set a start date before resigning

In this post, we update the “you don’t have an offer until you have an offer” rule. A reader writes:

I am having a problem getting my new employer to agree on a start date. Once I received the formal job offer in writing, I gave notice to my current job. I contacted the new employer with the date I would be available to start. I was then sent new hire paperwork with no indication of a start date from them. I filled out and returned the paperwork, along with a note again asking when they would like me to start. HR responded, thanking me for the paperwork and cc’ing me on an email to VP of the division ( who is out of the Canada office) that I would be working for, asking him to give me a start date.

That was several days ago and still no word. I also saw via LinkedIn that the regional manager who I originally interviewed with is no longer with this company. Maybe this explains the delay in getting me started? It also concerns me that I may start with no immediate manager to report to (I will be working/traveling in field sales).

My last day at my current job ends this week. How many times do I need to ask about a start date without coming across as a pain? Needless to say, I am now unsure of this new employer. Any suggestions on a different approach?

I guess we now have to amend “don’t resign from your current job without a formal job offer that you have accepted” to “don’t resign from your current job without a formal job offer that you have accepted and a start date.”

Contact HR again and say this: “I still haven’t received a start date and am getting concerned, since I’ve already given notice at my current job. Is it possible to nail down the start date this week?”

If you don’t hear with two business days, call them. (Frankly, you could start with a phone call now if you prefer. I tend to think that email is often better because it allows them to research the situation and figure out what’s going on before responding, but there’s an argument for just getting someone on the phone and trying to find out what’s up.)

It is indeed quite possible that the departure of the person who would have been your manager is what’s causing the delay — but someone should be telling you something, even if it’s just “we’re aiming for early July, but we’re waiting to nail down an exact date until we figure out who will be training you in Jane’s absence.”

Good luck.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    Reminds me of the advice from some radio advice lady (Dr. Laura?)–“You’re not really engaged until you have a ring and a date.”

    The offer is the ring; the start date is the wedding day. Dating analogy extended even a bit further into the job hunt world.

    1. some1*

      I really don’t like Dr. Laura, but that being said, this still antiquated and doesn’t apply to engagements or job hunting in 2013. By this logic, barely any straight men are “really engaged” because most don’t get engagement rings. And there are any number of reasons that a date can’t be set for a wedding ceremony: work commitments, illnesses, availability of a desired venue, etc.

      Also, a new hire needs a start date so their is no (or little) interruption in income. This is much more important than wondering when a new hire is allowed to tell family and friends they are now an employee at ABC Company.

      1. Adam V*

        > barely any straight men are “really engaged” because most don’t get engagement rings

        The ring applies to both people – *her* having a ring means *we’re* engaged. (You can stretch the metaphor a bit to make it the offer letter – *me* having the offer letter means *we’re* going to work together?)

        > there are any number of reasons that a date can’t be set for a wedding ceremony

        Isn’t that the point? If you can’t get a straight answer about a date, wouldn’t you wonder if something’s happening and you don’t really have a wedding to plan (job to start)?

        1. some1*

          “Isn’t that the point? If you can’t get a straight answer about a date, wouldn’t you wonder if something’s happening and you don’t really have a wedding to plan (job to start)?”

          I mean there are external factors beyond the couple that may prohibit them from setting a date. Their dream venue is booked for the next two years, maybe the one of their parents has cancer and they want to wait and see how the treatment goes. When my grandparents got married 65 years ago, my Grandma had to block off 4 Saturdays at her church because she didn’t know when my Grandpa would get his leave from the Army.

      2. Heather*

        Yep. Plus, not everybody even wants a ring. If you’ve agreed to get married, you’re engaged. End of story.

        1. some1*

          Yes. And a lot of people who want rings want to pick out their own. Your still engaged from the moment one person proposes and the other accepts.

          When couples tell their engagement story, no one says, “Well, it was the originally the day we booked the Elks Lodge for the May 10. But then 3 days later they called back and asked if we could switch it to the 17th.”

      1. Josh S*

        Thanks. I kind of think it’s funny how perturbed people are getting, just from an (imperfect) analogy. Maybe the combative feelings from the “Expose my Interviewer” thread are carrying over?


