How should I explain job searching after only eight months?
May 29, 2012 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Eight months into a one-year contract, I'm aggressively searching for a new job because of a horrible boss. How should I explain my short stay at the company to recruiters and potential employers?

From a potential employer's point of view, it's probably surprising that I would be searching now. First, I've stayed at my past jobs between three and five years (and I can give concrete reasons for leaving, such as moving to a new city). Second, I work for a big corporation that's known for high salaries and excellent benefits. Third, it's legally challenging for me to change jobs because of my work permit situation (I'm an immigrant). And finally, they might wonder why I'm trying to leave before the end of my contract, when the end is relatively near. (Even if they don't explicitly ask me, most people will guess that I'm working under a one-year contract, based on normal hiring practices where I live.)

Trust me when I say that my working environment is bad enough that I can't finish the contract and I need to get out as soon as possible, for my emotional well-being. But I need to secure a new position first.

I want to get my story straight so that:

- I have a coherent explanation for wanting to leave
- I don't blurt out something unprofessional (in my secret desperation to get out)
- employers don't worry that I'll do the same to them (I'm definitely looking for a place where I can stay many years, but of course all applicants will say that)
- it's clear that I'm not being "unofficially fired" (my coworkers and intermediate managers are very happy with my work; the boss is terrible to everyone, not just to me)
- I can field probing questions about my situation (last time I was job hunting, I tried to keep it vague to avoid saying negative things about my employer, and that inevitably led to more questions because recruiters/interviewers were curious)
- I still communicate that I'm good at my job, I'm professional but friendly, and I'm not a complainer or someone who needs to be handled with kid gloves (all true - I'm just in a situation that's not working for me and is not going to change)

I'd love to hear advice from people who have experience job hunting in such a situation, and from hiring managers and HR employees who have evaluated applicants who are looking to move on after a short stay at a company.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You are worrying too much. Unless I've seen a series of stays-less-than-a-year, as an employer, I don't care at all.

"It isn't the right environment for me" is all I would need to hear to clear that very-small black mark.

If pressed (unlikely), just say that the opportunities for advancement aren't what you expected, or some such drivel. Any smart interviewer will get the picture without your having to share too many details.

On the other hand, do not complain in detail about your job. It always signals a problem employee, and I never hire anyone who bitches like that. My company cannot handle a whiner, it only takes one or two to poison the team.
posted by Invoke at 5:48 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with Invoke. Based on the fact that it sounds like the rest of your employment history is pretty predictable, I think it's perfectly fair to just come clean with the fact that, for various reasons, it's not working out for you to the extent that you need to pursue alternatives.

It's not simply the fact of leaving a job before you might that hits employers; it's coming off as someone who cannot be counted on to stay in a position with any certainty, and that doesn't sound like you, from your description.
posted by Brak at 5:51 PM on May 29, 2012

"It's not the right fit for me, but I've learned a lot about RELEVANT THING and I'm excited to put that to use in a long-term position at COMPANY."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, and smile benignly while you say this (even if you are saying it over the phone). That will help you subtly convey, "Everything there is basically a non-stop performance of The Nutcracker Suite, but I'm too professional to get into it with you."

Sometimes they will ask, "Oh, what didn't work for you?" Neutral answers would be stuff like, "They are focused on maintaining their market share in Y, but I'm more interested in Z," or "I want to move to a more dynamic and entrepreneurial environment," or "I want to develop more skills in thing X that your company does." The best thing you can do there is say anything other than something negative about your current employer.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:58 PM on May 29, 2012

It would really not set off any red flags with me if I were to interview someone on a 1 year contract at the 8-month mark. It seems like a perfectly rational time to start interviewing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:59 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]

It would really not set off any red flags with me if I were to interview someone on a 1 year contract at the 8-month mark. It seems like a perfectly rational time to start interviewing.

I came in here to say this exact thing. You're close enough to the end of the contract that it's not going to raise flags, and if they ask why you're not trying to re-up at the same place, go with the "it's not the right environment for me, trying to find a place that's a little better fit for my career goals" answers.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:05 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

The ISO Standard Ask Metafilter Advice for your situation is to say some variation of "it just wasn't a good fit." If you are asked to give more detail, say that you were looking to gain more experience in something that New Company specializes in, but that you didn't quite find that at Old Company, and you're very excited about having a chance to hone your skills at whatever it is that New Company is most proud of about itself.
posted by Scientist at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got offered a new job (today!) after only working in my current job since January because it isn't a good fit for me. I told my new company it wasn't a good fit and then picked a detail that the new job didn't have in common with the old one. They didn't care & offered me the job. Don't worry, things happen.
posted by Kimberly at 6:18 PM on May 29, 2012

It's not going to surprise anyone that a contract employee is looking for a more secure position.
posted by orange swan at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

With the job market as bad as it is right now, and doubly difficult for people who need sponsorship to work, it only makes sense to start looking now in anticipation of the 12-month end mark. I would stick with that as the reason -- you are looking because it is a 12-month contract and so it is coming to an end.
posted by Houstonian at 6:42 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in the exact same boat as you a year ago, only I had been with that company for an even shorter duration. Horrible boss, that sort of thing. In the end I ended up leaving it off of my resume because of how short it was, and didn't really talk about it. For one or two interviews, though, I did mention it, and when they asked why I left, I just said "it wasn't a good fit". No one really had a problem with that answer. As everyone else has said, you might be overthinking this - just as I had.

FWIW, there was a similar question asked here.
posted by gchucky at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2012

"the contract is for one year, but it looks like my work on the project will be completed sooner than anticipated."
posted by davejay at 11:59 PM on May 29, 2012

"It wasn't a good fit" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say in a job interview. However, employers are likely to ask you to elaborate on that, and I strongly suggest giving a point or two explaining why it wasn't a good fit. Like the "wasn't a good fit" phrase, you should be diplomatic. For example, you could say something like "I realized X kind of environment wasn't a good fit for me. I realized I preferred to work in Y environment." From there, you can elaborate on why Y environment would work well with your strengths.
posted by emilynoa at 5:48 AM on May 30, 2012

"My contract will be up soon so I'm looking now". End.
posted by mazienh at 7:19 PM on May 31, 2012

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