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Probation Period: What is It and How to Use It to Your Advantage


If you have recently started a new job, you may be wondering what a probationary period is and how it affects your employment status. A probationary period is a trial period of employment that allows both the employer and the employee to assess the suitability of the job and the performance of the worker. The notion of a probationary period may seem intimidating at first, but, if you play your cards right, the transition from “on probation” to “hired” can be fairly easy to achieve. In this article, we explain the purpose of probationary periods, how both employers and employees benefit from probationary periods, the kind of challenges that are imposed on employees on probation and share tips that anyone can use to be successful during a probationary period.

What is a Probation Period?

A probation period is a trial period of employment that allows both the employer and the employee to assess the suitability of the job and the workplace. It is usually a fixed duration of time, such as three or six months, during which the employee is expected to meet certain performance standards and follow the rules and policies of the organisation. A probation review is not mandatory, but it can be beneficial for both parties to establish clear expectations and goals, and to provide feedback and support along the way.

A probation period can be a valuable opportunity for both the employer and the employee to learn from each other and to build a positive and productive working relationship. It can also help to identify any areas of improvement or development that may be needed for the employee to succeed in their role. 

Purpose of a Probationary Period

A probationary period serves several purposes for both parties involved in the employment relationship. From the employer’s perspective, a probationary period allows them to:

  • Evaluate the skills, abilities and attitude of the new hire.
  • Provide feedback and training to help the new hire improve and adapt.
  • Terminate the employment contract if the new hire does not meet the expectations or fit the organisational culture.

From the employee’s perspective, a probationary period allows them to:

  • Learn about the job requirements, expectations and responsibilities.
  • Demonstrate their value and potential to the employer.
    Decide if they are happy and satisfied with the job and the workplace environment.
  • Negotiate better terms and conditions of employment after passing the probationary period.

Benefits of a Probationary Period

A probationary period can have many benefits for both employers and employees if it is implemented and managed properly. Some of the benefits are:

For employers:

– Reduced risk of hiring unsuitable candidates.
– Increased flexibility and efficiency in managing staff performance.
– Enhanced employee engagement and retention.
– Lowered costs of recruitment and turnover.

For employees:

– Allows reevaluation for job fit.
– Facilitates open discussion about job sustainability.
– Provides an amicable exit option.
– Enables a smoother transition if the role isn’t suitable.
– Validates job against the provided description.

Duration of Probationary Periods in Australia

The duration of probation periods can vary from one company to another, depending on the scope of the role they are hiring for. Some companies may not have probationary periods at all and may hire employees permanently. For companies that have policies for probation reviews, the duration of probationary period generally ranges from 3 months to 6 months. Being on probation does not deprive the employee from entitlements mentioned in the National Employment Standards.

Common Challenges During Probationary Periods

Probationary periods can be challenging for both employers and employees as they involve uncertainty, pressure and adjustment. Some of the common challenges that employees may face during probationary periods are:

  • Meeting high expectations and standards of performance.
  • Adapting to new tasks, processes and systems.
  • Building rapport and trust with managers, colleagues and clients.
  • Balancing work and personal life.
  • Dealing with feedback and criticism.
  • Handling stress and anxiety.

How to Be Successful During a Probationary Period

To overcome these challenges and achieve success during a probationary period, employees can follow some tips and strategies such as:

  • Clarify your goals, roles and responsibilities with your manager.
  • Seek feedback regularly and act on it positively.
  • Show initiative, enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
  • Communicate effectively and respectfully with everyone.
  • Demonstrate your skills, achievements and value.
  • Ask for help when needed and offer help when possible.
  • Be flexible, adaptable and open-minded.
  • Be professional, reliable and punctual.
  • Be proactive in resolving issues and problems.
  • Be positive, optimistic and confident.


In essence, a probationary period serves as a trial phase in employment, offering mutual benefits when thoughtfully designed and managed. Employers can effectively evaluate the suitability of new hires, ensuring the right fit for the organisation. Simultaneously, employees can capitalise on this opportunity to strive for permanent roles, embrace constructive feedback, hone their skills, and advance in their careers. Success during a probationary period hinges on proactive steps—clarifying goals, embracing feedback, displaying initiative, fostering effective communication, showcasing value, and embodying professionalism. By embodying these qualities, individuals position themselves optimally for a seamless transition from probation to a rewarding, long-term position within the organisation.

Ben Wood
Ben Wood

Career Coach, CV Writer, CV Writers + ITCV Writers Practice Manager - Tech and Executive Profile Specialist

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