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When asked when could you start a new job, is it implied that even if you answer "immediately" they should give you a few days notice?

I had a job where they made me the offer on Friday and expected me to start on Monday. So basically they wanted me to sign it within 5 hours.

How should I answer to convey that I'm ready to start right away, but would prefer a few business days notice unless there's something urgent?

According to Google it's common for a company to expect a response to a job offer within 24-48 hours, but if the they expect the employee to start working in less time I think this is unreasonable.

The reason I would like some notice is so I can carefully read over the contract (potentially have a lawyer review it) and ask any questions I may have.

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    There isn’t a universal answer to this question
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 21 at 2:24
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    If they want you to start that fast, then it's a good bet they are under a lot of pressure and trying to fill more seats, thinking that alone will solve heir problems, which only creates more of them. It's also a good bet that they don't want you to think too hard about their offer, so that you see the reality of the offer and how bad it likely is. There are times when neither of these is the case, but pushy recruiters are usually a big red flag of how bad a place it is to work. Don't forget to use something like GlassDoor to find out the reality of the workplace, if you haven't already. Commented Mar 21 at 21:02
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    Expecting a response in 24-48h, which is already pushing it for professional jobs, and starting in 24-48h are different. Response can be anything from "Yes", "No", "I am interested in principle, but need to go over the T&C's", "I am interested, but waiting on another application", "Thanks for your kind offer, I'm currently looking for +$$". Adjust for what is reasonable for the job type.
    – Pete W
    Commented Mar 22 at 0:41
  • ...and I think it's two questions. Is it implied? No. Can you expect? Maybe.
    – Raydot
    Commented Mar 22 at 1:26
  • Well did the contract have a start date on it or not? If it didn't, you can sign it first then negotiate the start date. If it did, you could sign it and try to negotiate the start date; try to give a (legitimate) compelling reason why you're not available on that day.
    – smci
    Commented Mar 22 at 4:18

6 Answers 6

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When asked when could you start a new job, is it implied that even if you answer "immediately" they should give you a few days notice?

No. It's a straight forward question so you should give a straight forward answer.

How should I answer to convey that I'm ready to start right away, but would prefer a few business days notice unless there's something urgent?

Just ask for whatever time you need. Many jobs in the US have two weeks notice periods and new employers typically don't expect you to break this. It's much longer (and legally more defined) in other countries.

If you need 3 days to settle your current affairs, simply say "I need 3 days to settle my current affairs so I can start 3 days after I have a firm offer".

If a company can't possibly wait a reasonable period for you, than this probably isn't a good fit anyway and you are not losing much.

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    @CaveJohnson it does not look like that company was trying to find the best candidate...
    – wimi
    Commented Mar 21 at 17:53
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    @Donald I am not saying it is a bad offer, I am just saying that not being ready to wait one day for an answer will automatically lock you out of good candidates and you will more likely get the desperate ones who have no other offers and need the job now.
    – wimi
    Commented Mar 21 at 22:20
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    @Donald straightforward or not, if I get an offer for a job and am not allowed a day to review it (and potentially do something like discuss it with my spouse), that's a massive red flag. Reviewing isn't always to change or delay on offer. My spouse and I may be working off shift from each other, and a change of job isn't something to be done without consulting your spouse in a healthy relationship. This draws from anecdotal experience on my part, where I received an offer during one of her 24-hour rotations in residency.
    – GOATNine
    Commented Mar 21 at 22:20
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    @GOATNine: I think there's a difference between a company not allowing a day (Or more) to review the offer, and a company asking if, when chosen, you can start within a day of the job offer being given. I've had jobs where I've been given the offer immediately post-interview, and ones where I was not the first place candidate - but they needed another person, and asked if I was still interested; I was, and the following question was "Does tomorrow work?"...because they were willing to have me start the next day,if I was able, with their IT details beforehand between offer and when I showed up. Commented Mar 24 at 9:24
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    @GOATNine: Or perhaps as a TL:DR; of that - depending on the team, they may be more willing to have you start earlier if you are able to, but not having the option to start with 2 week's notice would be the red flag. Which sometimes is why they ask. Commented Mar 24 at 9:28
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The reason they are asking is so you can say "I prefer a few business days notice". It would be pointless to lie in your answer. If you don't want to start immediately, don't say you can start immediately. Some people could start immediately, so they'll say that. Some people need to give two weeks notice at their current job, and they will say that.

