when a new employer wants you to leave your current job without notice

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.

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. jesicka309*

    A job I just applied for wants the candidate to start ‘before the Christmas period’. I have to give 4 weeks notice before I can leave my current job, as I’d imagine most people would. It’s not a seasonal role so I’m not sure what their angle is. Unless they really get a move on with their hiring process, I’d say I have a super low chance of getting it.
    Some employers have really silly ideas about giving notice. Sure, they only want you to give a week’s notice to your current employers, but if you were to try and quit them you *must* work out the full month. So hypocritical.

  2. Hannah*

    I’m not sure I agree that someone who has been reduced to only 21 hours/3 days a week at their current employer should feel like they have to pass up a better opportunity just because they can’t give the full 2 weeks notice. The company is getting by the other half of the week without the OP, so presumably there are other employees who can cover the OP’s duties. A part time worker moving on to a job where they will actually be able to make ends meet should be totally understandable to the employer, I hardly think it’s career suicide.

    With the number of unemployed people looking for jobs right now, I also don’t think the new employer is too out of line by narrowing their search to candidates who are available immediately.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP can certainly talk to her current employer about giving less notice and see if they can come to an agreement. But that’s really between her and her current employer, not something for the prospective new employer to get involved in. (And they may not be; the letter doesn’t say that they’re pushing the OP in one direction or another.)

      I’d disagree, though, that the new employer isn’t making a mistake by limiting themselves to candidates available immediately, unless it’s an unusual job that doesn’t require much more than a warm body to fill a chair. Getting the right person in a job makes such a difference that it’s unwise to significantly limit your candidate pool like that just to get someone in a week or two earlier.

  3. Kelly*

    OP, I don’t think you’re out of line by trying to stick to giving two weeks notice, it’s very professional and respectful. However, in your case, I’m wondering if you could come to some sort of compromise with your new employer to begin working in the two days out of the week you aren’t at your old job? This might not work at all, but at least it would give you the chance to get all your new employee paperwork turned in, get settled and start getting up to speed on projects when you can begin working full weeks for the new company. ?

    1. Marie*

      I did that myself when starting my current job… Worked part-time while giving a two week notice, and then giving some weekends to my old employer.

      I also just hired a new girls in sales and that’s what I came up for her… The department needs someone really fast so she’s training two days a week for the first week (notice period to her former employer) and she’ll be full time after that period.

    2. PJ*

      I’ve done this in the past and it worked out well for both companies. I am at the manager level, so maybe I didn’t get the pushback one might get at a different level.

  4. Bookworm*

    I’m seeing this no notice or little notice in regard to current positions more and more. I’ve had two jobs over the last year (guilty–serial job hopper here!) that only let me give a one-week notice period or less. In fact, the state position that I just accepted wanted me to give two days notice, but I put my foot down immediately on that. Both positions had barely any notice time because they both had month-long mandated training programs that begin and end on certain dates and can’t be changed. That may be why the companies you are interviewing for want someone immediately– because they have a training program they need you in ASAP. My current employer and former employer have thousands and thousands of employees, so it could also be a trend in big corporations/government, etc.

    Also, and this is my view because I was very abruptly laid off a few years back during the height of the recession, but I don’t feel too bad about breaking the two-weeks notice norm. No one gave me a two-weeks notice that I was getting laid off, so my new loyalty is always to myself and my best interest, wrong or not. As long as you can get materials gathered for your (enventual) replacement on what you do and leave detailed notes, I don’t think that a one-week notice period is a bad thing… anything less and I agree it’s probably a bad idea.

    Additionally, both of my old positions that I only gave a one-week notice to were not mad at me and were sad to see me go. My old managers told me to call them if the positions didn’t work out so they could get me back into the company. I think as long as you appear sincerely sorry and can get materials together for your replacement for your departure that you and your reputation with your former employer will remain intact.

    1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

      But if these companies have training programs that start and end on specific dates, they should be aiming to have an accepted offer 2 weeks before the start of training, or wait until the next class. And it seems to me that any company big enough to have specific dates for a month-long training would have several classes starting over a period of a few months, so could hire the OP to start during the next class.

