A job offer need not be torpedoed by an obligation to wait for a few weeks.
Q: I feel that I’ve advanced as far as I can with my current employer and have started looking at opportunities with other companies. My employment agreement requires me to give four weeks’ notice, and I’m worried about what happens if I’m offered a job by a company that expects me to start sooner.
Can or should I leave my job with less notice than my agreement requires? Is there a good method for broaching this with a potential new employer in a way that won’t jeopardize my chances of being offered a job?
A: A job offer need not be torpedoed by an obligation to wait four weeks, as long as you handle the situation thoughtfully.
Think of this as you would think of any factor that might be perceived as a drawback by a potential employer, said John Borrowman, a recruiter with the firm Borrowman Baker. Don’t disclose it until you’ve received what he calls “a buying signal”: ideally an outright offer, but at least some positive signal. “Then you have some leverage,” Borrowman said.
In short, avoid the common mistake of feeling obliged to blurt out issues that make a candidate less appealing. Early in the process, employers are looking for any signal that helps narrow down their list of options. Don’t give them one prematurely.
In this case, a four-week delay probably won’t be a big deal if the employer has decided you are the perfect hire. “They’ve put in all this time to get you,” said Paula Battalia Brand, a career coach in Annapolis, Maryland. “It’s going to take them at least four weeks just to go through that process again.”
As for breaking the agreement with your current employer, there’s what you can do, and what you should. Maybe there’s a loophole, or maybe it’s not worth your employer’s time to enforce the agreement. But skipping out probably guarantees a bad reference, and sends a signal that you don’t honor commitments.
So if your new employer really wants you to start sooner, try to work out a compromise. Put together a summary of projects in progress, and propose strategies for handing them off that would get you out more quickly, Borrowman said. Or, Brand added, suggest an arrangement that splits your time for a couple of weeks.
Your new employer wants things to work out, and if you treat your current company with respect, your boss will want this to end on a positive note. Focus on finding a better job, not on a hypothetical worst-case scenario. As Brand said, “Don’t worry about it until you have to worry about it.”