It sounds like you want to say "ideally I could use a few business days, but if you're in a real jam let me know; I could start tomorrow." There are places that would appreciate that, for example a restaurant that is down a cook, or a retail establishment that needs someone to cover busy times. You should know from the interview whether this is that kind of place. If it's not, your offer may actually not be taken well. For example in most software development shops, you starting 2 or 3 days sooner will not make any meaningful difference to getting the next release out the door. You suggesting that it might could be seen as not understanding the reality of the job. So use this option carefully.

Also do distinguish between "I need a few days for my lawyer to look over your offer before I accept it" and "I need a few days after I accept your offer to deal with some stuff before I'm back working every day". They are different answers. If both are true, then if they gave you an offer on the spot, you might need a whole week between the interview and your start date.

These sorts of questions are ones you should think through and have smooth answers ready for. It is more positive to say you "only need a few days" (considering many people might need weeks) than to suggest the norm is to start the next day but you need more time. It's probably more polite not to mention that you will get your lawyer to review their offer (it suggests you expect the offer to be something that might not be good for you) and to just answer with a number of days rather than the reasons. Think about a cheerful and friendly way to say, basically, that you will be available almost immediately -- and that you are looking forward to that starting date already!

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    There's a middle ground between the two situations in Also do distinguish between "I need a few days for my lawyer to look over your offer before I accept it" and "I need a few days after I accept your offer to deal with some stuff before I'm back working every day": "I could do with sleeping on it/discussing with my partner; I'll get back to you the next working day". That could well be combined with needing a few days to get stuff sorted, leading to "I'm going to need a few days, how about I get back to you first thing Monday with a firm date?" (maybe work on the wording a little)
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:31
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    Maybe my experience is atypical, but I've certainly taken on roles in software development where 2 or 3 days was a critical success factor. Most commonly where a key individual was due to leave and a few extra days of knowledge transfer made a big difference. There was also one project that comes to mind where they had an urgent need for a specialist to resolve a problem before they were in breach of contract. These were admittedly roles where my employer contracted me out to a client rather than permanent roles.
    – James_pic
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:31
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    @James_pic typically in such situations of urgency, contractors are the solution - their employment is designed to work that way, and they're experienced in hitting the ground running. Even the best specialist could reasonably need a bit of time to come up to speed - if there's that kind of urgency I'd expect the interview to probe quite hard in that direction. And a direct hire is very likely to have a notice period, though they may be able to advertise and interview for the post on the basis of only wanting those who are immediately avaiable
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:39
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    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight a date picker is shockingly dumb at the application stage, so no one in their right mind should expect to trust it. Availability depends on when the clock starts ticking on the notice period, and that's not in the applicants control but depends on when the hirer issues an offer
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 22 at 8:55
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    @ChrisH sadly it's as stupid as it is common. Even with the limitations of 3rd party systems I can't imagine it being too hard to ask 1) Are you available after a specific day, a specific notice period, or other. And then having date picker, number picker, and text box fields to use one of depending on what you answered to the base question. Commented Mar 22 at 20:23
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When asked when you can start a job, is it implied they will give you a few days notice?

It depends on the companies.

Some companies may need you to start ASAP. Others may give you 1 or 2 weeks to start (in the US).

In other countries, companies may have different time frames.


How should I answer to convey that I'm ready to start right away, but would prefer a few business days notice unless there's something urgent?

Just tell them exactly what you wrote: "I'm ready to start right away, but would prefer a few business days notice unless there's something urgent."

Then, they will tell you their preference.

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    Pretty much, had clients where we literally started same day, and others that were surprised I don't want few weeks of a waiting period first.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Mar 21 at 12:17
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When asked when could you start a new job, is it implied that even if you answer "immediately" they should give you a few days notice?

It's all about context. In general, it's not, but if you're applying to a retail position just before Black Friday or if you're applying to a low wage job with variable demand or if you're applying to a temp agency, you should assume they may try to get you to start as soon as possible.

In which case, it's better to be more precise and say: "I can start next week on Wednesday" or "I just need to give two weeks notice" instead of saying "I can start immediately".