  5. Michael*

    I get the impression from the letter the OP is applying to positions with extremely high churn rates. As such, I wonder if those companies simply don’t care as “they can always find someone else” as it were.

    1. Jamie*

      Yes. This reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael was moonlighting as a telemarketer. He went to quit with a speech all prepared and two words in the manger cut him off asked if he was leaving, told him he could come back whenever he wanted but leave the headset.

      If its one of those jobs people routinely leave without notice the OPs professionalism may come as a surprise.

      I’m of two minds on this. One the one hand I wouldn’t wants to work for someone who didn’t nderstand basic professional protocols, but if my hours were being cut at my current job and i needed the mney I’d probably jump.

      1. Michael*

        In my first position as a consultant I was on the bench between assignments and went to hand in my notice as I had found a position elsewhere myself. They said I could leave that day (meaning GTFO now) and a notice wasn’t necessary since I wasn’t on an assignment. It happens and makes sense depending on the situation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, of course it happens. But it doesn’t really address the OP’s question, which is about companies systematically refusing to consider anyone who has to give notice, which is most employed people.

          1. Michael*

            My first comment on this branch was in reference to that. It appears to me the general field they are applying to is full of companies that expect immediate turn out and they don’t have to generally wait for new people so they simply go to the next person.

            In a previous position I was in I was on friendly terms with the call center manager and they never worried about staffing issues as it was a heavily applied-to department so they got to be picky. If the companies the OP is talking about is in a similar position, which it seems plausible they may be, then it seems they’re simply choosing candidates they can get on their timetable regardless of professional norms.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, and that’s fine (if indeed they don’t require much more than a warm body, as I’ve said in other places on this thread). But it doesn’t justify them pushing/expecting candidates to leave without notice (if indeed they are; the OP’s letter doesn’t make that clear).

              1. Michael*

                That’s very true. If we (myself and a potential employer) got through the entire process and they were extending an offer without this being an issue and them dropping a bomb like “we need you to start tomorrow” I would cry foul and say something. But, as you said, it’s not clear if the OP is being treated like this and is simply curious if this is a new norm.

                I would echo your sentiment that it’s not in my experience with the caveat that depending on current conditions at work a 2-week notice may not be necessary even in an otherwise normal office setting. This is something I’d run by my manager as I’ve generally been pretty straightforward if I’m looking or not. This was especially so in my consultant role I was very open that I was looking with my recruiter and manager there as often times a double submission to the same role means automatic rejection so I had to toe that line of places I could and couldn’t apply which took close coordination between them and myself.

                Though, I could easily so how this is unique to staff augmentation roles in general and may not apply outside of that world.

      2. K.*

        I start a new job on Monday (yay! Nerves! Yay!) and as a result, quit my part-time survival job at a place with high turnover (more because people were fired than because people quit, although people did quit – students graduated, people found other jobs, etc.). I did give them two weeks’ notice. I figured, well, why burn a bridge if I don’t have to? It wasn’t a perfect job but it was a paycheck when I needed one – and I was pretty good at it. They were impressed, made a point of saying I was welcome back any time, etc. I didn’t give any speeches, just “I’ve accepted an offer and my last day will be next Friday.”

  6. Henning*

    I’d like to second the point about impatient companies. If I want to hire somebody, the normal notice period here in Germany is more like one to three month. We’ve even hired somebody recently in the department which had a six month notice period. You just need to plan a bit more in advance, and if you need to have somebody really short term, you could of course always get a freelancer.

  7. Anonymous*

    If you’re only working 21 hours a week, why don’t you tell the new employer that you could come in on the two days when you do not have work at your old employer. This would allow you to give notice, but also show you’re willing to cooperate and understand the urgency in filling the role.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    I have done this and it went well. Some times the manager is just itchy to start getting someone trained and this satisfies the situation.

