The pros and cons being a probationary employee
A job trial period gives you—and your potential employer—a chance to see if a particular position is a good fit.
Not all job offers are created equal. Unfortunately, some come with strings attached, such as an employment probation period, also referred to as a new hire probationary period. In a nutshell, these are short-term periods employers use to try out job candidates before rewarding them with full-time status. Typically, a job trial period runs for about 60 to 90 days—though some can run for up to a year, says Nancy Segal, owner of HR consulting firm Solutions for the Workplace, LLC.
An employment probation period may sound like a raw deal for job seekers, but if you dig deeper into these kinds of opportunities, you’ll find they have the potential to be beneficial for your career. As Karas puts it: “You’re not being punished just because it’s called ‘probationary.’”
Think about it as if you were buying a new car. The model you’re hoping to purchase reportedly gets great mileage, looks super-cool, and has all the safety features you wanted. One problem, though: You can’t test drive it for more than a single lap around the car lot. Just how eager are you to sign on the dotted line?
“Employers use probationary periods to avoid making poor hiring decisions,” says Nancy Karas, executive coach at career-consulting firm Get Five LLC. “They give managers reasonable time to determine if their new hire is a good fit for the company and the team, both culturally and functionally, for the job.”
Here is a straightforward look at the pros and cons a job trial period offers in order to help you determine whether to proceed or continue searching for a new job.
Upsides of a job trial period
You get to feel out the company
As a probationary employee, you get an opportunity to see if you’re a good fit for the job in the same way employers are seeing what it’s like to work with you. It’s not just about assessing the cultural fit though, Segal says. “Is the commute doable? Do the hours work for you? If the logistics are off, you can more easily change jobs when” you’ve done a probationary employment period, she says.
You get detailed feedback on your performance
“Most managers provide feedback when they’re trying out new hires during a probationary period,” says Karas. This information on your work performance—knowing exactly where you’re nailing it, and where you’re falling short—is invaluable. In fact, recent Gallup research shows that employees who receive regular feedback from their managers perform better for their teams and companies. But the Gallup poll also found that only 19% of millennials receive routine feedback from their manager—and only 17% said what they do receive is meaningful.
During an employment probation period, though, workers often receive ongoing feedback from their boss on their performance. “It allows constant communication between you and your new employer,” Karas says. You’ll have a good inclination as to whether or not you’ll be able to do good work and thrive on the job.
You get a job—plain and simple
Put simply, taking a probationary job still means you’ll be gainfully employed, which is no small thing. You’ll be developing skills, earning a paycheck, and seeing the ins and outs of a company, all of which do more for you than not having any job at all.
Downsides of a job trial period
You may not get health benefits (or other perks of being a full-time employee)
Some employers will withhold medical benefits from a probationary employee until the job trial period is completed. Also, “if you’re being offered a sign-on bonus, you might not get the whole bonus until your probationary period is over,” Segal says. “Employees really need to get clarity upfront about the terms of their probationary period.” Talk to HR to find out what, exactly, you’re signing up for before accepting a probationary job offer.
Probationary employment can be annoying
“It’s tough to be under the microscope,” according to Karas. “Feeling like you’re being evaluated every moment can be very stressful.”
A probationary job can be particularly worrisome for people who are moving to a new city. “If you’re uprooting your life or your family for a new job, you obviously want to have job security, which you don’t really get when you’re on a probationary employment period,” says Stephanie Waite, senior associate director at Yale’s Office of Career Strategy.
Your job is not entirely secure
By nature, being on a probationary period means your employer could let you go a lot more easily than if you were a regular full-time employee.
Segal recommends asking your prospective employer how many workers, on average, complete their probationary period and are given full-time job status; if it’s a low percentage, you may not want to take the job.
Don’t ignore your job search
Just because you’re going through a job trial period doesn’t mean you should put the brakes on your job search. Keep seeking out new opportunities just in case things with your new job don’t work out by the end of the probationary term. Need some help? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to different types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts emailed right to your inbox, which cuts down on the amount of time you’d spend combing through ads. Those are just two quick and easy ways Monster can help you establish a steady career.