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Summary: A company is NOT currently interviewing. However, I know from my inside source that they will likely be interviewing around the time that I would want to start (months from now). So, I want to ask them to interview me early (now), and to start the job 3 months later.

Is it reasonable to ask that question now?

Or should I wait until the job is posted 3 months from now and apply for it?

Note: I am in the US.


In thinking about planning to leave my current company, I would hope to take a three-month break for personal development/time-off before starting at my new job. Of course, I would prefer not to be without a job during that time, so what I would like to do is interview at a company and tell them that I won't be able to start for another three months.

When I tell my friends about this plan, they tell me it's not a reasonable request—that that sort of privilege is reserved for high level executives, that it'll hurt my chances of getting an offer, that it will reflect poorly on my friend who referred me, and that I would be better off applying towards the end of my three-month break.

My question: Are my friends right, or is this a reasonable request?

Some additional context: This would be my second job out of college, as a mid-level software developer. As I mentioned, I would have a referral at the new company, and through that referral I happen to know that this company would be starting its next round of recruiting around the time I would plan on starting (thus, I'd essentially be doing the interview early, rather than starting late).

I've found similar questions on here, but they relate to situations like graduation or visas, which are a bit different than simply taking time off for personal reasons.

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  • 7
    What's your location? Reasonable varies with region.
    – Erik
    Aug 3 at 17:34
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? When to request a "delayed" start date
    – gnat
    Aug 3 at 18:06
  • 3
    They are interviewing now, because they have a need now. You will understand if they say no, won’t you?
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 3 at 18:24
  • 7
    If they're not currently interviewing anyone, why would they make an exception for you? Aug 4 at 8:17
  • 2
    @pimanrules Maybe a rephrased title like "Asking to interview months before the position starts" would better describe your situation?
    – Milo P
    Aug 4 at 16:50
59

Ask for the opinion your friend who works at that company.

Don't listen to your other friends. Don't listen to us. Don't listen to anyone else. Ask the opinion of your friend who works at that company, and follow their recommendation.

If they don't recommend you apply now, don't apply now. But if they do want you to apply, or meet some their colleagues at least, then do that. Follow their lead.

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    I like a lot of these answers, but this is really the most accurate one. For most companies in most countries this isn't going to be a thing, and even bringing it up may not reflect well on you. But: exceptional circumstances can be envisioned where this plan would be perfectly reasonable, even a great idea for the company as well. We don't know this, but your friend should.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 5 at 8:21
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what I would like to do is interview at a company and tell them that I won't be able to start for another three months.

When I tell my friends about this plan, they tell me it's not a reasonable request--that that sort of privilege is reserved for high level executives, that it'll hurt my chances of getting an offer, that it will reflect poorly on my friend who referred me, and that I would be better off applying towards the end of my three-month break.

My question: Are my friends right, or is this a reasonable request?

Your friends are mostly right.

As a hiring manager, I never had an open position where I was happy to wait more than 3 months to fill it.

Based on how long it would take to create an open job requisition, get approvals complete, start the interview process, select and negotiate with candidates, make an offer, and get an acceptance - that by itself could take many weeks. Adding 3 months on top of that would mean a long period where the job req was open. For hiring managers, that's not a good thing.

On top of that, it takes a while to complete onboarding and get up to speed in a new job. You could be asking your potential employer to wait many months between when they have a need, and when you are fully ready to fill that need.

Taking two weeks or so between jobs is pretty normal. Needing 3 months off after your first job would be rather unusual, in my experience.

It's not something I would recommend.

If you are considering quitting your current job, taking 3 months off, then applying for jobs, that's risky financially. It's not something I would recommend my friends do, but it might be more acceptable to potential employers.

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    +1. I'd only do it if I had a basically unlimited number of roles I needed to fill, thus no opportunity cost for hiring someone that'll start 3 months out.
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 3 at 22:43
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    Maybe a month, for a knowledge-industry job, if you have to move across the country or you have some prior commitment you can claim. But you're still gambling that they're impressed enough with you to wait rather than just restarting the search.
    – hobbs
    Aug 3 at 23:26
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    @mxyzplk I could maybe see a really big tech firm doing it; those places are more or less continuously hiring so one of their hiring managers might be ok with hiring 11 people this week instead of the usual 10, and only 9 some week a few months from now. Aug 4 at 1:55
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    I had a three month notice period at my previous job, so my new job had to wait three months from me accepting the post. In some industries/countries this is much more normal.
    – R Davies
    Aug 4 at 8:56
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    "I never had an open position where I was happy to wait more than 3 months to fill it." But according to the inside source, the position isn't currently open, it's not expected to be open until a few months later.
    – Barmar
    Aug 4 at 14:45
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Based on my experience in the US, this really varies by company. Larger companies are more likely to constantly be hiring software engineers and to be less sensitive to varying start dates, since they're working with large pipelines of candidates. Smaller or newer companies, on the other hand, often prefer new hires to start sooner rather than later, since each new hire has a relatively larger effect on the company.

