want the technical side, apply for other job, you don't have to accept that job offer.

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