  9. Mike C.*

    (b) hiring people willing to leave without notice is a bad idea, since it usually indicates something about their professionalism.

    Or it indicates something about their workplace. Let’s set aside the fact that you can be walked out the door at anytime and focus on the fact that there are plenty of reasons why it might be perfectly fine to leave without notice.

    1. When the employer has made it clear that they don’t allow people to serve out notice periods. This one I got from this very blog!

    2. When the employer or the work environment is abusive. Situations where there is workplace bullying, sexual harassment or gross safety violations come to mind. Also when promised raises, promotions or commissions don’t come through after satisfying the criteria for them.

    The fun part about these situations is that it’s also “unprofessional” to bring them up, so no one will ever know that there was actually an extenuating circumstance causing someone to leave a workplace without notice.

    Why not just look at the issue from a person to person basis? Were they going from part time to full? Were they at their previous job for a number of years? Does their previous workplace have a high level of churn? And so on.

    The situation is way more complicated than, “it usually means the candidate is unprofessional”.

    1. A Teacher*

      Amen! I left an abusive work place a few years ago with six days notice. Can I be rehired there? I don’t know. I do know that I serve on a national committee in my profession, a volunteer appointment I obtained before leaving the company so the people from there are still respectful to me when I see them. There are times when less than two weeks is okay–abusive workplace being the most obvious.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, but since those situations aren’t the majority, I’m not sure this is relevant to the OP’s question, which is about a company systematically refusing to hire people who need to give notice.

      1. Mike C.*

        Wait, is the antecedent of “their” in the quote above the party being hired, or the party hiring? I read it as the former, but I now see you could have meant the latter.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, I meant it to refer to the party being hired (although I would argue it also refers to the employer, unless the position they’re hiring for requires little more than a warm body).

  10. Long Time Admin*

    Ask yourself: How much notice will my current employer give me wshen they decided to lay me off? (Hint: if they’re cutting people’s hours, they are only steps away from layoffs.)

    If your employer cut your hours, took away your “full-time” benefits, and left you broke and wondering when they’re going to to cut your hours again, why would you pass up a job that will give your 40 hours and benefits?

  11. LMW*

    I must work for remarkably understanding companies…my current employer hired me Dec. 4, but didn’t want me to miss out on vacation time or bonuses around the holidays (since I wouldn’t qualify for any yet), so they suggested I give notice after the new year and start two weeks after that.
    I’m just about to start a new job (Yay! After much help from this blog!), and I talked them into letting me give three weeks notice, since my entire team is on vacation this week, and I was already the assigned cover person.
    I think this is the way it should work. Companies should want to ensure a smooth transition, both for employers and employees.

  12. fposte*

    Are the companies with this hiring condition the same companies who won’t hire people who aren’t already employed? That would be ironic but symmetrically foolish.

  13. Ivy*

    I’m not surprised about this with customer service. If someone leaves without notice, then the manager needs to find a replacement NOW. Not 2 weeks from now. Places are usually shift work, and there aren’t enough people to cover. Someone who can start right away is going to be given preferential treatment over someone who can’t. Especially in a market were there’s more demand for jobs than there is supply. I don’t think this reflects poorly on the company, simply because managers can get put between a rock and a hard place; it’s the industry. Getting a customer service job can simply come down to availability.

    OP, tell your boss you’ll try to give as much notice as possible, but given the situation, that might not be the full two weeks. From what your manager has said, it doesn’t sound like she even cares.

  14. KellyK*

    I think a company that has cut your hours to the point where you need to change jobs to make ends meet has lost the right to expect two weeks’ notice. Not to the same extent that a company that doesn’t allow people to serve out their notice, but they have to be aware that someone who can’t pay their bills on their current wages may not be in a position to give full notice when it means turning down a better opportunity.

    *Ethically,* I think you’re obligated to give your current employer as much notice as you can, but it might not be the full two weeks. (Unless they aren’t aware that cutting your hours was a problem for you, or you’ve agreed to the reduced hours for a set amount of time.)

