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I applied for a job. After two weeks they let me know that although I had enough skills and experience I won't be hired because of my three months notice period, and that they decided to hire another guy with a one month notice period.

After two days I received a phone with information that they changed their mind and they can hire me. I agreed but I told them that before I will resign from my current job I'd like to sign an agreement with them.

They told me that they don’t normally do that - the agreement would be signed on the day I report to work. However they proposed signing a letter of intent, which legally doesn't oblige them to hire me. I told them that I need one more day to think it through.

How should I lead the upcoming negotiations? Should I take the risk and agree?

  • This is particularly tricky as it depends so much on the local culture. In the US for instance an official offer letter with salary and start date is often all you get, no contract - and you do rarely but sometimes get burned because the job disappears before you start (I know a student who this happened to with a very famous tech company in the US). In the US you rarely would get anything stronger than an email with the offer, and the rest proceeds on good faith. Not sure how it works in Poland, though. – BrianH May 30 at 20:12
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    Possible duplicate of Signing contract on the starting day? Not before? – Dukeling May 30 at 20:38
  • It seems odd that they wouldn't let you sign an offer letter in advance. Personally, my current employer allowed me to sign a contract with the stipulation that my start date was roughly a month in advance. All the employer would need to do is add language to indicate your expected start date. – Steve-o169 May 30 at 20:45
  • Do you really want that job, do you have other options? The risk-seeker in me says if you could go either way about that job then agree to signing the letter of intent. Phone them back in a week and say you've changed your mind.. Btw, it isn't really an answer to your question but if they are recruiting based on notice period rather than actual fit/best person for the job... I get the impression they are quite rigid and rules-based, which doesn't necessarily bode well. I'm assuming that it's a professional/requires experience role rather than the main requirement being "bum in seat quickly" – seventyeightist May 31 at 18:11
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So they want you to give up a job without the reassurance of future employment. The sensible course of action is to say no. You do have rent to pay etc...

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    This is the correct answer. They will require you to honor your notice period with them but they want you to break your already agreed upon notice period. Seems like a huge red flag – Ramhound May 31 at 15:09
  • That's kind of how it works in America. I've never had a contract signed for a new job. I quit my old, do my 2 weeks, and start the new job. There's always a nervous feeling that when I get there they won't remember they hired me, but never had an issue. – Keith Jun 11 at 14:25
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I definitely think you should hold off on flat out agreeing to their current terms. I've had a Spanish company send me an offer letter (which was signed and returned), then reassure me multiple times that "you have the job"... When I inquired about a hard start date so that I could give notice at my current job, they went silent for many months. This sounds like a similar situation... The "we can't hire you; oh wait, yes we can!" is a less than ideal signal from them.

That said, they want to hire you and you want to work for them so the deal isn't dead. Perhaps you can meet in the middle somewhere... Could you offer to go to their location in the next day or two to work on some paperwork that would legally lock the job in? I have seen a case where an HR department modifies their contract to say something like "You are officially employed by us as of today but we aren't going to pay you for two months so don't show up for work until then."

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In Sweden and the IT industry you normally sign an employment contract when you get hired, then you quit your current job. When the notice period is up, you simply start at the new workplace with a six month probation period.

This is more or less the norm in western Europe, with local variation. But my Polish contacts tell me of a very different work culture in Poland, where some employers exploit the athmosphere of a developing nation.

From your description it sounds like a high risk situation to quit your current job without an employment contract, or some other legal document.

You need to talk with other people in your industry and find out if what is normal in Poland. From what I heard, there can be a big difference between employers and even between cities.

By suddenly offering you a job with very short time to think, they put you in a weak negotiating position, because your success of this negotiation will depend on you being as informed as possible.

Tell them you need more time to think. Then find a trade union or some local forum where you can ask this question. Find counterarguments to the ”everybody does it this way” line.

EDIT: since the answer turns out to be that this is not a common approach, the conclusion is that this is one of those employers trying to pull a fast one. Stay vigilant and communicate with colleagues and others in your industry, this won’t be the last time.

  • Thanks for the advice. It's not a common approach in Poland. All the other colleages signed a contract with a new employer just before resigning from a current job. Although one of them have heard about a letter of intent approach. Guys on local forum generally suggested not to agree. I negotiated some kind of pre-contract of employment which obliges both parties to comply under a threath of a financial fine. I'm not sure if this was the wisest solution but definetely the safest one. – miki Jun 1 at 12:11

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