Mind the Gap—Best Practices for Role Tenure

Providing feedback to health and safety candidates about why they weren’t shortlisted for a role or why they came second is never easy—ask any recruiter. It’s the hardest part of our jobs. Just lately, the feedback we’ve had to deliver has centred around role tenure.


What Defines Tenure?

When hiring health and safety professionals, many recruiting managers will place an emphasis on tenure which they believe demonstrates resilience, loyalty and the ability to measure the success of strategies and programs developed and implemented. And, many will conclude that it takes six months to really ‘get’ the role and ‘get’ the company and at least 12 months before there is the ability to commence affecting systemic change.

Whilst one (or maybe even two) short stints could be excusable, where your CV is called into question is when your CV shows a pattern of leaving permanent roles after less than 18 months (or less than 3 years for an executive resume).


There are Exemptions

According to research conducted via SEEK, one in four Australians have experienced redundancy and redundancy is a legitimate reason for a short tenure.

Interstate or overseas moves could also result in short tenure.

If you’re a young safety professional still developing your craft, you could be excused for short stints as you are still working out where you want to be (graduate→first role→second role).

And, don’t worry if you’re a contractor, it’s completely acceptable to have roles on your CV that were only ever going to be short tenures, just like it is acceptable to have moved around quickly from role to role in the same organisation (e.g. promotions or sideway moves).


What About a Poor Career Choice?

Let’s face it, we are all vulnerable to making poor career choices and this can be excusable. If this has happened, then own the decision and don’t remove it from your resume or fudge dates because you weren’t there for very long. Honesty is the best policy (and you won’t have anything to worry about if the company you are interviewing with runs a career history check). We suggest you add the reason you left on your CV:

e.g. Health & Safety Manager, Jul – 2020 – October 2020 – ‘Reason For Leaving – wrong cultural fit’.

This then gives you the opportunity to discuss the reasons why at your job interview.

Let’s also dispel the myth that even if you hate your job, you should stick it out for at least 12 months. Whether it is 6 months or 12 months, it still looks short and why be miserable? Sometimes leaving a role sooner because the culture wasn’t right or the values didn’t meet yours is easier to explain than sticking it out. Practice how to answer why you left the role, giving it a positive lens.


I Wasn’t Being Paid Enough

Leaving a role after a short period because a carrot was dangled doesn’t ever sound good to a prospective employer and could even come back to bite you. Instead of saying you left for a higher paying role, your explanation could be:

“I wasn’t looking for a new role and intended to stay longer at XYZ, however, I couldn’t say no to this opportunity which has provided me with a broader portfolio/accelerated my career development/given me my first direct reports to manage.”

And, they’ll be able to see that the role that offered more money has a long tenure……as you stayed, right?


Considerations When Changing Jobs

Our best advice is to choose roles carefully and weigh up whether a new career move is going to enhance or hinder your CV.
So, if you’ve been in your role less than 18 months (if a safety advisor) or less than 3 years as a senior executive manager, before taking the plunge, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I stayed long enough to leave a legacy?
  • Am I able to talk through my accomplishments?
  • Do I have the depth of experience that my peers do?
  • Will my referees from here be glowing and easily be able to provide examples of my work achievements?
  • Am I only thinking of moving into a new role because:
    • I’m flattered that I’ve been headhunted. Tip Remember – the grass is not always greener.
    • It’s more money. Tip Maybe you could talk honestly with your boss about how you’ve been approached about a higher paying role and respectfully ask how long it will take you to get there in the current company?
    • I’m frustrated. Tip Could you persevere to turn this around and then it’s a great demonstration of overcoming adversity to share at your next job interview?
    • I’m bored. Tip. Could you possibly seek out other challenges to broaden your portfolio or your development and it will become a good talking point at your next job interview?


Our Final Word

As we see it, there will always be jobs for great safety professionals, but moving jobs frequently could potentially limit your options as you start to climb the career ladder. Stability on your CV should always be your aspiration.

For further reading about how to position short tenure with prospective employers click here.

And, if you would like further inspiration, check out our learn section on our website. It has plenty of good resources to help you manage your HSE career, like podcasts, articles and webinars.

As always, get in touch if we can help you to find your next health and safety job or recruit health and safety talent to your team.

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