Why Trying to Push the Start Date Back Too Far is a Risky Proposition

by Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

The VET Recruiter®

I’ve noticed a new trend with some job seekers and candidates in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. That trend is as follows: when a job seeker or candidate accepts an offer of employment, they ask the employer if they can start the new position not in a matter of weeks, but in a matter of months (in some cases).

I recently had a candidate accept an offer from one of my clients. However, she requested that she start in four months. The reason she gave to me regarding her request is that her boss was extremely upset by the fact she was leaving and wanted more time to plan for replacing her. (That is a whole other blog post I could write about not letting your boss make you feel badly about leaving the organization for another opportunity.)

This is not the first time I’ve experienced this. There have been other candidates who have wanted to push the start date back by one, two, or even three months. I understand, of course, that the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession are unique and not the same as other industries. Consequently, candidates must sometimes request more time before starting a new job, especially in the veterinary profession.

However, trying to push the start date back too far is a risky proposition.

“Rolling the dice” with your career

As most of you know, the standard for giving notice and starting a new job is two to three weeks. As I mentioned, I realize that in Veterinary medicine, candidates might need more than two weeks. The longest period of time that I typically see is 30 days. However, two months is not an acceptable request, and four months is definitely not acceptable.

Basically, what it boils down to is that you’re “rolling the dice” with the position, with the employer, and with your career. That’s because you’re taking a gamble. The gamble might pay off, but then again, the gamble might not. The reason is simple: the hiring manager can decide to agree to your request and wait for you to join the organization or they can decline your request and decide to hire another candidate to fill the position. It is completely up to them, and there are so many variables involved that it is difficult to predict what will happen.

However, regardless of what they decide to do, there are downsides to making such a request, including the following:

  • You’re asking for things out of the ordinary before you’ve provided any tangible value to the organization (pretty much the opposite of “The Principle of Reciprocity”).
  • You’re branding yourself as being somewhat problematic before you even spend one day working for the organization. That means you’ll spend the first few weeks of your employment trying to re-brand yourself in the minds of your boss and co-workers.
  • You’ve subconsciously raised the expectations for your performance by making a request that will inconvenience the organization. (“If we have to wait this long for the candidate, then they’d better perform once they get here.”)
  • You’ve possibly complicated the organization’s onboarding process for your employment.

And these are the downsides for a situation in which you request to push the start date back by months and the hiring manger agrees to your request. In other words, these are the downsides to you getting what you ask for! This could very well represent the best of what will happen.

Yes, this is a candidates’ job market. Candidates have more options and they have the leverage. However, abusing that leverage by asking to push the start date back by months would not be considered a strategic career move. However, if you find that you must make such a request, there are some best practices for doing so.

A strategic, three-step approach

Now of course, there are some valid reasons for wanting to push the start date back. These reasons include a planned family vacation, a surgery or some other procedure, or even the earning of a bonus for reaching a predetermined goal. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to approach your new employer with a “take it or leave it” attitude. Take it from me: they may decide to leave it.

Instead, be strategic in your approach and also sensitive to the needs of the organization. Below is a strategic, three-step approach for doing just that:

#1—Ask if there is room to negotiate the start date.

Do not just say, “No, I can’t start on that date.” That is rather blunt and will probably put the hiring manager on the defensive, which you do not want. However, inquiring as to whether there is room to negotiate will help to open up a conversation. Don’t kill the conversation before it starts by being blunt and appearing as though you won’t be flexible.

#2—Have a good reason for why you can not start employment in a timely fashion.

The hiring manager is going to want a reason. In fact, in their mind, they’re going to want a good reason. They would not consider “I want to spend some extra time on the beach with my friends” as a good reason. However, if the reason is a legitimate one, such as the ones mentioned above, then chances are good that the hiring manager will be understanding about the situation.

#3—Be prepared to compromise.

If the hiring manager would like you to start in two weeks and you want to start in two months, you’ll need to seek some common ground. If the hiring manager sees that you’re willing to compromise, then they’ll be more convinced that you’re serious about the position. And that’s the one thing you must communicate in a situation such as this: that you’re serious about the job and about starting the job.

An Animal Health or Veterinary recruiter can help you through a process such as this. They have experience dealing with hiring managers, and they know what to expect and how hiring managers will react when you want to push back the start date.

Just don’t expect to push it back too far.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1.By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2.By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

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