Recently I learned my very young company was experiencing financial troubles and most of our staff were given heads up that our jobs could be in serious jeopardy in 1-2 months. Specifically that the startup was running out of money and some expected investors not coming through yet. No one was laid off immediately however. But the prospect was revealed, and could be interpreted as likely by the tone.

My intuition is one where I don't want to go down with a sinking ship, and to always have a backup plan for the worst case. I really like the company and benefits, so if I had a choice I'd rather stay-- meaning I'd prefer not to change jobs unless the ship was irrecoverably sinking. I do not want to wait for a layoff before I start interviewing though, as it generally takes time to find a role no matter what.

I've started interviewing as a result. As expected, companies ask why I wish to leave as well as time frame for looking for a new position. I usually give a high level description, and that I'm looking for a new role in the timeframe of about 4-6 weeks ahead because my current role is possibly ending then. Some companies have responded, "they will wait for the right candidate for the position". However, I can also see that they would favor a candidate available immediately, who was "all-in" with no question marks about their current company.

How should I express my availability to a company in this kind of scenario? Realistically I hope to line up some possible opportunities for the final stages about 4-6 weeks from now and be able to make a best decision then. I am however not ready to accept a position yet without more info on my current company.

Should I just pretend I'm ready to switch soon, since most interview processes could take multiple weeks anyway?

  • I am not clear at all whether you want to leave, you want to stay, or you are in some undefined, nebulous state in between. Do you mind restructuring your post so that it's clear what your questions are? You have three questions in three places including the title and they don't look related. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 19:35
  • I've updated the question to try to make it more direct of the situation and more clear.
    – Miro
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 19:57
  • 5
    If you were given the "heads up" by someone in an official position then more likely than not the tailspin the company is in is already unrecoverable. They may simply be waiting for word on a potential buy-out or investor acquisition. In either case, the prudent course of action is to begin the job search. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 20:24
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    Just leave man. I know start ups can be cool places to work, but job security generally sucks and if it doesn't bomb now, chances are it will soon enough. I've been burnt several times. In fact I, along with other staff were given the same heads up you were given during an internship I had and weeks after I left they got rid of about 10 of the 15 or so staff. So yeah, - leave now.
    – pi31415
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


I would be honest. I would say that you were given some unofficial but reliable information that the company may be closing in the next few months. I'd stress that you have nothing but appreciation for your company, especially having given you the unofficial heads-up to start looking for work and that you're taking the hint and doing just that.

And while you may desire to stay at the company I'd take the warning for what it is and jump ship as soon as you can. Remember, companies are far more likely to paint a rosy picture than a bleak one and if you're being told that things are likely going down then you really need to take that to heart and react accordingly.

One thing I would add is that I suggest that you don't worry about availability beyond 2 weeks notice. I realize that you like your current employer but since they're warning you ahead of time, they're going to expect people to be leaving. 2 weeks notice is standard (at least in the US) and solves your concern about not being available immediately.

  • 2
    Do you really want to be spreading the rumor that "company X may be folding soon" through the gossip network via nearby companies with the same kinds of staff? To me that's a big no-no.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:04

Wait, what? No. Start looking for roles immediately.

I know you might want to stay with your team, but when you start hearing things like "you're all going to be laid off soon", then you're meant to be looking for new roles.

When they ask your availability, say whatever your notice period in your contract is. Do not tell them your company is possibly going under. When you hire for a full time employee, you want someone who is committed to the company, not a fly by nighter. When you start saying things like "i need this job because my company will go under", a manager with a brain will hear "i need a stopgap job so i can pay rent, I will be gone in 5 months" and will not hire you.

Whether this is true or not, it doesn't matter, don't take the gamble the manager has a half brain. Just say you want new challenges, new growth, stagnating, different domain, you love making lottery aps for kittens, whatever.

