A reader writes:
I am currently employed. I was working 30 hours a week, but in the last month my hours were reduced to 3 days a week (just 21 hours). I have maintained and updated my resume on several websites for the past year, and I get at least one to two calls a month for an interview. Over the last three months, I realized that four of the companies that contacted me directly wanted to know if I could start immediately. They did not want to interview me if I had to give notice. I thought this was very odd; these were not employment agencies but direct hires.
When I mentioned it to my last manager, with whom I still have a great relationship, she asked me the following two questions: Is the pay better and if there were benefits? My answer to both questions was yes. She then asked me what was the problem. I said, “Would you want to work for a company that does not want to give you the time to give notice to your current employer?” She replied, “Good point.”
Two weeks ago, I got a call from a well-established company that has been in business for over 30 years. I just had a phone interview with the customer service manager and her supervisor this past Thursday afternoon. I was asked how soon I could start, and I replied that I could start December 3, as I wanted to give my employer at least a week’s notice. They then informed me that if hired, I would need to start immediately (Monday, November 26). I did not want to turn down this opportunity for an in-person interview. Although I have been able to survive on 30 hours/week, the reduction has been a real strain. If I am going to change jobs I would like to work 40 hours a week.
As I said, this is a well-established company. My question is, are you aware of a trend in the customer service industry or in general where this is becoming the norm?
There have always been companies that do this, but they’re short-sighted and not the norm. It’s short-sighted because (a) for the vast majority of jobs, getting the right person is important enough that it’s worth waiting an extra week or two, and (b) hiring people willing to leave without notice is a bad idea, since it usually indicates something about their professionalism.
Now, that said, there certainly are times when a company legitimately needs someone to start faster — particularly for temporary or lower-level positions where getting the precisely right person even if it takes a bit longer isn’t as important as getting someone in the door faster. But if that’s the case, they should tell you that they understand and appreciate where you’re coming from but unfortunately they have a need to get someone in more quickly because ___, so the fit isn’t quite right this time.
What they shouldn’t do is pressure you to leave without notice and screw over your current employer — that shows a lack of respect for your reputation and integrity, and it will probably play out in additional ways if you take a job there. (But note that I can’t tell from your letter if they’re doing this to you or not. If they’re not, I have no beef with them. But they should probably be focusing on unemployed candidates who won’t have a notice issue.)
In any case, the best way to handle this is to say, “I’d need to give my manager two weeks notice. I don’t want to leave my job, or start a new one, on a less than professional footing.” If you’re told that you’d need to start sooner than that, respond, “I hope you can appreciate that I’m not able to shortchange my current employer on what I owe them and am committed to following through on my commitments there, which is a level of commitment that I’d show you as well.”
By the way, a side note about answering questions about when you could start work: Don’t give a specific date (like December 3, as in your example). The date you can start depends on the date you accept an offer. Instead, say that you can start two weeks (or whatever) from the time you receive and accept an offer. Otherwise you could find yourself receiving an offer only a few days before the date you said you could begin work, and that won’t allow you to give a sufficient notice period.