A reader writes:
I applied for a job in early July. I was contacted for an interview in mid-September. Completed all interviews by mid-October. I got a call on November 1st asking to meet with me again and for me to send in references. We met and the conversation went well. They explained I was the top candidate and that they would be checking references.
They asked at that point about my timeline for starting. I said that it would need to be a minimum of four weeks from the day I put my notice in, based on my company’s current policy to receive unused paid vacation. That would put me sometime around mid-December. I did express some concern because my current company is closed with pay from December 24th to January 2nd. We are not required to use vacation. The new company is also closed that week but requires employees to use vacation or take it unpaid. I was concerned about starting a new company two weeks before they closed for the holidays and not have any earned vacation time. I explained that everything was negotiable but that my ideal start date would be the first week of January.
The employer seemed very upset and said early December was their plan. I reiterated that after I got an offer, I would be willing to negotiate an early start date but that I was concerned about starting a new job quickly, losing my unused vacation, and having to take a week unpaid. I said if it is a deal breaker, let me know, but if there is room to negotiate, I would like to.
A couple weeks went by and they final called my references. The references said things went well. My supervisor even told me that they asked her about how many weeks notice is required. My supervisor told the employer four weeks but that most employees give more if applicable to provide a smooth transition.
A few days went by and I emailed the employer. She said the references were excellent and they were just dealing with some delays on their end with the hiring process. They asked me to be patient and would get back to me ina couple days. That was a week ago. This week is Thanksgiving week, so I am concerned about not hearing until next week and I don’t want to keep checking in.
I feel like I should email and ask for another timeline update but don’t want to nag. I also am concerned about that start date issue. The later they go the harder it will be to even negotiate a December start date.
I’d wait and let this play out. They know you’re waiting on an answer, and they know your time constraints.
Plus, the longer they wait to make you an offer, the easier it will be to negotiate an early January start date. They know you need to give four weeks notice, and they’re almost at the point where four weeks will put you at early January. And actually, since they’re closed the last week of December, they’re basically at the point right now where four weeks notice will already put you at early January.
If your concern is that they’ll try to pressure you to start sooner … well, I’d be wary of that. You’ve been clear with them throughout the process what your timeline is, they even got that confirmed by your current employer (more on that in a minute), and they’ve really taken their time with this whole process. (It’s been nearly five months since you originally applied, and they’re prolonging things right when they should be moving quickly if they’re really serious about their needs for December.)
It’s not reasonable for them to hear weeks ago that you would need to give four weeks notice, keep asking for your patience, and then insist that you break your commitment to your current employer to hurry up and start, when they haven’t treated the process with urgency themselves.
Also, what you’re telling them is completely reasonable: You’ll lose money if you compress your notice period. A reasonable company that’s really interested in you wouldn’t get “very upset” at hearing that; they’d just figure they’d need to cover that money themselves. It’s not uncommon for a new employer to pay out the vacation pay that their new hire will lose for starting early, or to cover the holiday pay that someone is missing out on in order to meet the new employer’s desired start date. That’s how reasonable employers handle this kind of conflict — not by getting upset and pushing you to do something that isn’t in your financial interest (and which could impact your standing with your old employer, depending on how it’s handled).
Speaking of which, it’s a little worrisome to me that they asked your reference about how many weeks notice they’d require. You’d already talked to them about that, so … did they not believe you? Were they hoping for information that would help them pressure you to do something differently? At best, that was a really paternalistic move on their part, and there’s a pretty good chance it’s a sign of something even more troubling, like not understanding boundaries and doing unreasonable things to advance their own interests.
So I’d proceed with real caution here. Don’t take this offer without really reflecting on what you know about this company, how their operate, their culture, and the people you’d be working with. It’s possible that it’s a fine place to work, but you’re seeing flags telling you that at a minimum you should proceed carefully.