It sounds like this company is doing hiring in rounds, so it's more likely to be in the latter category—that is, your candidacy would be compared against a group of other candidates, who might all be expected to start around the same time. In this case, wanting to wait three months before starting would most likely be a point against you. Your friend who referred you would probably have the best sense of how this works at this particular company.

In any case, it's almost always safe just to ask during the hiring process when the position would start, or whether there's any flexibility in that timeframe. If this is an absolute dealbreaker for you, then it saves you time while interviewing, while if it's more of a nice-to-have, then you could just explain that you're considering whether to take time off between jobs, and don't have any pressing commitments that would prevent you from starting on time.

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    This is the right answer. A small company can't afford the wait. A large one can, and if they're in a growth phase they can afford to hire someone based on fit with the company and possibly just change team assignments later. I did that with Amazon back in the mid 2000s, as I was waiting on a severance package that required me to work 3 more months. But as long as everything is up front at the beginning it wouldn't hurt future prospects with the company to ask. Aug 4 at 14:54
3

TL;DR

It would be vehemently irresponsible for a company to interview just one person and hire them.

You are requesting that a company ignores due diligence in their hiring practices.

You must be one heck of a unicorn in your respective industry...


Wow, there is A LOT to unpack here.

I know from my inside source that they will likely be interviewing around the time that I would want to start (months from now).

Okay, what if their plans change and they have no reason to interview in 3 months?

Why would they interview you early and hire you without interviewing other prospects? Maybe you're not the right fit for the job/culture.

HR tends to require managers to narrow down their interviewees to 3 qualified candidates and then extend an offer to the best prospect. Why do you think an employer would skip this crucial step?

So, I want to ask them to interview me early (now), and to start the job 3 months later.

So pretend your interview fantasy goes off without a problem and they extend a written job offer without ranking you against others.

Well, they can legally renege their offer at any time and for any reason. One good reason for them to renege is that HR catches wind of this nonsense and tells the manager to do their due diligence or get fired.

it will reflect poorly on my friend who referred me

Yes, 100%

Your friend has been entrusted by the company to have certain knowledge. If you approach the company and say "Hey, my referral told me that you guys are hiring in 3 months." then your friend could very well hurt their own future with that company.

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  • This answer assumes that there exist other qualified candidates to compare someone against. That's sometimes true. In the team I'm hiring for, though, I've never gotten a resume that fulfills my whole wishlist -- I'm looking for security, devops, embedded system, application development, and distributed-system design wrapped up in one person. If someone handed me a resume that hit every checkmark a year before the candidate expected to be available, I'd be deeply grateful. Aug 4 at 22:11
  • @CharlesDuffy That is covered by my "You must be one heck of a unicorn in your respective industry..." statement.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 5 at 12:32
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While I understand the urge, I mean who doesn't like a good break every now and again? So it's not that it's unreasonable exactly but you're friends are right in that it's definitely something that could hamper your chances.

Having to wait three months for a new hire to start isn't especially unheard of - particularly not at more senior positions. But it's rarely something that companies will see as a positive. And you might be in a particularly difficult version of that scenario, because:

I would like to do is interview at a company and tell them that I won't be able to start for another three months.

Isn't really completely accurate - you would prefer not to start for another three months. Like I say that preference isn't unreasonable - but if you choose to go that route I think you need to be prepared to be upfront that it is a preference, decide in advance whether you're willing to give up some/all of that if it came to it and also be prepared that many employers will be looking for someone who is willing and able to start sooner than that.

All of that not withstanding this:

I happen to know that this company would be starting its next round of recruiting around the time I would plan on starting (thus, I'd essentially be doing the interview early, rather than starting late).

Is what, in my opinion might just make this particular opportunity different from the general case - if they're looking to recruit people to start for about the same sort of time you'd be wanting to start then a mutually agreeable date is that much more likely. In that case I think the best course would be to discuss with your potential referrer about whether they think interview now - join later is something they would like to do.

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Interviewing this far out isn't really reasonable. Think about this from the hiring manager's perspective. The job opening hasn't been posted yet, which means the requirements could change between your interview and the official posting. There's no guarantee that the job even gets posted at all, a million different financial or logistical things could change the company's plans. The manager could interview you now based on his best guess at what this job would require, but he'd have to re-interview you if anything changed. More importantly, he can't offer you the job until after it's officially posted and he interviews all the other candidates. Interviewing you this early is a lot of extra work for the hiring manager, and it really doesn't benefit anybody.

Instead, your better route is to use your inside source to deliver your resume directly to the hiring manager as soon as the position gets posted. Some companies will let you create a profile in their online applicant tracking system and upload your resume without applying for a specific position. Go ahead and do that now, and cater your resume for this upcoming position so that when the job gets posted, your profile will pop up as a good match. Your inside source may be able to access job descriptions from previous postings and let you know what sort of keywords to use.

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The way it works is first you get a job offer that you like. Then you politely ask for a late start date. I once started months after the offer but I had a prior obligation as a teacher. I wouldn't break my promise to the school and the hiring manager understood. I'm not sure he would have understood if I said I needed a vacation tho.

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