I had a job where they made me the offer on Friday and expected me to start on Monday. So basically they wanted me to sign it within 5 hours.

The job could be a scam. Or the job could be a shit show. The point is. If they didn't explain to you why they're so desperate, you need to ask for more information. And if the explanation they give you doesn't make sense, do not accept the job (unless you're truly desperate, and even then, at least make sure the job is not a scam).

For all you know, you're the fourth person they hired for the same role in a span of a week, and everybody else quit. Or they have an important investor meeting next week and they need you to present to the investors as if you were the team lead. Or there could be a million reasons why they want you to start so quickly.

Whatever it is. If this happens to you again, you need to get the employer on the phone right away and find out what it is. So if the job requires additional resources or manpower, that is the time to ask for more resources or more manpower (before you accept anything). Or if they're expecting you to do a job that's above your pay grade, or to do the job alone, now is the time to ask for more money, or now is the time to remove/alter the probationary period.

If the company is small enough and desperate enough, and if you find clauses in the contract that they did not talk about (or that you didn't agree to) over the phone. Strike out the clauses you do not like, initial those changes, and send back the unsigned contract back to them. Or if they promised you concessions or an automatic raise after three months over the phone, not mentioned in the contract, make sure that that the contract mentions those things.

My point being. Do not ask for permission to change the contract, just change it yourself. Send it back unsigned. Then, if they're unwilling to remove the clauses you crossed out, or unwilling to add the clauses you've added, then they're the ones holding up the process, not you (just be aware that altering the contract yourself may be used against you in the future in case there is something about the contract that is ambiguous).

Now of course, they could withdraw their offer completely, or they could say that they need their own lawyers to review the changes on Monday, but this is a risk you would have to assess for yourself.

The reason I would like some notice is so I can carefully read over the contract (potentially have a lawyer review it) and ask any questions I may have.

That's also a very reasonable answer. If you need more time, ask for more time. They may give you that extra time, or they may not.

But sometimes, you have to be willing to say "no" to people.

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  • Another possibility: some companies onboard new employees in batches, and if the next batch starts tomorrow and the one after that starts in 2 weeks due to a holiday, it would make a lot of sense to try to get a new employee in immediately. (Source: happened to me.)
    – arp
    Commented Mar 23 at 4:51
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No. It’s a simple enough question, but there isn’t really a standard implication across jobs, let alone across companies. In general, the ANSWER to their question will be a notice period for any existing job plus a new job prep period (moving, vacation, holiday or whatever). But’s it’s not implied they will give you that time.

Whatever job you are applying for will have its own timeframes, from minutes to months, and that should be understood.

You should take this as a negotiation question, the correct response being “When would you like me to start?”, that’s not an offer to start, that’s just getting their preference.

This is one of the situations where the balance tends to favor the employee — in a non-urgent situation, an acceptable employee wanting to start a few days or even weeks sooner or later is not going to be a deal breaker or even stressor.

Note I said tends, there will be circumstances where the answer they are looking for is “Now”, and if that’s the case, any other answer will lead to “We’ll keep you in mind”.

In general, that’s a bit of a red flag, because companies shouldn’t allow themselves to get into that situation. To give an analogy it would be like someone saying their car needs an oil change “now”, if something will break if you don’t get an oil change immediately, the vehicle hasn’t been properly maintained and the oil change may not be sufficient to get it back into good running condition. Still there are always exception, small restaurant, cook’s got hit by a bus, oil pan just got a big hole poked into it…

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In the UK it's most likely that you have to give at least four weeks notice. More in Germany (usually to the end of the next month, so today on March 22nd I'd have to give notice to April 30th), and even in the USA it's at least 14 days or you damage your reputation.

So if they really want you to start tomorrow, or on the next working day, you could say that you personally don't mind, but you have to give notice, and they can talk to your current employer about the notice period. The employer may, or may not, be willing to allow you to leave a lot faster. Some employers put you on gardening leave as soon as you give notice, and that kind of employer might be happy not to have to pay you.

And you don't talk to your employer until you have a legally binding contract. Which will contain that you give notice right now, and that you will start either at the end of the notice period, or whenever your current employer allows you to leave, whichever is earlier.

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