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Giving resignation notice with or without an official offer letter?
April 7, 2011 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I was offered a fantastic new job 3 days ago, and I accepted. They want me to start in 4 weeks, but they haven’t yet given me an official offer letter. The usual advice is to wait for the offer letter before giving notice, right? Well, here's my dilemma: 1) Starting next week, I'm leaving for 3 weeks on my honeymoon. If I wait till next week to give notice, I'll have less than a week left in the office. I work in an extremely small office (4 ppl), and I’ll be putting everyone in a difficult position. 2) I don't want to burn any bridges because I'm using work data for my dissertation. 3) The HR woman at the New Job says I don't need to wait for an offer letter. Should I take her word for it? Should I give notice with or without an offer letter?

I’m in Texas. I don’t have an employment contract. I have been at my current job for 7 years.

I work in a very, very small office of 4 people. We do social services planning. Each of us has very specific, specialized roles, so it’s very difficult for one of us to cover for each other. We are entering our busy planning season, so I’m worried that leaving so abruptly will put everyone in a very bad position. After 7 years, I feel like I need to give my boss more than 5 working days to help with transitioning.

I really don’t want to leave on a bad note. As I mentioned, I’m using data from one of my work projects for my dissertation. My boss has already signed off on most of the permission forms, but I don’t want to give her any reason to change her mind for future ones.

I’ve explained my situation to the folks at New Job. They originally wanted me to start in 3 weeks, but they’ve agreed to extend it to 4 weeks due to my honeymoon. The new start date is non-negotiable.

My HR contact at New Job says my offer letter is just going through the system, waiting for the appropriate directors to sign off on it. They’re already preparing my background check, drug screening, TB test. She advises me to give notice anyways, saying “it’s not like we’re going to turn around and not hire you after all.” Should I take her word for it? The cautious person in me says no.

Should I listen to the New Job’s HR person and give notice, even without an official offer letter?
posted by thegoodeleven to Work & Money (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should tell HR woman that she'll need to explain to your prospective boss that you'll not be able to start for six weeks, because HR has failed to produce an offer letter in a timely manner.
posted by orthogonality at 8:56 AM on April 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


No, do not give notice without an offer letter. The very fact there is a 3 day delay in getting you the offer letter suggests the new company has some sticking point on their end. Maybe it's a formality, but maybe it's not. HR at my place can knock out an offer letter in 25 minutes. Ask HR woman at new company what the hold up is and tell her you will not give notice until you have it - an e-mailed scan of the letter is fine.
posted by IanMorr at 8:57 AM on April 7, 2011


what orthogonality said. Maybe more diplomatically. :-) You don't have a job until you have a job.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2011


She advises me to give notice anyways, saying “it’s not like we’re going to turn around and not hire you after all.” Should I take her word for it? The cautious person in me says no.

That person is right. Wait for the letter, and tell the new job they will have to wait a couple more weeks while you wrap up ongoing prior projects. Don't be afraid to go above HR's head and contact someone with real decision-making authority to negotiate a new start date. Who will be your new boss? Who is the VP or equivelent? Who did you interview with?

A big (or small) corporatation can and will screw you out of a job, espeically if it's just some random HR flack making the call.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, be wary of this HR person when you start the new job. Any HR professional advising you to quit a job without the new offer in writing is either incompetent, delusional, or both.
posted by COD at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2011


I just spoke with the HR woman again.

- The New Job is a huge hospital system, so apparently 3-4 days is a typical turnaround time for an emailed offer letter. They have my offer letter ready, but it doesn't have the "legal stamp" on it yet. They said they'll try to email it to me this afternoon.

- They are very, very firm on the start date. There does not seem to be any more room for negotiation. I am not sure I want to risk losing the job over it, though I feel I'm in a difficult position right now.

- As for going above the HR woman's head, it is the hiring manager (the person I interviewed with) who is insisting on the start date.

Thanks!
posted by thegoodeleven at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2011


Do not trust HR lady any farther than you can throw her. "We'll try to email it this afternoon" is code for "we will not email it this afternoon." "They have my offer letter ready, but it doesn't have the 'legal stamp' on it yet" is code for "they do not have my offer letter ready."

