I recently attended two interviews with a company for a position that would develop my research skills. I was excited about the position as I have been with my current employer for four years and need a change. The interview process was quite disorganised, but they are a small company, and I met my potential new manager with who I had a good connection,, so I took it with a pinch of salt. At the end of the interview, I asked them what the next steps would be as I got the impression that they needed someone to start quite quickly. I told them in the interview that while I am contracted to a four week notice period, in reality, the handover is three months. Due to a governance change, it would feel disloyal to step down before November (the interview was at the end of July).

I didn't hear anything for a week, and then the Director reached out and offered me the position. I replied and said I need to think about my professional obligations for a couple of days. I went back to him on time, accepted the offer, stated my salary expectations, and said that I would submit my resignation if someone could confirm the salary. I also said that I did get the impression that you may need staff now and would it be possible for the team to wait until November (given workloads etc.). HR then contacted me and asked for my start date, to which I replied the 8th of November. They then said we have a senior management meeting and will be in touch with the next steps. Following the meeting, I received a curt email from the HR team (two women), forwarded (I think from my potential manager), thanking me for my expected start date and stating that their environment is face-paced and constantly changing. Their immediate needs are to have staff now. They then said can we ask that you contact us at the beginning of October, before handing your notice in, to discuss where we are in terms of workload?

I have replied, thanking them for the process and update and have said I will reach out at the start of October. Has anyone ever been in this situation before? At the same time, I wonder why they wouldn't just give me the contract if they wanted me to start later? This is the first time I have experienced this kind of behaviour. Did they assume that I would agree to start earlier than I said? Am not sure. Do I just forget it and assume it has been offered to another person?

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    What is your country? Also, I fail to see why, if your notice period is 4 weeks, you would voluntarily assume a three month period. Aug 29, 2021 at 11:09
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    I'm not clear why you would intentionally handicap yourself by extending the contractual 4 week notice period to a ridiculous (IMHO) 3 month period.
    – jwh20
    Aug 29, 2021 at 11:56
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    @Aerial_b So if you have an accident on the way to work tomorrow and spend the next 4 weeks in hospital, this "NGO run by powerful academics" will collapse because you can't organize funding from your bed in the ICU? Sorry, if the really are so badly organized, they deserve nothing at all from you.
    – alephzero
    Aug 30, 2021 at 11:09
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    @JosephDoggie well that's what i thought, what makes me suspicious of this entire thing is that when I was in the interview I told them that it would be November as it would be disloyal otherwise. The Director agreed commented that its honorable thing. I get the suspicion my would be line manager is the one that got offended, if they are going with second choice it doesn't make sense to ask me to get back in touch in October.
    – user129186
    Aug 30, 2021 at 14:21
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    A note for the Americans in the audience: OP said they are from the UK. 3 month notice periods are quite common for professional roles here.
    – JDL
    Aug 31, 2021 at 8:59

3 Answers 3


What they're saying is that they're not going to hold this job offer open for you for the next 2-3 months. They're going to spend the next month looking for and interviewing candidates, and if they find someone they think can do the job before then, they'll offer it to them instead of you ("Their immediate needs are to have staff now.").

That said, they're not completely closing the door either. If in a month they haven't found the person they want, they might come back to you to discuss further - but with emphasis on "might".

As an aside:

all the finance comes through me and it takes months to put a new person on the accounts

You should make it one of your priorities to remove this single point of failure. If you were unexpectedly hit by a bus (or more realistically, unable to work due to COVID), it sounds like your current employer would have serious issues. Not entirely coincidentally, this would also make it easier for you to exit the next time you find a job you're interested in.

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    "You should make it one of your priorities to remove this single point of failure." The employer should, but the employee, especially one leaving, owes them no such effort.
    – Seiyria
    Aug 29, 2021 at 19:24
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    "owes them no such effort", well, apart from some basic human decency :) Be the change you want to see.
    – Martijn
    Aug 30, 2021 at 8:09
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    @Martijn No. It is a predicament the business has put itself in because they have found it easier/cheaper to abuse the OP's good faith than to properly manage its risks. If management has assumed the risks of that function being not fulfilled (even if that assumption is because of incompetence), that is a problem for management, not for the employee.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 30, 2021 at 8:53
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    @SJuan76, I agree. Apart from some basic human decency. I'm not saying to spend overtime to write something that is the responsibility of someone else. It's not just for management, what if you get a junior to train? Or if you want to look something up from a while ago? Writing documentation also 'forces' you to standardize, which might help you be more efficient. And again, some basic human decency: I would like it of some employee of mine would be able to recognize a SPOF and deal with it, so I try to be that employee (ofcourse within reasonable bounderies).
    – Martijn
    Aug 30, 2021 at 9:20
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    @SJuan76 I think that it being a nonprofit makes things a bit different. With a for profit enterprise, your work is benefiting the organization, and it's the organization's obligation to look out for its own interests. With a non profit, your work is benefiting the cause, and it's reasonable to make some effort ensuring the organization's failures doesn't harm the cause. Aug 31, 2021 at 4:54

Sorry, you screwed up.

At the moment you decide to change jobs, your new employer should be your #1 priority. Frankly, it's like dating a new boy/girl friend but still wanting some extra time to kiss the old one.

At the same time, I wonder why they wouldn't just give me the contract if they wanted me to start later?