        1. Tinker*

          It is a pretty good analogy, particularly when you consider that the advice comes from a model where being married is like being employed in that it provides access to financial stability and “normal” participation in the economy.

          Because of that, and because of changes in this area which provoke conflicts between generations and social groups, this can be a sensitive subject for some people. Hence the reaction, probably.

      1. mollsbot*

        The reason is because Seinfeld is an amazing show. If only that worked in real life.

      2. Anonymously Anonymous*

        Or the episode of King of Queens when Doug revealed (in a flashback) how he really got the job at IPS. He had lied to Carrie about working for IPS ,when they were first dating, and to cover his lie he would hang around the loading dock at IPS. Everyone just assumed he worked there.

  2. bemo12*

    Things like this are very inconsiderate and make what is already a stressful process, even more stressful. I wish people had more empathy and at least gave people some sort of response.

    1. Original Poster***

      Thank you! This is exactly how I feel. It so inconsiderate especially since I have kids and the school year ends next week and I don’t want to pay for days of day camp if Im not working.

  3. Rob Aught*

    Considering this directly impacts the OP, I definitely recommend they get assertive with the new employer. There are plenty of ways to go about it without being rude or disrespectful.

    This sentence from Alison –

    “I still haven’t received a start date and am getting concerned, since I’ve already given notice at my current job. Is it possible to nail down the start date this week?”

    That’s just perfection. I’d use that exactly. You have every right to be concerned and it needs to be communicated ASAP to the new employer.

  4. ChristineSW*

    If the OP doesn’t get an answer this week, could he/she ask her current employer if she could stay on until she finds out more about the new job? What if the new job falls through completely?

    Very strange indeed. OP, I could be cautious with this new job if this is how they handle your hiring. Maybe I’m overreacting, but things like this make me leery.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Problem is OP looks like a flake (through no fault of her own) to her old employer, but if she needs the pay check it’s worth it to ask.

      Staying permanently could likely be a bad situation because they know she was hunting and willing to leave, but again even a precarious job is better than being unemployed.

      1. fposte*

        Additionally, her replacement may well be scheduled to start then, and they may not have any overlap budget.

  5. EnnVeeEl*

    We’re going to need an update on this one. I hope it has a happy ending. This makes me nervous.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I agree. My stomach is in knots just thinking about it. I hope everything turns out okay — and honestly, it may just end up being a lapse in communication and everything will be great, but wow.

  6. Judy*

    I’d have to check to see, but in general, I believe all of my offer letters have had the start date included. The start date was “negotiated” during the initial offer stage. (“I can’t start without giving 2 weeks notice, so if I have the written offer by next Monday, I can start on “)

  7. TRB*

    This is scary! And also raises a few red flags of potential disorganization. I would be annoyed personally because I hate when people aren’t prepared but that said maybe the OP isn’t top of mind because of internal crises.

    1. Rob Aught*

      Not disagreeing, but just like the topic about someone being late on their first day, things do come up.

      Now, regardless of the crisis, the company needs to do the right thing and make sure their new hire gets onboarded. It is a red flag but hopefully just a one time issue.

      1. Original Poster***

        Thanks Rob. I agree that this company should just communicate with me to let me know whats going on. All they need to do is say something like…. we have a few changes to work through etc before we bring you on board when we can train you properly etc.. we are excited to have you here and thank you for being patient with us … something like that is all they need to say, it lets me know that I still have a job to go to!

  8. OliviaNOPE*

    Is this one made up? I’ve been a working stiff for over 10 years and have worked at 4 professional organizations in that time. Each and every one demanded that *I* give them a start date as soon as they made the offer over the phone. Most places were happy to wait the standard two weeks, but one begged me to start at 2 weeks even though I really wanted to give the old employer 3 weeks because I was in the middle of a big project. I just find this so strange, but maybe this varies by industry.

    1. Rob Aught*

      I’ve had some issues negotiating a start date in the past, so this is feasible. I’ve always had a firm start date but it didn’t always match what was in the offer letter.

      Usually I was asked if I could start earlier, but I held my ground on principle. I felt like I had a commitment to my current employer even if I was leaving.

    2. Xay*

      I’ve had problems getting a start date too – particularly in programs that are grant funded and waiting on a funding extension or award date.

