Here's my situation : I currently am in a contractual job and my contract will end on September.

From the time of this posting, I would only be available 2.5 months from now.

I am already seeing good job postings that I want to apply to, but I'm worrying that it might be too early that when I do get to the offer stage, it might be awkward to tell the employer that I'll only be available by the 1st week of October.

Questions :

  1. How early could you apply generally for jobs?
  2. How much waiting time can you give employers before you are able to work?
  3. Is it a deal breaker for employers if the applicants aren't available in 1-4 weeks' time?

Additional details : I am from Australia, and it might help if you give examples in Australia's work culture, however, general answers are also accepted since we aim this to be helpful for anyone, not only the ones residing/working in Australia.

  • How long is the normal notice period in Australia? Empoyers will calculate with at least that much time before their candidate can start work for them. Over here, where the notice period is 6 weeks minimum, no employers has any problems with the fact that people can start in two or three months. – nvoigt Jul 15 '14 at 5:23
  • 1
    @nvoigt - given that the OP has mentioned working in the software industry in other questions, the norm for that industry in Australia would be 4 weeks notice. Not always that long. Sometimes longer for senior people. But that's the most common, in my experience. – Carson63000 Jul 15 '14 at 6:10

How early could you apply generally for jobs?

You can apply as early as you want.

Keep in mind:

  • Some managers will want a replacement immediately
  • Some managers are looking to slowly build a team over a much longer period of time. They might prefer the right candidate and be willing to wait several months
  • Some managers might have a contract starting in the future
  • Some companies hire, especially with respect to college graduates, significantly in advance
  • Some positions are much harder to fill with appropriate candidates
  • It generally takes managers several months to fill positions regardless after including all the steps, 2.5 months isn't overly unreasonable (especially for a specific, hard to fill position)
  • Some positions might be "need person ASAP because position is critical" and some might be less time sensitive

The answer really is "it depends on the manager/job opening." Managers have a large number of constraints they must deal with hiring. For some, time simply is a higher one - you may have a harder time getting these positions.

  • It's also worth noting if the delay is really long managers might have reservations. Here in the US even if I don't need a spot filled right now 2.5 months is a long time... Usually in those cases if I'm interested I let them know, but I explain I need to keep looking for someone who's able to take the position sooner. (Just in case you don't work out I don't want to lose 3 months) that said if a month goes by and there are no better prospects I'm going to give you a call back and see if you're still interested. – Eric J Fisher Jul 16 '14 at 20:53

Well, the first thing you need to bear in mind is that there are numerous reasons why a company might have a job ad out there. Maybe someone has just resigned and they need to replace them. Maybe they need to bring in some new skills that they don't have in their current team. Maybe business is growing and they want to increase the size of the team. All the different reasons will give different levels of urgency.

So, there's no one general answer to the question of how long is an employer willing to wait.

In general, I would say employers in Australia would like you to be available to start within four weeks of accepting an offer, since that's a pretty common notice period in the software industry. But if there's no specific urgency (e.g. they're just looking to increase the size of a team), and they think you're the right candidate, anything is possible.

Two and a half months is a long time. But given that anything is possible, I would recommend that if you see a job ad which seems particularly tasty, get in touch. But make it clear in your cover letter that you are not available until October. If that's a deal-breaker, then it's a deal-breaker. You won't get the job, but no harm done. Better to make it clear immediately and not waste your time and theirs on an interview.

It's very possible that it's not a complete deal-breaker, but that it will hurt your chances and make them prefer a similar quality candidate over you. There's not much that can be done about that. I really wouldn't recommend keeping quiet and hoping to get an offer and then breaking the bad news about your availability. That's going to leave a bad taste in any employers' mouth.

Plus, of course, it's possible that your availability will get you ruled out.. but when August rolls around, then September, and they still haven't found a good candidate for the job, they'll get back in touch with you!

  • Sometimes it might be better not to make it clear immediately, e.g. if the applicant has a unique set of professional skills vs a more standard job position, say one of the many software developers in the company. I know this from personal experience, as I have changed jobs 3 times and in all the occasions the new employer didn't mind waiting for me - the shortest period was 2 months, the longest - 6 months. I am based in UK. – greenfingers Jul 15 '14 at 9:11
  • It all comes down to one simple fact. How badly do they actually want you and the skillset you provide. Yes; I am aware there is a legal requirements also. If a company really needs your skillset they are often willing to wait. There isn't a standard. Every company is going to be different, the magic number ( i.e. how long they will wait for you ) is different for each indivual company. – Donald Jul 15 '14 at 11:52
  • And remember that they have time on their end to process the applications do interviews and choose. That can take a month or more as well and then you are pretty close to the 2.5 months out. – HLGEM Jul 15 '14 at 15:39
  • But if a company really needs your skillset, and is willing to wait.. do you think it helps your cause to not mention the fact they need to wait until late in the process? I'm unconvinced. – Carson63000 Jul 15 '14 at 21:39
  • @Carson63000 I think it depends on how formalized the application process is and whom you speak with. In all the cases where the employer waited for me, I spoke with the potential boss/line manager, not with HR. I doubt that if it was an automated application process via the employer's web site for example, this could happen. Knowing how the HR departments work in these particular organizations, the odds are I wouldn't be even shortlisted. – greenfingers Jul 16 '14 at 7:45

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