Right now they're saying their schedule to deliver an offer letter is negotiable, but your start date is not negotiable. For some reason. Consider this as a possible indication of how this company may treat you from now on.
posted by ook at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


I used to be a technical (non-HR)recruiter for a large firm. Offer letters did often take several days to roll through.

If you're just waiting for them to countersign, I would be more comfortable than if you haven't seen it at all. Because, for all you know, one of the terms of the contract could be "you must wear a poodle on your head," and the official salary offer could be 30% less than the verbal.

Does your current company know that you're looking?
posted by charmcityblues at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2011


I would wait for the offer letter. In fact every time I accept a job I tell them that I cannot tell them when I will start until I receive an offer letter. I know how hard it is to find and get a job offer but is this really where you want to work?
posted by The1andonly at 9:30 AM on April 7, 2011


I'm going to call back the HR woman and really try to discuss this again.
My current job does not know that I've been looking.

I'm really hoping this frustration is with the HR woman specifically and not the institution in general, or with the new department. I may try to contact my new boss directly if absolutely necessary, but I really hate to start on a bad foot......
posted by thegoodeleven at 9:33 AM on April 7, 2011


Going to pile on here. You need to impress upon the HR person that THEY RISK LOSING YOU if they do not produce an offer letter more quickly. This will get the HR person to move. Not sure about the hiring manager - kind of a mixed bag there.
posted by Citrus at 9:35 AM on April 7, 2011


As has been said above, don't give notice without the letter in hand. You may need to call up your actual boss (not hr) to tell them that the only way you can ethically meet your start date is to have the offer letter in hand.

Or, and this really sucks but welcome to America, you may need to change your vacation plans. (Again, something that can be negotiated with the new boss.)
posted by Forktine at 9:37 AM on April 7, 2011


I was in a similar situation once, and the HR/recruiter guy kept telling me the job was mine, just needed to wait for the CEO to get back from a trip, it's a formality then just this, then just this one more thing, etc. etc. And it did kind of seem like a formality because this was a company I had a freelance relationship with and everyone was super-excited to bring me on full time into this new position - i.e., I knew there wasn't someone else up for the job because it was created for me. All this time he was encouraging me to go ahead and give notice so that I could start up with them as soon as possible.

After a few days of increasingly-worrying delays, the job was gone. It turns out the CEO (who was relatively new and not one of the people I had a working relationship with) was against me working remotely (which was the basic foundation of the job offer in the first place). So yeah, good thing I didn't give notice.
posted by mikepop at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2011


They’re already preparing my background check, drug screening, TB test.

What happens if you "flunk" one of these things. (Not saying you will, just asking.) Would the offer then be rescinded?

You're getting good advice here. If they really want you, then they want you when you can start, not when its good for them for you to start.
posted by anastasiav at 11:43 AM on April 7, 2011


If you don't want to risk losing the job offer, then there's a few considerations before berating the HR person for something they said won't be forthcoming for a few days.

You'll need to delay giving notice, and if you're concerned about your current company, consider revising your vacation plans.
posted by rich at 11:47 AM on April 7, 2011


ASk if you can start 4 days a week so you can finish up at your old office. Offer to your old job that you will be available to them for questions. Offer to work for them -- not for free -- for a few hours on evenings/weekends.

But don't give notice until you have the offer letter and have passed teh appropriate checks.
posted by jeather at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2011


Will you be able to access email from your honeymoon destination? Once you get the emailed offer letter, couldn't you call or email your old office at that point, still giving them 3 weeks to find your replacement? Put in a lot of gushing apologies about not being able to do this in person and suggest that you know they will understand.
posted by CathyG at 11:57 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do the math. You have three weeks vacation coming up. You can give notice anytime during the first week. If you do not receive the offer letter in that time ( if you are away have somebody pick up your mail) Then you can tell them the deal is off, which it probably already is... And no harm to your current job. If you get it, then call your manager or HR and give notice.
posted by Gungho at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2011


You know these people better than the new place you're going to, so if you have a boss I would pull him aside to mention something's come up and you don't know if you'll be returning after your honeymoon. If he presses you for details you say you really can't discuss it (flatly but politely refuse), it's not certain but you'll find out very soon and will let them know as early as possible. You tell them you're aware of the work coming up and are concerned about the rest of your team suffering without you, so you'd like to help them prepare for worst-case scenario as best as you can.

