did you have a short stint
How much time did you spend in your last job? Image: Piti Tangchawalit/Shutterstock

Did you leave a job after a short stint? Here’s how to explain it

30 Aug 2017

The days of long tenures and lifelong jobs are starting to disappear, but how short is too short a stay at any one job?

There was once a time when company loyalty was lauded over above most other things. Spending 10, 15, even 20 years at one organisation was deemed impressive.

But now, with the average person making seven career changes in their lifetime, CVs have become peppered with shorter periods at different companies or even in different sectors.

However, you might still be worrying about that particularly short stint you did at a company. How short is too short? When does it start to look bad, if at all?

The truth is, there is no right amount of time to spend at a company. Every situation is different and there’s usually a reason why you left within a year.

Similar to explaining a gap in your CV, a short stint in a particular place merely tells part of your employment story.

Be comfortable with it

Try to look at your own CV from the point of view of a recruiter or an employer. Does the short stint jump out at you? Why? It could be abnormally short, it could be an exception to the rest of your CV, or it could be multiple short stays that are ringing alarm bells.

Once you’ve established what might attract questions, know the answers yourself. Remember that a short stint in a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something that makes your CV different and might leave a recruiter wanting to find out more.

Be honest about it

Don’t jump to conclusions about what the recruiter thinks of your short stints. Don’t assume they’re judging you or try to hide behind vague answers.

It’s best to be honest about your change of direction or the opportunity that presented itself soon after you started in a different company.

Be mindful of it

Often, the honest answer behind a short stint can be to do with the culture of the company. You might have had a negative experience and decided to leave as a result.

However, this is where you must tread carefully, as speaking badly of your former employer will set off completely different alarm bells for recruiters.

When the question of leaving comes up and the answer is, ‘because it was a terrible place to work’, it’s better to be diplomatic. Talk about the positives while noting that it was time to move on or that you’re looking for career progression elsewhere.

Questions to watch out for

Loyalty: Multiple short stints could call your loyalty or level of commitment into question. Be prepared to prove that you are a loyal, hardworking employee.

Ill-fitting: A short stint in a job might prove that it wasn’t the right fit and, while every company is different, a recruiter might wonder what makes you the right fit for them. For this, it’s best to know as much as you can about the company’s culture so that you can explain why exactly you are the person for the job.

Lack of focus: Short stints can be seen by recruiters as a lack of focus. However, no one knows the pattern of a particular employment journey more than its owner. Map out the patterns and connections between jobs that have brought you to this point, and prove where your focus lies. A short stint or five doesn’t mean a lack of focus, it might just mean taking the scenic route.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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