Asked&Answered: “How long do you plan to stay in a full time job?”

Welcome to Asked&Answered, our monthly advice column in which Ellen Mehling, METRO's Career Services Consultant, answers reader questions.

Q: An interviewer asked me how long I expected to stay at that (full-time) job if hired. How do I answer that, and what answer do you think the interviewer was hoping to hear?

A: The interviewer is trying to determine if you are likely to leave after a short period of time. Hiring and training new employee is costly in terms of time, effort and money, and if a new hire leaves after a short period of time, the whole disruptive process begins again. This can make the hiring decision-maker look bad; it calls his/her judgment into question for recommending that hire.

A good answer would be something along the lines of, “I’m looking for a position where I can fit in well, contribute strongly, and grow in the position and at that workplace, ideally for the long term.” If the interviewer presses you for a specific time period, I’d include the phrase “at least” and give a range, and understand that if you are hired, you are not obligating yourself to stay any specific length of time no matter what answer you give.

Regarding how long you should actually stay at a full-time job, keep in mind that having multiple jobs where you chose to leave after less than a year may raise questions for the hiring manager about job-hopping and/or performance issues. Eighteen months to two years is a good minimum that won’t be a red flag.

As for a maximum, as long as you are happy at your workplace and there are opportunities for growth and/or promotions, five years or even more is not unreasonable. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”

Related: Are millennials really job hopping more now than in the past?