When Should You Say You're Available to Start Work?

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When you're looking for work, your first concern is usually getting your foot in the door someplace new. Once the interview is over, however, you might be brought up short by a common question: "When can you start?" If you're switching jobs, the issue of how much advance notice you should give can be difficult—especially if your current employer doesn't know about your job search. Here are some guidelines to help.

If your dream job extends an offer of employment to you, or if you're still in the interview process and the hiring manager just wants to gauge potential start times, it can be tempting to blurt out that you're available to start immediately. While this shows an admirable enthusiasm for the new job, it could put you at a disadvantage.

If you're switching jobs, your new employer will almost certainly be interested in the respect you demonstrate for your current job, as it's the best indicator of how seriously you're likely to take the interests of your new company. As a rule, people involved in the hiring process expect to wait two weeks for you to wrap things up at your old job, and this standard delay will rarely be held against you. This is all the more true if you make it clear during the hiring process that you can't just walk off your old job without advance notice.

Issues of advance notice aside, it can be to your advantage to delay starting a new job even if you're presently unemployed. Taking a break to mentally prepare yourself for the new job can help you get off on the right foot at a new company. It's also worth remembering that, with the exception of companies offering mainly unskilled and entry-level jobs, most employers are interested in more than your suitability for the position during the hiring process. Quite often, asking when you can start is the opening of a salary negotiation that you might not even know is happening. Your new company's hiring manager might be asking you for your ideal start date as a way of judging how eager you are for work with an eye toward offering the lowest salary the market will bear.

Answering that you won't be available to start work for two weeks — ideally without even mentioning advance notice or other jobs you might have — is a nonconfrontational way of letting your new employer know that you aren't desperate for work and that your salary requirements will be in line with industry standards.

Getting a new job is exciting, especially when you've been out of work for a while. The temptation to get started right away can be overwhelming, but letting on that you're available immediately can hurt you in the eyes of your new company. Not giving advance notice on a job you're leaving is frowned on, after all, and even unemployed job seekers could command a higher salary just by asking for a two-week delay.


(Photo courtesy of BrandonSigma / freedigitalphotos.net)


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