    3. Tiff*

      I think it depends on the organization. Our agency has orientation only on certain days in the month, so if the paperwork isn’t done in time to catch the closest one the new hire is pushed back to the next round of orientation.

  9. Ann O'Nemity*

    Don’t all offer letters include a start date? I’d be wary about signing on without a firm start date!

    1. Anonymous*

      Mine didn’t, but the hiring was really swift (a week between submitting the application and getting the official letter, and I started a week after that).

  10. AnotherAlison*

    Even though this sucks & could end badly, I don’t think the OP should kick herself too much over this. Even with a firm start date and a reputable company, stuff happens. Am I right, people who were job hunting in 2008?

  11. Kelly*

    The new job I just started did not want to set a start date until my background check had come back clean – so I had a signed offer letter that was conditional on that. I gave my notice when I received the offer letter anyway, but did not lock in my start date until 3 weeks later, after my last day at my old job! I had planned to take a week of two off in between so it worked out for me. But I would have been surprised if they hadnt told me what was going on.

  12. Annoyed interviewee*

    I feel for you, OP. It must be something in the air! I got an offer, agreed to it pending the signing of the contract before I resigned… and they rescinded it. Only they forgot to mention it to me as well.

    I found out when I sent them an email after a week of utter silence. Thanks for… ugh… letting me know, and stuff.

    1. Original Poster***

      Oh No! I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Yep the silence is not a good sign. :(

      1. Annoyed interviewee*

        Let’s hope it won’t be the case for you. Fingers crossed. :)

    2. Ruffingit*

      Wow, that is awful. It’s bad enough that they rescinded it, but to NOT communicate that to you? No excuse. I can understand them rescinding it, that happens sometimes. It’s hard, but it happens. But not telling you that??? No way.

      I’m glad you didn’t resign your current job. At least you’re still employed, I guess that’s a small blessing.

      1. Annoyed interviewee*

        Ah well, like Alison said: one more thing to add to the “never resign unless you have…” list.

      1. A Disillusioned Employee*

        In California, yes. Quitting to accept another offer is considered “good cause”.

  13. Original Poster***

    I’m the OP here and yes this is all absolutely true, crazy as it may seem. I can’t believe this either which is why I emailed Allison. I’ve been in the retail/wholesales industry for over 25 years and this is a first for me!

    I emailed HR again yesterday asking to contact me with a start date. When I had the original contingent offer there was an approximate date given by them, however I advised that once I had the formal permanent offer from them, then I would need to give my current employer my 2 weeks notice. HR manager agreed and so a few days later I got the firm offer, gave HR mgr date I would be available , and gave my notice.

    I was then told that they would follow up with me on a exact start date. A few days later I received a new hire package with no formal letter included ( which I thought was strange). I filled it out and mailed it back with a note ( that I mentioned in the op).

    So now I’m still in limbo with my last day at previous job ending tomorrow. I do not want to ask them to stay, since they did come to me with a counter offer which I declined because I was moving on to what I thought was a better opportunity with better hours, more money, and what we all in my industry considered a higher end luxury company.

    Thank you all for your comments. I will let you all know as soon as I here something back. Being in limbo is frustrating & aggravating.

    1. Penguin*

      This may sound crazy (and I’d love Alison’s opinion), but since you are free on Monday, and presumably gave Monday as the start date when you originally talked to them, maybe just turn up? Maybe they just thought since you said you could start on X date, that would be the date.

  14. Anonymous Accountant*

    I wish the OP the best. This may be due to the regional manager no longer being with the company but they still should have updated the OP. Hopefully it’s an anomaly and isn’t a sign of things to come with this company.

  15. Chocolate Teapot*

    For me, I had a contract of employment which gave a start day (e.g. 1st February) and I think there is s sentence about the next working day if the start date is a Sunday or a public holiday.

    But I can imagine this to be a very frustrating time and I hope it all works out for the OP.

  16. Mohmmad Iqbal*

    I have a worse horror story than this one. Though it had a happy ending. I got interviewed, received formal offer letter and contract. I signed and send it back to them. A week before they retracted the offer saying, they decided to go with a local candidate instead. I was lucky to keep my current job only because my current manager was on vacation and I was waiting for his return to submit my resignation letter. So, I managed to retain my current job even though I got burned by my next possible job. My new motto is, no job is confirmed till I receive my first paycheck. Only thing, now I do is save enough money for 6 months, before I decide to change my jobs. This way, even if the new job does not work out with the new employee, you still have time to look for another one.