In this case they don't know if you've taken another job, something's come up with your personal health, your new wife, or your family otherwise, but really it doesn't have to be any of their business at this time, or afterwards if your other job falls through.

I think pulling strings with your current job as graciously as you can is going to be easier than starting off on the wrong foot with a new job, given that they're already being fairly inflexible. You've been there 7 years, I would hope no one would feel you a traitor for finally saying "welp, time to move on to bigger and better things, it's been great!".
posted by lizbunny at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also wondered what happens if you fail the drug screening, background check or TB test. Not because I think you've done anything to make you fail, but because sometimes tests throw up false positives or background checks get messed up and not all companies know how to deal with that. You are not being at all unreasonable waiting until you get the letter (and you really should wait), but then neither is the company being unreasonable getting all their bases covered before they send you one.

But then I also don't see why you can't give notice from you holiday, assuming you have access to appropriate communication. Of course then the issue is, what if you can't do the tests because you're on holiday, does that put everything back? I'd give them a week or whatever to sort out the letter then give notice as soon as it comes through. They should still get more than a week's notice, and you can truthfully tell them you've been pushing to get it sorted as soon as you can.

Alternatively you could consider whether the communication you've had from the HR manager ('well it's not like we're going to not hire you') is legally binding on it's own. Make sure you get those reassurances in writing. Then you may have at least some recourse if things go south, although I don't know anything about your jurisdiction so have no idea if this is true or not. It's something you could look into anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 3:14 PM on April 7, 2011


Is an offer letter any more binding than a verbal offer? Not that you should be quitting the current job based on either, just that if you twist their arms into sending an offer letter, you raise the chances that they will decide to rescind the offer.

I would simply tell them that you MUST have X weeks of notice before your start date to close things up with your current employer. If they can't give you that, you might be saving yourself a lot of grief by giving up on the job, as hard as that might seem.

I also like lizbunny's suggestion. A two week notice where you aren't there the entire time isn't really worth anything. You might be well served to figure out a way to tell them without telling them that you might be leaving soon.
posted by gjc at 6:05 PM on April 7, 2011


"You know these people better than the new place you're going to, so if you have a boss I would pull him aside to mention something's come up and you don't know if you'll be returning after your honeymoon. If he presses you for details you say you really can't discuss it (flatly but politely refuse), it's not certain but you'll find out very soon and will let them know as early as possible. You tell them you're aware of the work coming up and are concerned about the rest of your team suffering without you, so you'd like to help them prepare for worst-case scenario as best as you can."

Do NOT take lizbunny's advice. You don't have an actual written offer, you're getting brushed off on when you'll get it, and your potential future employer is demanding you start on a particular date. They could be trying to lock you in--if you quit your job, you kinda need to take the new one, right?--and gain a negotiating advantage. More likely, they're hedging their bets: string a few prospects along and they'll end up with someone at the end of the day. (Also, I'm confused on lizbunny's mention of "if you have a boss": how do you have a job but no boss??)

If you give a hint that you might not return and you do return, it will negatively affect your career. Rumors will go around and your boss will always have a notion that you could, at any time, leave the job because of.... something. If you don't have a reason believe me the rumor mill will fill in the blanks.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2011


Here's the safest way I can imagine the process going for job transition/giving notice, and for the record, it is how I roll:

The day they give you a verbal offer, tell them you need at LEAST six weeks minimum before you can start, that you are so important yadda yadda that you can't just up and leave. If they can't meet that timeline, then I tell them no thanks.

That gives them 4 weeks to get you an official letter, do all the background checks, drug test you, and run your credit scores.

If after 4 weeks you have gotten an official offer from the new employer, and everything has been run through legal and they haven't come back and rescinded the offer, give your two weeks' notice at your current employer. Then plan your going away party.

I figure if HR and legal want to create several hoops for me to jump through, then they have to wait six weeks for me to make sure they don't seriously screw my life up by accident.
posted by roboton666 at 1:16 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


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