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My official notice period is three weeks. However, I would like longer than three weeks before starting the new job for a couple of reasons:

  • I have some unique skills and knowledge to transfer to my successors. I believe it could take up to two months to allow for a flawless transition. I want to leave in good spirits and "keep the doors open" for eventual future cooperation or even employment.

  • I am also desperately in need for some longer vacation time before starting a new job. I took no holiday for almost a year. Ideally I would like a whole month off.

Should I bring this up at interview, or when I get to offer stage? How can I minimise the chances of this affecting my opportunity there?

I realise that one way of giving myself more time would be to resign before committing to the new offer, but this carries its own risks and I would prefer not to do that.

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    You're going to struggle with an 8 week notice unless you're moving between senior posts. 4 weeks would be reasonable in most professional jobs, but 8 could be detrimental to your chances. – Dan Mar 30 '14 at 15:35
  • What country is this? Two months in my experience (UK) is fine. Also, you don't owe your current employer more than the official three weeks, you would be surprised how little time is actually needed to transition knowledge under tight time scales. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Mar 31 '14 at 13:08
  • @Dan - my experience is that in many professional roles, even at a junior level, 4 weeks rising to 8 or even 12 is fairly normal. Above 12 weeks tends to be reserved for management roles, but up to that level is reasonably common. – Jon Story Feb 17 '15 at 12:24
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As explained by Joe, "You can never be sure that your opportunity won't be affected." To at least put out the appropriate feelers so that you can formulate your own decision, I suggest the following:

  1. Get an idea of the company's planned starting date
  2. Ask about whether the position is new or if you're filling someone's shoes
  3. Cover the request as part of the negotiations, not after accepting it

Ask about the starting date

In the earliest interview possible (phone interview or otherwise), you should have a chance to ask questions. I would recommend asking directly about the starting date:

"What starting date are you thinking of for this position?"

They may answer a specific date (e.g. "If hired, you would be expected to start on May 1st"), or a semi-concrete time period, (e.g. "We would look to have you start from mid-April to mid-May"), or they may turn the question around entirely, (e.g. "It depends on when you could start"). Getting an idea of what they are thinking will give you an idea of how far their expectations and your desires are apart.

Ask what type of position it is

There are primarily three types of positions:

  1. Totally new role
  2. Additional member in an existing team
  3. Replacing a member in an existing team

If the role is totally new (say a company creating a marketing role for handling social media), then there likely aren't any existing responsibilities, and they are more likely to be interested in hiring the right person over hiring a competent person now.

If you are being added to an existing team, it is likely because there is a lack of manpower at the moment. While they may be handling the load as-is for now, they are looking for a new person for a reason. This could go either way depending on the role.

If you are replacing someone who is leaving, then there are real constraints on the company-side because that person will also have their notice period, and will be leaving on a fixed day regardless of when you start. This has the least flexibility in regards to starting dates.

The biggest issue with asking this directly is that if the person is leaving for less-than-pleasant reasons (they were fired, moving to a competitor, etc.), you probably don't want that tainting your interviews in the earlier stages. You may be able to get some useful information by asking less direct questions (e.g. "How many people are working in that team?", etc.).

Start date is part of the negotiation

If you are in the final stage of interviews and think they will offer you the job, it's time to bring this up as part of negotiations. Job offers usually have a starting date as part of the offer, so like salary, it's best to bring it up before getting the offer if you want to negotiate it.

If this is an absolute must for you, then state it as such. If you are more concerned about keeping your options open, I'd start by bringing up the potential for an extended notice period at your current employer to see their reaction:

I have some unique skills and knowledge to transfer to my successors, my current employer may request that my notice period be extended up to two months to allow for a seamless transition.

If they react poorly, you can always say, "Don't worry, my contractual notice period is not two months, so this is negotiable." If they don't bat an eyelash and ask you when you want to negotiate your start date to be, then you can bring up the leave request. If they seem to be unwilling to go over two months but are okay with that period, you can negotiate a shorter notice period with your former employer to give you time off within those two months.

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You should be explaining up front your time requirements, for leaving the current job, and transition to the new job, which would include the respite time you need off. You don't need to tell them that you want a long vacation between your current job, and the one you've been offered. However, if you've already gotten to the negotiation stage of a new job, and have not mentioned this time off, you're at a disadvantage I think. Depending on the size of the organization, and the type of role you're filling maybe they don't care when you start, just that you accept the offer. However if they have an impression you're going to start soon after acceptance, you need to correct this impression and do so before you accept the offer.

You can't worry about appearances during the negotiation process of your start date. If you explain up front that you're going to need some transition time with the previous job to ensure a successful knowledge transfer then I would think most companies would find that to be fair, and assume you would do the same for them. Same goes with downtime between one job and another. However, you have to let the organization decide if it is worth waiting for you, if you come back with a timeline of 6 months between acceptance and start date...that might be a bit hard to accept.

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If it does not come up that they want you to start more-or-less immediately, this perhaps can be left for a later stage of negotiations, though two months is a bit long, and certainly if there is even an indirect indication that you'd be required (say they mention a project that kicks off in four weeks) you should give them some idea of the approximate time frame you have in mind.

I would suggest simply indicating that you wish to be responsible in the notice you give your current employer. Most potential employers will appreciate that- nobody likes being left in the lurch.

You don't need to justify the time other than that, unless you are willing to negotiate a shorter time in return for earlier vacation at your new job or something of that sort (which might get messy). You could ask them about their vacation policy to get an idea of how it works at the new company, and leave things unsaid if it looks like you won't be getting vacation for another year at the new company (presumably you'll be getting the vacation pay from your old job).

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I've had both of these situations, though not at the same time.

In one case, I was the technical lead for a project that had an alpha release in a few weeks and a beta release three months later. I explained to the interviewer that while I could leave after the alpha, I felt a responsibility to leave the project in a good state and would prefer to leave after the beta, during which I could transition knowledge and responsibilities. By phrasing it that way I demonstrated responsibility to my project (which I would hope a new employer would want me to show to them upon leaving, too) while still leaving open the possibility of an earlier departure.

In another case, I explained that I had some planned time off and would prefer to start after that. This was fine too, but if countered with "we'll let you go negative on vacation" I would have said that I'd prefer to give my new job my full focus from the start.

In my experience, for senior positions, companies are generally willing to wait. Some display an initial urgency ("can you start now? how about next week?"), and I once attended an important meeting for my new employer a week before my actual start date, but often if you counter that they'll go along with it. In the grand scheme of things, a difference of a couple weeks for what everyone hopes will be a long-term relationship is just not a big deal. I don't know if this is also true for lower-level positions. (Though at the lowest level, interviewing in the winter before a May graduation isn't at all uncommon.)

My experience is in the US.

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