    1. Mike C.*

      Wait, if you were about to start the job, wouldn’t you have been considered local anyway?

    2. fposte*

      I had a colleague who got a new job out of state, ended her lease and packed up her family, and was literally told as a U-Haul in the driveway held all of her family’s worldly goods that they couldn’t make the interstate certification work after all and she had no new job.

      Fortunately, she was able to stay at her old job and they’re happy where they are, but that one’s going to haunt me for a while.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Oh wow. Yeah, that would haunt me too. I can’t even imagine. So glad she was able to stay at her old job.

  17. Been there/done that*

    Wow, this really scares me. I recently moved across the country for my job wherevI have been for four months now. I don’t know what I would have done had this happened to me. Please let us know what happens. Best wishes.

  18. Anonymous*

    This happened to me, I had already resigned without a start date and the prospective employer kept pushing me closer and closer to the end of my current position with no start date in sight because of paperwork, background checks, drug testing, etc. Finally as the date approached, unconvinced that they were going to give me the position, I rescinded my resignation and remained with my current employer. I can’t even express how much that sucks. Don’t quit until everything is as written in stone as it can be, including all pre employment screening having been completed and a solid date having been set.

  19. Calliope~*

    So, this couple months old thread caught my eye and I was wondering how things turned out for the OP and to add a few comments.

    I’ve reading this site while hunting for work, learning as much as I could. This thread had me on pins and needles when I accepted a new position verbally over the phone recently. She asked how soon can you get started? Since I’d just agreed to cover for a coworkers vacation, I felt I needed to honor my word and I told her three weeks from that date which she agreed to without hesitation.

    Then, she told me the paperwork would be in the mail and due to this thread (as well as my husband’s story, below), I was not going to give notice to my current position until I had papers with a date in hand. A week went by, and still no paperwork meaning no notice given. I called and she says, oh we don’t send the paperwork till just before your start date. I told her “You don’t understand, I’m not giving notice at my current place of employment without paperwork showing the offer, start date etc.” She was a bit taken aback, but said “oh, don’t worry, you were a unanimous choice”. Okay- that’s fabulous but I need confirmation in writing, please. Thankfully, it did arrive two days later and the start date is a week later than expected so I’m still able to give a full three week notice. But wow, was it nerve wracking waiting for the mail to arrive.

    As for my husband’s story, many years ago when he was much younger, he packed his ex-wife & daughter’s up and moved to another state for a job that was agreed upon by a handshake and a promise only to arrive and find that the owner’s son didn’t have the authority he claimed to do the hiring and the owner refused to honor the hire. I didn’t know about that episode until this thread but damn, that had to be difficult!

    Anyway- I hope the OP’s position came through okay! And thanks for tips. This site is kind of a time suck for me, I should be in bed but I can’t stop reading! :)

  20. Anonnymouse*

    This is an all too timely post for me.

    I went on an interview two weeks ago. I was given a job offer pending background check. First bad sign: employer sends the background check paperwork to the WRONG EMAIL because he assumed that my name was spelled differently….even though he had a hard copy of my email address right on my resume.

    Then the employer wants me to go through a job searching branch of our state’s unemployment office. I raised an eyebrow, but assumed they did more than I realized. I find out they are trying to pull some shady shit on the unemployment office (lying and claiming I am unemployed in order to get some sort of state money). Job search people tell me to just quit my job with no notice, and now I have three emails (one of which literally has the subject line of “ARE YOU SAFE AND SOUND????” lolwhut?) in my email from one of the people involved because I haven’t dropped what I’m doing to call him right this instant.

    I am in the process of writing a professional sounding job offer rejection so I can make everyone go away, but I am thanking the gods I do not believe in that I listened to my gut and didn’t give my notice without a concrete job offer with a start date.

    There were small red flags here and there, and I am very proud of myself for listening to my intuition so I didn’t wind up in a situation like the LW’s. (Hopefully, it all worked out!)

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