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How can you negotiate the start date for your new job? With tips!

Artwork by: Aleksandra Remaruk

  • Can you negotiate your start date?
  • Can I ask for an earlier start date?
  • Can you push back your start date after accepting the job offer?
  • What if they ask you "When can you start?"
  • Example and template for negotiating a start date
  • Tips for negotiating your start date
  • Key takeaways

Sometimes a great job appears at a less than ideal time. Can you adjust your start date? Absolutely! In this article, we discuss negotiating your start date and provide tips and examples of how to ensure your new job works for you.

So, a prospective employer has uttered the four words every job seeker longs to hear: “When can you start?” If you’re ready to start immediately, that’s great! But, what if they want you to start at a time that doesn’t work for you? As thrilled as you might be, make sure you’re ready, taking into account any previous commitments you might have. This is when you might consider negotiating a start date with your new employer.

In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of negotiating your start date for a new job, including:

  • Can you push back your start date after signing the offer letter?

  • Is it OK to negotiate a start date?

  • How do you respond to an available start date?

  • Example and template for asking for a delayed start date

  • Four tips for successfully negotiating your start date

Can you negotiate your start date?

A start date is the exact date that an employer expects you to begin working for the company. Companies set their start date based on several things, such as payroll obligations, training availability, or alignment with other new hires. But, is it written in stone? While the standard is two weeks from the acceptance of the job offer, there is some wiggle room depending on your circumstances. 

Ideally, you’ll accept the time frame the new employer offers, to lessen the chances of them rescinding the job offer, but in most cases, they'll want you to be happy with the start date. Keep in mind you’ll probably have to offer them a good reason, and “I want some vacation time” probably isn’t going to cut it. Good reasons to negotiate your start date include how much time your current employer requires, relocation needs, pressing personal commitments, and illness (you or a close family member). 

How much time you ask for will also depend on where you are in your career. Unless you’re at the executive level, two to three weeks is well within the doable range. At higher career levels, one might be able to negotiate a date weeks, even months out. At this level, a company probably won’t want to risk losing a qualified executive. No matter where you are on the career ladder, it’s best to negotiate before you accept the job, not after. And despite how negotiations turn out, never ghost a new employer

Can I ask for an earlier start date?

Perhaps you’re in a situation where your current job ends your employment when you give notice. Or maybe you’re unemployed. Whatever your situation, you may be able to ask your new employer for a start date that is sooner than they offered. While they may decline, there’s no harm in asking. Approach the hiring manager with enthusiasm, and let them know why you’d like to start sooner than offered.

Try framing your request something like this:

Copyable example

I’m very excited about this new opportunity, and I am positive it will be a great fit for my skills and experience. If it works for you, I am available to start as soon as this coming Monday. What are your thoughts?

This shows your flexibility and enthusiasm for the job. If they say yes, great! But if they say you need to start on the requested date, agree and don’t negotiate any further.

Can you push back your start date after accepting the job offer?

It is not unprofessional to ask for a later start date. Be prepared for the possibility that they’ll say no, since you already agreed to it, and you need a good reason to change the agreed-upon start date. Remain professional, give them the reason for needing a change (e.g. death in the family), and let them know you’ll adhere to the start date if they won’t budge. Remember, your request may interfere with the company’s plans, and you risk inconveniencing other people. So be willing to compromise to find a start date that works for everyone.

What if they ask you "When can you start?"

This is a question that often comes up in job interviews. Sometimes, a potential employer will wait until they’re ready to make you an offer. Regardless, how you answer is important. If you’re currently working and say, “I can start right away!” the new employer might worry that you’re the type who could leave them “holding the bag” at some point. 

If you’re not working, saying “as soon as possible” is fine. In general, two weeks is about right for all parties—your new employer expects it. Your current employer will appreciate the heads-up and be more likely to give you a good reference down the road.

If you’re truly at a loss as to how to answer, you can reverse the question and ask them when they were looking for you to start, giving you an idea about their time frame. Then, you can negotiate a date that works for everyone involved.

Example and template for negotiating a start date

So how do you put all of this into practice? If you’re making the request via email, use the following template to craft a request to adjust your start date:

Copyable example

Dear [name of hiring manager],

Thank you so much for your job offer to be [name of position] at [company name]. I'm so excited to begin working, but I need to request an adjustment to my starting date due to [reason].

I realize that this will hamper your proposed start date on [month, day, year]. After my prior commitment, I can start work on [month, day, year]. Please let me know if there is anything I can do before this date to lessen any inconvenience for you and [company name].

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, [Your full name]

Tips for negotiating your start date

You can negotiate but tread lightly. Don't immediately say, "That date doesn't work for me." By asking if negotiating is a possibility, you'll see if they're open to it. And be positive. The new employer must understand that you're excited about the opportunity. Remember, despite your best efforts, they may not budge, especially if they're short-staffed or in their busy season. Remain professional, and don't give an ultimatum unless you're willing to walk away from the job offer.

Here are tips to keep in mind:

  • Employ honesty. Be honest and concise when asking to negotiate. You should offer them a good reason, but you don’t have to go into detail.

  • Get everything in writing. With a written copy, there is no confusion as to your agreed-up start date.

  • Aim for a compromise. Work toward a compromise that is beneficial for both parties.

  • Remember your current employer. Make sure your start date works for your current employer. Don’t leave them in the lurch, or it could damage your professional reputation.

When you’ve come to your agreed-upon start date, prepare for your new job to make your transition as stress-free as possible. This will ensure you start off on the best foot possible.

Ready to start your new career strong? Check out Career.io’s First 90 Day Plan, which will give you all the information to position yourself for success with a comprehensive toolkit, expert guidance, and actionable strategies.

Key takeaways

  1. A start date is the exact date that an employer expects you to begin working for the company, and might be based on payroll obligations, training availability, or aligning with other new hires.

  2. Reasons to negotiate a different start date include relocation needs, your current job’s exit requirements, or a personal commitment.

  3. When requesting to change your start date, be specific, honest, professional, and most of all, flexible.

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