    *Pragmatically,* you also have to consider whether not giving full notice is going to burn bridges (which it probably will) and whether wanting you to start without giving notice is a red flag (it probably is).

  15. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For what it’s worth, I think people are conflating two issues — the question of whether the OP could leave with less than two weeks notice since his employer has cut his hours and the question of what it means when a company won’t consider candidates who need to give notice. His question is really about the latter, not the former. The companies he’s applying to presumably don’t know what his situation is with his hours; he’s asking about the general trend he’s seeing of employers expecting you to start immediately, totally separate from his hours situation.

    1. KarenT*

      I have to wonder if the OP is looking for a job in retail. This does seem to be normal in retail. I know I was once pressured to give no notice/start immeditately by a certain very large retail chain. I’m calling you out, OLD NAVY.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      Back on track.

      I’ve had potential employers want me to start a new job without giving much, if any, notice. This goes as far back as 20 years, so, no, it isn’t a NEW trend.

  16. BCW*

    I had a situation like this before. I have an education background, but at the time wasn’t working in a school, but at an informal education place. My boss knew I was interviewing. Well, over Christmas vacation I interviewed and got a job offer on like a Wednesday. They needed someone to start on Monday, since that was when school started. I tried to negotiate a later start date, but they basically said “If you can’t start this day, we need someone who can”. The pay was more and benefits were better, so I left my job with about 3 days notice. I felt really bad about it. As it turns out, their lack of professionalism was evident once I started working there. I only ended up at that school through the end of the year. In hindsight I regret it, because i had a great relationship with my former manager until I left with that short of notice. Now, if an employer were to contact her, I have no idea what they would say about me, so I could have definitely burned a bridge permanently. However, taking that teaching job got me set up for my next position which I really liked, so it all worked out in the end.

    I would say though be very careful about doing this, as you may not ever be able to use that employer as a reference again.

  17. COT*

    I wish employers thought about this: if you’re willing to give short notice to your current employer, you might do the same to your new employer when it’s time to leave them. If they value proper notice from their employees, they should expect their new hires to do the same for the jobs they’re leaving.

  18. nyxalinth*

    I worked in a great office–one of my few non call center jobs–and we were being laid off. I called a potential new employer (because the ad said to call) and they wanted nothing to do with me because I was already working! Never mind the job would have been ending in one week: my current manager was willing to work with me if need be regarding hours. They were the exception to both the “Employers like you better if you’re already working” and the “It’s proper to give two weeks’ notice” rule. I probably dodged a bullet there.

  19. Elizabeth West*

    But they should probably be focusing on unemployed candidates who won’t have a notice issue.

    Uh, YEAH. Wouldn’t you want me to be able to start right away? Another short-sighted reason that only hiring employed people isn’t working. These people are shooting themselves in the foot. (Unless it’s retail or food, which has such high turnover it’s like an assembly line.)

  20. SJ*

    Another reason to avoid companies who ask you to do this (without apparent reason, unlike the examples Alison mentioned): their willingness to (likely) put another company in a shitty position. It doesn’t even matter if the company is their competition or even in the same industry, it shows a selfish disregard for both the new employee and – this will sound dramatic – the rest of the working world, and that’s not a company for which I’d want to work. As a person, I strive to not do shitty things, to live with integrity, in ways I won’t regret or even have to think about regretting, even if it’s inconvenient, or more expensive, or whatever – and in my opinion no bottom line trumps that. That’s the type of company I would want to work for, because ethical, considerate behavior toward people to whom they have no obligation or from whom they don’t stand to gain will undoubtedly mean ethical, considerate behavior toward their employees.

  21. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    For what it’s worth, when I was doing hiring stuff at a fast food place, it was *exceptionally* rare for a candidate to say they couldn’t start for two weeks because they had to give notice. I asked when they could start, and the answer was almost always “immediately,” or perhaps a few days after. If I had two good candidates, and one couldn’t start for two weeks, and the other could start right away, I’d surely choose the one that could start now. In an office, two weeks isn’t that long. In fast food/retail/(probably) call centers, two weeks is forever.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, it’s one of the many time when retail/food service is just different. There should be a permanent disclaimer to that effect somewhere in my masthead.

