Job search
By Mike Thacker-Cooke
9th November 2015

Imagine you've received CVs for two equally qualified candidates. The only real difference between them: one has never stayed at a job for more than 18 months, and one has been in the same role for 10 years. Which would you choose?

For many hiring managers in technology, their choice – perhaps surprisingly – would be the candidate who’s changed roles fairly regularly. There was a time when longevity at a job was considered a positive addition to your CV, suggestive of stability, loyalty and reliability. Whilst this may still be true in some industries, it’s less of an advantage in information management, big data & analytics, and finance – all worlds where things change quickly and it’s seen as no bad thing.

For those considering a career change after just a few years in a job, this may come as welcome news. And for employees who've been in the same role for 10 or more years, this may be a sign it’s time to start considering a move.

However, it’s important to remember that hiring managers will see more in your CV than just the number of years you've been at a company. As the saying goes, it’s more about the quality than the quantity of those years.

With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding if you've been at your job for too long:

Have you shown advancement?

If you've moved fairly frequently from job to job, there should be a logical progression to each new role, representing new opportunities, challenges or promotions. Change for the sake of change can be fine sometimes, but moving about too much on a whim can make you seem unreliable or unfocused. And if you've been with the same company for years, not showing any progression during that time may make it seem as if you’re out of touch or lack initiative – especially in the fast-paced tech sector, which changes far more quickly than most other industries.

What kind of company do you work for?

A longer time spent at a bigger company can be a benefit. Recruiters and hiring managers know that a large enterprise, especially a multinational, means you’re more likely to have worked across many functions, had access to more training and development, and perhaps even worked abroad. On the other hand, staying for a long time at a very small company, especially one that hasn't grown much during your tenure, could indicate you’re in a professional rut. Whichever your situation, be sure you are learning and advancing as much as you possibly can. And if your current position isn't offering you the opportunity to do so, it’s time to move on.

What stage of your career are you in?

Younger candidates in their 20s tend to be more focused on developing their technical skills, so they’re viewed more favourably when making frequent job changes in pursuit of growing their knowledge base. On the other hand, as candidates get into their 30s and older, they may become increasingly interested in taking on management roles as well. Wishing to broaden those skills as well as gain seniority, they understandably may choose to stay longer at the same company. Whatever stage you might be in, hiring managers and recruiters will view your longevity in context.

The key thing to remember: It’s not so much how long you've been with a given company, but how long you've been in the same role, doing the same thing, the same way. Don’t get stuck in a rut, and don't be afraid to move on if you feel as though you’re not learning and advancing at the rate you’d like.

With that in mind, take a fresh look at your CV to ensure it’s achievement-based – that is, bring your accomplishments, promotions, and certifications to the forefront so that potential employers see the quality of your years at a job, rather than the quantity.

For tips on selling yourself in a CV, read our post here, or contact your recruiter if you need advice and support. 

Do you think there’s such a thing as being too long at one job? Or moving around too much? What factors should go into making that judgement call? Please share your thoughts with us below.

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