If I get the offer letter, how should I go about negotiating the notice period?
This is a tricky situation, and you need to tread carefully here. You have a number of options:
Negotiate the joining date with the new company: This is the safest option as very little can go wrong here. In my experience, most reputed Indian IT companies can — and do — wait an extra month for a suitable candidate. Every day the position remains unfilled costs the company. Withdrawing an accepted offer and trying to fill the position with other candidates usually results in the position remaining unfilled even longer.
Ask the new company for notice period buyout: Read your current company's policy on notice period buyout1, wherein you can pay your current employer your so-called basic salary in lieu of serving the notice period. The new company then reimburses you this amount on joining. This is a common enough practice in the Indian IT industry. The flexibility offered here varies across companies.
Negotiate the notice period with current company: This is the most risky option. For reasons mentioned later, you should resign before negotiating the notice period. In the worst case, this negotiation fails and the new company withdraws the offer. This leaves you in the unenviable situation of either getting another offer within the 90 days, or being out of job at the end of it, or withdrawing your resignation. Hence, you should continue your job search even as the notice period negotiation is in progress.
Allowing an employee to serve a shorter notice period is typically left to the manager's discretion. Some managers could be strict and will make it difficult or impossible, so before you talk to the manager, it would be beneficial to talk to some former employees or other unofficial sources.
Decline the job offer: This is the least desirable option. If the new company refuses to wait and you cannot take the risk of negotiating the notice period with the current manager, you will have to unfortunately wait for a more favourable job offer. You might consider yourself fortunate for dodging a bullet since a company so inflexible with a joining date would have likely caused you more problems after you joined.
Some final pieces of advice based on my experience in the Indian IT industry:
- Do not start any negotiations (either on the new joining date or the current notice period) until you have an actual written offer letter with all the required terms and conditions mentioned.
- If you choose to negotiate the notice period, always resign first and negotiate later. The notice period starts from the resignation date, not negotiation date, so you lose a few days if you resign after the negotiation. Even asking for notice period negotiation sends a signal that you were already looking for another job, which practically means you will have to resign soon anyway. Hence, there is no benefit to negotiating first and resigning later.
- For future job searches, always check with the company if they are ok with your notice period before the interview.
Why are they delaying the offer letter? Is it possible due to the Diwali time?
We cannot tell for sure, but the Dusshera to Diwali period is usually a "slow" time in Indian IT companies, as a number of people take two or more weeks off to celebrate the festivals. Hence, in this case, it is very likely that the offer letter is getting delayed because one or more people responsible to release it are not in office, so you should wait until after the Diwali week for the offer letter.
1 Thanks to gnasher729 for pointing this out.