How should you evaluate IT job tenures in 2023?

As the technological landscape rapidly evolves, the necessity for hiring competent IT Engineers intensifies. The task becomes all the more daunting when you factor in the time investment required to bring new hires up to speed and the potential implications of high turnover rates.

According to a survey conducted by Swimm, the onboarding period for a software engineer can stretch from 3 to 9 months on average. GitLab, a notable software company, presents a similar onboarding process timeline, emphasizing the substantial time commitment involved in thoroughly integrating a new engineer into an organization. 

The timeline typically unfolds as follows:

  • Acclimation Period (3 to 6 months): During this phase, the new engineer learns the ropes of the company, team, and specific processes.
  • Value Creation (6 to 12 months): The engineer begins to add tangible value to the business and becomes an integral team member.
  • Role Mastery (6 to 18 months): The engineer assumes full ownership of their role, contributing significantly to the team’s direction.

Given this considerable time investment, it is only logical for hiring managers to prioritize longevity when scouting for potential candidates. While past performance has often been deemed a reliable indicator of future potential, is it wise to dismiss candidates based on their history of short tenures, especially in the current tech talent landscape?

As an IT leader, you have a tough job. You must find someone with that perfect set of technical skills, who’s used them in an environment similar to yours, who is a good culture fit, AND who will stay for a few years! Consider the fact the IT has the highest turnover of any skillset and it’s easy to understand why this process is so stressful.

In my 20+ years in the business, it used to be a relatively easy decision for hiring managers. I was told “a few short tenure jobs, and I’ll just pass”. Which made sense 5 – 10 years ago. But in an economy that is short on “A Player” level tech talent, this could cause you to lose great candidates; especially those that fit your budget! 

Given Covid, the Great Resignation and generational changes to the workforce, how should you evaluate job tenures in your candidate assessment in 2023? 

When evaluating a candidate's employment history, we suggest you consider the following:

Average Job Tenure by Generation: Note that younger generations tend to have shorter job tenures, which is more a reflection of the generational shift than the individual’s commitment.

  • Generation Z: 2 years, 3 months.
  • Millennials: 2 years, 9 months
  • Generation X: 5 years, 2 months.
  • Baby Boomers: 8 years, 3 months.

Skill Advancement: The IT sector is characterized by continuous evolution. Employees often need to switch roles to gain exposure to emerging tools and platforms, enhancing their market value.

Project Nature – Build vs Maintain: An IT Engineer’s efficiency in building a system may not translate to equivalent enthusiasm in maintaining it. The candidate’s preference in this regard should be taken into account.

Startup Tenure: Generally, the average tenure in a startup is less than 2 years.

Non-technical Factors: These may include workplace culture, relationships with superiors, compensation, and recruitment by former employers.

In the current employment climate, a pattern of shorter job tenures is not necessarily a red flag. Here are some guidelines for assessing job tenure:

Less than 12 months tenure: Repeated instances of short tenures could be concerning. However, if these are outliers amidst more stable jobs, a discussion with the candidate about the circumstances may be necessary.

12 – 18 months tenure: For candidates with this average tenure, it’s important to explore their job transition history, considering factors like increased compensation, supervisor conflicts, and layoffs.

2+ years tenure: Generational norms should be taken into account here. Gen Z and Millennials with an average tenure around this range should be considered, while candidates from Gen X or older generations may warrant a more in-depth discussion about their job transitions.

3+ years tenure: In the current market, this is an encouraging sign of employment stability. Longer tenures are even more desirable, indicating resilience in the face of challenges.


The financial and time costs associated with an ill-suited hire are significant. As hiring managers, it’s crucial to mitigate risks by thoroughly investigating each candidate’s employment history. Avoid blanket rejections based on job tenure alone. Instead, delve deeper into each transition and employ behavioral questions to understand the candidate’s motivation and resilience. Asking questions like, “Can you share an example of a challenging work experience that significantly impacted you emotionally?” can provide insight into the candidate’s ability to navigate challenging scenarios.

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