They just keep you warm in case they can't find anything else. They will not sign a contract until much closer to the starting date.

Did they assume that I would agree to start earlier than I said?

Hard to tell. This depends on how strongly you communicated in the interview process that an earlier start date is absolutely out of the question.

Do I just forget it and assume it has been offered to another person?

I would certainly keep looking. The chances that they will offer you the position later aren't all that great. Even if they do, you are off to a bad start since you've already communicated that this job isn't particularly important to you.

Due to a governance change, it would feel disloyal to step down before November (the interview was at the end of July).

That's a mistake and misguided. A 4 week notice period is plenty to clean things up and do an organized hand-over. If your current employer can't handle that, it's their failure not yours. Even worse: you are putting a significant burden on your new employer to accommodate the incompetence of your current one. This does NOT look good from your new employers perspective.

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    “This does NOT look good from your new employer's perspective.” — Indeed.  It might even that be the prospective employer interpreted that as OP not being very keen on the new job.
    – gidds
    Aug 29, 2021 at 20:16
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    As somebody from the UK I would also agree with this. Any notice period greater than a month is considered to be a long one, outside of certain fields (like finance) where there may be a 6-month "garden leave" period to stop advantages to other companies from trade secrets etc.
    – WhatEvil
    Aug 30, 2021 at 2:34
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    @Aerial_b: They don't want "negotiable," they want someone who will be on the job in a month. Saying "negotiable" basically means "I'll do it, but only if you offer me extra money/benefits/vacation/whatever" - they probably think they can find another candidate who won't make such a demand. It also makes your "loyalty" explanation a bit less credible - you're only loyal until they offer you enough money?
    – Kevin
    Aug 30, 2021 at 6:17
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    Speaking as someone who has recently been interviewing candidates for a hard-to-fill position, I would do exactly what this company did. I'd tell my boss "This was a good candidate, and I'd like to bring them on, but they can't start for three months, and we need someone as soon as possible so we can start bringing them up to speed." Then my boss would say something like "Ok, keep that candidate on the back burner but keep looking. If we don't find anyone else in the next two months, they've got the position." My boss's boss wouldn't care either way, so long as the work got done on time.
    – Bobson
    Aug 30, 2021 at 22:25
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    >> "Why do they want me to reach back out in October when they will have moved on etc.?" In case the guy that they get - coz they need someone now - doesn't turn out to be as good or can't handle the fast paced environment. Or, they know turnover is high and there will likely be some spot where they can use you down the track. I'd say they've decided given the circumstances to treat it like a 'pool' application where "your details will be kept on file for future positions that may arise in the next twelve months ..."
    – mcalex
    Aug 31, 2021 at 4:28

Has anyone ever been in this situation before?

I have been on the side of the hiring manager. A candidate who has an artificial obligation to their current employer, suddenly becomes a lot less desirable. We have waited for students to graduate, especially when the school is several states away, and they can't even help part-time. But when they suddenly add a month or two to their start data it is a sign that they either are waiting for a better offer, or they aren't 100% committed to the change.

The fear they might have is that as that this is the first of what will turnout to be several delays.

Unless you have a legal obligation to stay more than the 4 weeks, you shouldn't feel any obligation to stay longer. The 4 weeks notice period is designed to give them time to change all the things that need to be changed, and for you to finish some tasks.

The current company should never have their finances tied up by the availability of a single person. This is especially true when the person is also about to leave. If you were leaving in anger then you might be tempted to make the transition extremely painful. Therefore the first thing that I would do after you turned in your notice would be to disentangle your from the accounts.

At the same time, I wonder why they wouldn't just give me the contract if they wanted me to start later?

If they give you the contract now, and everybody signs then they have certain obligations as mentioned in the contract. They don't want to lock in those obligations. Once you wanted to delay, they probably reached out to their 2nd choice, and are negotiating with them right now.

Do I just forget it and assume it has been offered to another person?

Keep applying. Keep interviewing. You have signed nothing, and the chance of them letting you join is less than 100%. So don't stop looking.

Once you are ready to commit to them, contact them, but don't be surprised if they say their situation has changed.

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    Thank you this is very helpful. I can understand it, but also at the same time I am a little nervous that they seem to be more interested in getting anyone rather than the right person. I will reach out but I don't have high expectations. Thanks so much.
    – user129186
    Aug 29, 2021 at 12:37
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    You do not know if you were the first choice or if their first choice rejected their offer. Many time there is little difference between the top candidates. Once you pushed back the start date, it is easy to pick the next qualified candidate. Aug 29, 2021 at 16:56
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    Very true. I do wonder why they want me to reach out in October. Normally they would just take the next one but who knows. I am worried about the turnover for such a small team of 12, they have replaced/lost five people in one year.
    – user129186
    Aug 29, 2021 at 17:06
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    You are not the only “right person” for your new job nor are you the only “right person” for your old job. You are falling for the myth of indispensability. They got by without you before you were there and will get by after you, both companies. Your over-inflated sense of worth is sabotaging you. Wrap up quickly and move on without all this to-do, if you are waiting for someone to think it’s worth it you’ll be waiting a while.
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 30, 2021 at 0:53
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    @Aerial_b "I am a little nervous that they seem to be more interested in getting anyone rather than the right person" You realize that they waste time and money during the time just waiting for you, right? Because everything involving you and the people involved in those things are also on hold.
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 30, 2021 at 1:18

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