The Potential Consequences of Too Much Tenure

One of the many privileges as a boutique recruiter is the opportunity we have to work closely with our candidates as we support them with their job search. This includes a professional review of our candidates’ CVs, which sometimes results in honest conversations about how a potential employer is going to view their career history.

In relation to this, we recently wrote a blog about how changing jobs frequently (i.e. “job-hopping”) can negatively impact your job search, as many employers place emphasis on tenure, believing that this demonstrates resilience, loyalty and the ability to measure long-term achievements.

After we released this article, it sparked discussion about “how long is too long in a job?” You see, there’s a fine line between establishing tenure in an organisation to show that you’re not a job-hopper and staying so long that employers are hesitant to hire you!


Doesn’t tenure equal loyalty?

Yes, it does! There is plenty of truth to the notion that a long stay with one organisation is generally looked upon favourably. It’s an indication of expertise and experience—a safe bet that someone who’s been successful in a position for a long time really knows their stuff—and of company loyalty.

But there are some hiring managers who value seeing a diverse range of industry experience and/or natural career progression on a CV. There is such a thing as too much tenure and there’s a ‘tipping point’ at which loyalty can potentially signal complacency.


So, how long is too long in a job?

It’s a complex equation! There are always nuances buried within the number of years on a CV. For instance, lots of movement within a single organisation may mitigate some of the negatives associated with staying put. If you’ve been somewhere for 15+ years, but you’ve moved up levels or moved into different roles every couple of years, that’s like changing jobs. That makes a lot of time spent in one place much more palatable because it implies you’ve gotten lots of varied experience over those years.

On the other hand, if you’ve been somewhere for 15+ years and you’ve had one job title, that can be a real worry when it comes to putting yourself into the job market as it can be a red flag to a potential employer. They may assume that:

  • You’re not motivated or driven to achieve;
  • And/or you are most comfortable with the familiar and may be resistant to change;
  • And/or you are institutionalised and that you may struggle to fit into a new organisational culture or adapt readily to new leadership;
  • And/or you have a less diverse and evolved set of skills than a candidate who has mastered a number of jobs.

Of course, everyone’s career path is different and all of these judgements are entirely subjective. There’s no universal answer to how all hiring managers will judge long-tenured candidates.

However, based on our experience of engaging with our clients (i.e. hiring managers) and working within the recruitment industry for 25+ years, we believe 5+ years in a job without promotion is the optimal tenure to establish a track record of success, without suffering potentially negative consequences when job hunting. Naturally, this will always depend on the level of the role, the scope and size of the role, and the size and scale of the organisation.


How to highlight tenure as a strength

If you’ve found yourself in the position of being in the same role with the same role title for years and you’re now looking to change employers, you may need to “sell” your long tenure as a strength, rather than a weakness, on your CV and in interviews. Here’s how:

  • Highlight how you’ve continued to build your knowledge and skills via professional development opportunities.
  • Highlight any additional responsibilities gained within your role – i.e. significant project involvement, acting-up responsibilities, exposure to different teams/departments within the organisation etc.
  • Demonstrate a progressive approach to your role by focusing on continuous change and adopting new/current systems, technologies, practices, etc.
  • Highlight your professional networks and any external activities which demonstrate broader capability and experience areas.

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

As always, please get in touch if we can help you to find your next health and safety job, recruit health and safety talent into your team, or provide you with advice on your resume.

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