How to Negotiate a Start Date for a New Job

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You have just landed a great job offer, and you are thrilled. There's just one issue: The employer wants you to start earlier or later than would be optimal. 

If you're in this situation, you'll be full of questions:

  • Is there a way to change your start date without sending the wrong signal to your prospective employer?
  • What's the best way to ask to change the time frame for when you start your position?
  • Can you negotiate the start date for a new job?

Here's what you need to know. 

Tips for Negotiating a Start Date for a New Job

In most cases, a typical start date is two weeks from when you accepted the job offer. However, depending on the job and the employer, it could be as much as a month, or it could be sooner if the company needs to get someone on board immediately. 

If you’re not able to start on the employer’s preferred date, you don’t want to take the chance of losing a job offer because of your lack of availability.

While it's not very likely, there's a possibility that by asking to shift the start date, the company will see you as difficult. They could even rescind the job offer

If You're Asked, Be Honest 

If you get offered a position and asked, "When can you start," be honest in your response. Remember, you can take some time to think about it. Whenever possible, you'll want to make sure to provide two weeks notice at your current position. 

Tread Lightly 

You'll want to be careful how you discuss shifting the start date. Don’t say that you can’t start on the proposed date. Instead, see if there is any room for negotiation. There's really no way to know about the company's flexibility on a start date until you kickoff the conversation. 

Keep It Positive

Start by saying thank you. 

Your immediate response to an attractive job offer should always be enthusiasm at the prospect of working for the employer, so there is no doubt that you are very pleased to receive their offer. 

Try to Negotiate a Win-Win 

If you accept the job offer first, then discuss a start date, you'll likely be able to negotiate something that fits both your needs and those of your new employer. 

If you frame your request carefully, you may be able to start on a date that's a perfect fit for your schedule.

Salary isn't the only thing that's negotiable in a job offer. Your start date, along with some benefits and perks, may be something you can negotiate.

Options for Asking to Delay Your Start Date

If the employer wants you to start earlier than you would like, be prepared to offer a solid rationale. Some reasons for delaying your start date include:

Your Employment Contract

Reasons for postponing the start date might include a contractual obligation with your current employer or company policy which requires a longer period of notification. Explain the circumstances to the employer, and ask if there is any flexibility.

A Commitment to Your Employer

Another possibility would be to explain a commitment you have made to your current employer to follow through with a project or to train your successor. Most employers will respect your dedication to your current organization since they will hope to receive the same consideration.

A Planned Vacation or Event

If you have an already planned vacation or event that might impact your start date, such as your daughter's wedding in Jamaica or a family reunion that's already scheduled, the employer might also be willing to accommodate you. 

Sometimes making yourself available for some training before your official start can help to bridge a gap. If feasible, perhaps you could use leftover vacation time at your old job to start training for the new one.

Reasons Employers May Not Need You to Start Immediately

Less common is a scenario whereby your new employer would like you to start at a later date. However, there are a variety of reasons why employers may schedule a start date further in the future than you expected.

It could be because the company needs to run a background check or a drug screen. If that’s the case, they will schedule your start date after the results come back.

The person you are replacing also may have given a longer notice than usual, and the company may not want to have two people on the payroll for the same job at the same time. The company may have budgeted for the position to start on a set date, or may not need the help immediately.

Options for Asking to Start Sooner

In some instances, your current employer may have a policy or practice where they let staff go once they learn about a new job commitment. You may be available to work sooner than the new employer expects.

When you’re collecting unemployment or are out of unemployment benefits, the earlier your start date, the sooner your paychecks will start.

Even though it may not be an option, it won’t hurt to ask if there is a chance you can start sooner than the date mentioned by the employer.

If you don't ask, you'll never know if you could have started at a more convenient time.

Approach your prospective employer, express your excitement about getting started as soon as possible, and let them know the implications for you if your start date is so far into the future. 

Explain that you’re available and willing to start as soon as possible if it would be feasible.

It's Important to Be Flexible

As with all employment negotiations, be ready for some give and take with both your current and prospective employers. For example, if your current employer prefers a month's notice, you mention that your prospective employer wants you to start in two weeks and try to land on a start date three weeks into the future.

Once you have agreed on your start date, take the time to get ready to start your new job so there’s a smoothand stress-free transition. Getting organized ahead of time will make it much easier to get your new job off to a great start.

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