What does starting ASAP mean from a potential employer?
February 15, 2005 10:54 PM   Subscribe

How much time can I ask potential employers for before starting if they say they’d like someone in the position “as soon as possible?” [+]

Ideally I’d like 3-4 weeks after an offer might be extended. Is it reasonable to ask for this sort of time to wrap up current work, figure out living arrangements (especially if relocation is involved), have a break to travel, etc? And what’s the best time to discuss these things if I don’t want to jeopardize my chances or irritate my new boss: before an offer, between the offer and my decision, or after I’ve accepted? (I’m currently interviewing / waiting for their decisions, no offers made yet.)
posted by Xelf to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not if relocation is available, but you have to ask delicately. In my case, I need someone to start as soon as possible right now because I have a backlog of work and it's costing me money. In a previous position, it was because the person who needed to train me was leaving and wouldn't be available to train me after the 2nd week, so they needed me to give only 1 week notice to my previous employer.

I'd find out the reasons first.
posted by SpecialK at 10:57 PM on February 15, 2005

As soon as possible must include a reasonable period of time to give notice to your current employer. Some employers will judge you on how much notice you give. Your current contract may specify how much you must give, and you really can't go against that and maintain credibility as a professional. If your new prospective can't accept that, you should consider them questionable.

3-4 weeks sounds normal to me, but I am used to European ways now. I am used to contracts (salaried employees in Europe as well as South Africa have contracts) having a month notice required.

I wouldn't mention anything about a break for pleasure though, that might look bad (or good, if you can word it properly).
posted by Goofyy at 11:42 PM on February 15, 2005

Three weeks if you're not relocating, four if you are. Goofyy's right - don't tell then WHAT you're doing, just tell them when you can start and don't apologize or make excuses. Just say, "I'd be delighted to start work on March 17th and I'll be there at 8. Does that fit with your schedule?"
posted by pomegranate at 4:41 AM on February 16, 2005

I usually scheduled an extra week for myself when switching jobs, and when hiring, I've never expected a new employee to drop everything and rush into my office. (Indeed, as noted above, too short a timeframe can potentially have negative indications.)

"As soon as possible" usually means "We're hiring you to fill a need, and that need already exists." Do consider what the job is and how time-critical the staffing will be; if it's a position that keeps essential systems running, your flexibility will be less. For a typical office position, though, a little time to get one's personal affairs in order should not be a hurdle.
posted by werty at 5:51 AM on February 16, 2005

My experience in the tech industry has been, when they say they want you to start "as soon as possible", they want you to be there Monday, or else they will offer the job to someone who can be. This will vary depending on the industry and the size and start-up-ness of your potential employer. You need to find out what their reasons for the starting time are and use that as a basis for your negotiation.
posted by matildaben at 8:57 AM on February 16, 2005

All this sounds reasonable. I would definitely avoid mentioning anything about leisure travel or vacation, though; I wouldn't be surprised if it connotes "slacker" to your new boss. If they agree to 3-4 weeks, just take it; don't tell them that 2 weeks of that will be in Cancun.
posted by Doohickie at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2005

Everyone wants a new employee ASAP. I doubt any of them will withdraw the offer on the spot if you ask for 4 weeks. It could happen if you insist on 4 weeks, but I really don't think you have anything to lose by asking for 4 and, if need be, settling for 3 or 2.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:38 AM on February 16, 2005

All of my jobs have had a contract stating the amount of notice required to be given - I generally just tell the prospect that number, and say that if they want me sooner I can ask my current employer, but that I will not break a contract for them as I consider it rude and unprofessional.
When the job offer comes through, I then have discussions with my soon-to-be-ex employer about when I can finish up. Most of the time, they don't have any problems with a shorter notice period so long as I've asked nicely- "Here's my four weeks notice. I'm going to work for , they'd like me to start in two weeks/next monday/couple of days/three seconds. I understand my contract says four weeks notice and I'm happy to work them out to the full. However, if there's any chance of flexibility I would be appreciative."
It's worked every time so far. When you've figured out how much notice you _are_ giving, then you get to tell the new employer how much notice you need to give, with or without Cuncun time :)

posted by coriolisdave at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2005

I believe that the norm is a minimum of two weeks. As goofyy says, the hiring company should understand that an employee always has to wrap things up at the old job. If/when they hire you, they wouldn't want you to leave with (say) just a day's notice.

The right time to discuss this is after you get the offer (to raise it before that point would be very presumptious) but before you accept. But they may well raise it before you do, if it's a deal-breaker.

This is something that you have to negotiate. You should tell them how much time you feel you need to properly settle things at your old job, and they should help you understand how soon they really need you to start. (If the position has been vacant for, say, two months, then perhaps a few weeks more isn't critical?) If there really is a critical deadline approaching, they should say so. (Even if you do think that you should have a chance to travel - to relax - before taking the job, I would recommend against mentioning that to a prospective employer. If they can give you four weeks, fine, but they're not likely to see travel as being something essential.)

Keep in mind that while you may want to finish a project that you're working on, it may be quicker if you simply document things as they are, and document what you intended to do as your next steps. Remember that you're not irreplacable, and that whatever the work is that you'd be able to finish if you'd stay longer, someone else is going to have to maintain it in the future.

Finally, remember that until the offer is in writing, you don't want to give notice to your current employer.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:28 PM on February 17, 2005

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