I had a recruiter work with a client who liked me, but due to various things the start date was almost always presented as within a day or two but kept on getting pushed back for weeks. After I was stood up (the recruiter set one start date, and didn't notify me even though I called both the individual recruiter and account manager that my start date was pushed back again; I showed up, called to ask which party to request with security, and was then notified of my start date being pushed back further), I emailed them asking for help, and then wisely or unwisely gave an ultimatum, requesting that the job either start for sure that day or the next day, or else treated as "This might happen and it might be really nice, but I'm free to look for something else," the client was not impressed and revoked the offer.
The biggest area where I'm wondering "What might I have done differently?" is in negotiation where the start date keeps getting pushed back even though it sounds like it is only one or two more business days more to wait. I'm wondering if after the first week of the start date being pushed back I should have said, "I need something to crystallize."
Maybe I should ask: If a start date keeps getting pushed back, when is it time to shift negotiation style, and how should it be changed? What is effective negotiation? I am in a way glad that the client was "not impressed" I tried to get a specific start date to crystallize; if he is "not impressed" about that after weeks of the start date being delayed, I'm glad I found out this as a candidate not a new hire. But I'd love to know if I should have recognized signs and perhaps been freer to look for a better fit after one week's delay rather than a few weeks.
When is a delayed start date (portrayed as just around the corner) something to accommodate, and when is it a red flag?