You aren't looking for a backup plan - when you hear your company is going under, you no longer have a "Plan A", and all you have are backup plans - that is, backup plan B becomes plan A.

Interview for a new role. Say you can start in 2 weeks or whatever your notice period is. Get the new offer. Walk up to your boss, say "hey boss, I have an offer with XYZ company. I have it because I heard rumours (if they were rumours, you're unclear on this) that we are going to go under. If you can, in fact, give me a written guarantee that I will have a job in a year, then I will happily stay here."

The written guarantee should include a payoff if the company goes under before then (because, otherwise, no skin off their nose). If you don't feel comfortable doing this, or they don't feel comfortable signing, then you have your answer.

See what he says, but there is a strong probability that he'll (informally) say "take it, kid".

  • Otherwise agreed, but no manager with half a brain would guarantee any job for a year in writing, no matter how well the company is doing. Or have you ever seen an employment contract with a one-year notice period? Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 10:25
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    @jpatokal well, it depends on how much the company needs you. you can get away with things if you're senior enough, and it's worth mentioning so that when you do become senior enough, you know to ask for it.
    – bharal
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 10:32
  • Sure, but I doubt the OP lives in a world of business jets and golden parachutes at his "very young company". Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 11:56
  • @jpatokal doubtful indeed - but even a bit more senior (well, read "useful") and a company will try to keep you on. in his particular case, maybe he is the only guy who knows how the Widget works, and the company are planning on cutting 90% of the Zidget team. They'd accomodate the only Widget guy in that scenario.
    – bharal
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 12:29
  • @jpatokal Remember the old adage: No one is indispensable. It applies here in that the OP can feel that he is doing the right thing, and that the company that is in trouble can always find a replacement if they do recover.
    – Ian Lewis
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 9:22
  • As others stated, it's time to start looking. Unless you have some C-level equity in this group, it's not worth it to try to wait for the ship to stop sinking. It could take 1-2 months to find your next job even in the best of circumstances. However, you're in a position now to find a job YOU want. Don't search like you're desperate. Search like you have a little time.

  • In interviews, state that you are most interested in the opportunity at hand. Talk to growth/tools/product. You don't have to reveal that the company is in financial trouble, especially if you're genuinely interested in the job you're interviewing for. When they ask when you can start, say that since the company you are with now is small, you'd like to give a little more than the standard 2 weeks. Ask for three or four. Remember that they won't start talking about start dates for real until you've accepted a verbal job offer, and with most companies now doing long orientations, you may not even be able to start for three weeks anyway. Once you accept, you can't really back out, but by that time you might be so excited about your new job that your current company will look like last week's casserole.

  • Sign up for or seriously consider educational courses in your preferred field. This way, if the company falls apart or lays you off and it takes you six months to find your next job, you can say that you decided to use the time to increase your skill set while you were looking.


I generally agree with the other answers saying to jump ship now, but for the sake of another perspective, let's assume that there is a good chance your current company will still pull through and you can keep your job.

First off, when you are asked why you are leaving your company, it is okay to say that due to financial strain, you are worried about your job security there. It is not okay to tell them that you would prefer to stay with your old company if things turn out fine. If a candidate told me

Well I might be getting laid off, but I'm not actually sure yet, so I'm starting to look for jobs just in case, but we'll see what happens.

Yeah, you're not going to get hired. I want a candidate who actually wants and needs my job, not someone who is probably going to back out before the job even starts.

That being said, it is acceptable to back out of an offer; just don't give them a warning that you might do that. Since you are worried about your company going under in 1-2 months, when you interview, say that you can start in 2-3 months. That way you can secure a job and still have the option to back out before the start date. If they ask why the delay in starting, make up a reason if you have to: contract is ending, want to take time off to travel, spend time with family, etc.

Keep in mind that if you do end up backing out of an offer, you won't likely be able to apply with that company again in the future. Only go this route if you are absolutely confident that your company has gotten through its rough patch and is financially stable for the future.

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