  22. Parfait*

    Where did the two-week notice period come from, anyway? It’s not enough time to hire anyone (except in the above cases of constant churn).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not intended to give the employer enough time to hire, in most cases; it’s intended to give them time to get the info they need from you on your projects in order to have a smooth transition.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      In the olden days, employers could hire someone new within days, if not hours, and have them start before the current employee left (for training). The Personnel Manager had a file cabinet full of applications for various types of positions, and would pull them and start phoning people. If you were home, it meant you were unemployed and could start immediately. They sometimes checked references, but there were no real background checks, drug tests, etc. This was in a heavily industrialized part of the country (at least it was then) and there were literally hundreds of factory/office places within a 45 minute commute, and unemployment was extremely low. A high school diploma could get you a really good job, and people stayed with “their” companies until they retired.

      The 2-week notice is a hold-over from a different time.

  23. Ann Wilkie*

    Thank you so much for the quick response. I had my in-person interview today, and I was offered the job. As it turns out, I will be starting December 3rd so I can give at least one week’s notice. Everything is done online, so I was given an offer letter on the spot, and additional paperwork to complete. Also, thanks to your readers who offered their opinions. It helped to give me additional insight.

  24. Melissa*

    Congrats Ann. And I would add a slightly different twist. Yes, it’s professional and best practice to give two weeks notice. You should strive to do that. You need those bridges, unburnt if possible, in the future. Even in a horribly toxic, abusive company where you are perfctly in your rights to walk out the door, at some point you may have to explain that to a recruiter and walking off the job, now matter how horrible it was, and how justified you were, is going to red flag you.

    And though it appears resolved, Ann had already talked to her current manager, who appeared to have no real issue which would jeopardize a future reference or employment check. I think an easy compromise would have been something like, “I would really prefer to give them some notice, can I talk to my current employer?” Then hopefully you can get at least 24 hours to go talk to your current manager and be apologetic but also realistic in why you cannot turn down this offer.

    Now, all that said, would I want to work for a company that wouldn’t let me give appropriate notice? Not particularly. But no matter how much we wish we could all hold out for the perfect job, sometimes you just need to pay rent and buy food, and you really have to take it. All you can do then is make the best of it and keep looking if necessary.

  25. cncx*

    The worst job I ever had put major heat on me to leave before my notice period, and also wanted me to take vacation days from my then current job for training and a VP interview. I stupidly took the job, but left after the VP made me stay up 24 hours and then complained when I fell asleep at the airport sitting up instead of getting on my computer to check her emails. Never again will I work for a company with such a messed up and selfish hiring process, it is a red flag for further dysfunction down the line. If a company has a healthy staff culture, they will respect the fact that I have to be fair to the company I am leaving and anything else is no go.

  26. Jen M.*

    I lost a job opportunity in November, because I said I would need to give notice. They seemed perfectly nice, but the company is growing rapidly, and I understood that they had a real need to get people in and trained ASAP.

    Oh, well. There will be other opportunities.

    I may not like where I am now, but I’ve been here a long time, and my work ethic just will not let me leave without giving 2-3 weeks’ notice.

    OP, I’m glad you got the new job! :)

  27. R*

    I doubt I’d waste my time even responding to a “we can’t wait seven days” type-of-a-job-offer. But if I did, it’d only be to say “you can either wait seven days for me, or even longer for the person you’ll have to source, interview and make an offer to after I turn you down”.

    Exploding offers are *always* bad deals (unless they’re for contract positions, in which case companies usually pay a premium for someone with top skills that can start at the drop of a hat.) When by contrast a permanent employment offer comes with an unreasonable timescale, it’s usually because they don’t want to give you time to realise what a bad deal they’re offering.

  28. Matthew Lag*

    I was just asked this on a job application…
    Do you plan to give your current employer two weeks notice?

    what do i do?! and what are they thinking?

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