How do you negotiate for a new start date?
Imagine getting the perfect job offer: a competitive six-figure salary from a great company and a few perks, like unlimited remote work and free professional development. It might sound like a dream until you find out that the employer wants you to start right away.
Getting a new job can be super exciting, but your start date makes a big difference. You want to feel ready to tackle a brand new job, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to start at the right time. So, how do you get the right start date? Negotiate!
Prepare to negotiate effectively by using five strategies
1. Ask about the start date during the interview.
By asking, ‘When would you like the person in this position to start?’, you can learn the employer’s ideal start date before you even get the job offer.
2. Negotiate after you receive the job offer.
Make sure you have a written offer in hand before proposing a new start date.
3. Be honest.
Don't say that the date works for you if it really doesn’t.
4. Use positive language.
Instead of “I really don’t think it’s fair that I have to start on that day,” say “I’m confident I would feel better equipped to hit the ground running in three weeks.”
5. Don’t flake on the date you negotiated.
The worst thing you can do is score a new start date, then attempt to change it again. Once you get the start date you negotiated, honor it.
Aim for a face-to-face negotiation. This will help you assert yourself during the conversation, convey the importance of your request, and read your potential employer’s body language and facial expressions during the conversation.
If an in-person conversation isn’t possible, consider having the talk during a virtual call (cameras on). After your negotiation, follow-up via email. This helps to create a paper trail of your request and reinforces your interest in reaching an agreement that works for you and the employer. In your email, reiterate your excitement about the opportunity and restate your request. For example:
Dear Ms. Williams,
Thank you again for extending the job offer for Senior Program Manager with DEF Company. As I mentioned during our meeting, I am thrilled at the prospect of joining your team and believe that I could begin my best work on July 1, 2021. Please share my enthusiasm for this opportunity with the VP of Programs as you all consider my request. I look forward to connecting with you in one week to finalize the start date and move forward with your awesome team!
Need to delay your start date? Here are some reasons you can give
You may be worried that by negotiating your start date, you’re telling the employer that the job isn’t a priority for you. On the contrary, requesting a more suitable start date ensures that you can show up as your best self on day one.
Be prepared to provide a reason for why you want a new start date. Review these examples—choose the reason that best matches your situation, then use the sample prompts during your next negotiation!
Reason 1: You want to wrap up duties at your current job.
Wanting to tie up loose ends with a current employer is among the most common reasons to negotiate a later start date. Most employers are willing to give you at least two weeks to give notice, but if you need more time, let them know. Providing this reason gives you time to train your replacement, complete pending projects, or take care of HR matters, like rolling over your 401(k).
Estimated time needed: Two to three weeks
What to say:
I’m so excited to join the team and look forward to getting started. As I mentioned during my interview, I value relationships and would love to keep a good one with my current team by positioning them for success once I’m gone. Given this, I would feel best starting one month from today on June 13 to ensure I have time to complete my current projects.
This response reiterates how excited you are about the position, highlights your values, and includes a specific start date, which is more effective than simply saying that you can start “in a week or so.”
Read more: How to Negotiate Flexible Work Hours
Reason 2: You need time to coordinate child care.
In 2020, 77.5 percent of working moms with children under age six worked full-time (81.2 percent had children ages 6 to 17 and worked full-time). Given this, it’s safe to say that child care is a concern for a lot of working women. A new job may come with a new schedule or commute, so give yourself some time to coordinate child care before your first day on the job.
Estimated time needed: One to two weeks
What to say:
Before I get started with this amazing opportunity, I’d like to take two weeks to handle a few personal matters, and start on July 1. That would help me transition better and prepare to make meaningful contributions faster.
By including this language in your negotiation, you can ask for what you need without disclosing your family size. This is important as employers should not be asking you about personal information, including child care arrangements.
Reason 3: You need to relocate.
Request the time you need to settle down in your new city or state. Many employers know that relocating takes time and have no problem being flexible. However, if your new employer indicates that they’d like you to start right away, be honest about your needs.
Estimated time needed: Three to four weeks
What to say:
Thank you again for extending this amazing job offer! As you know, I will be relocating in your service and would appreciate additional time to get settled before starting work. Would you agree that a start date of September 9 is reasonable?
This response is clear, concise, and honest. By closing with a question, you show that you want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the start date. If the employer says no, ask them how they are willing to accommodate you. If they don’t bend on the start date, negotiate the first four Fridays off or a remote onboarding period.
Reason 4: You need a break.
You might think you need a compelling reason for negotiating your start date, but there’s no reason that is more compelling than simply needing rest! After a number of months or years at one job, you tend to accumulate some “baggage”—lingering feelings about old experiences. It’s healthy to shed that baggage before taking on something new.
Estimated time needed: Two to three weeks
What to say:
I look forward to starting this new position and want to come into it feeling refreshed. After five years at my last job, I believe I could achieve that by starting in three weeks on April 28. Based on what we’ve discussed, this timeline would still allow me to attend orientation and meet the team before the new product rollout.
In order to make your response most effective, listen out for important clues throughout your interview process. If the hiring manager has mentioned a proposed timeline or claims to be “flexible,” make a mental note of it. Use these clues to give yourself more leverage in your negotiation.
Can you change the start date after accepting a job offer?
Ideally you follow the steps laid out here and negotiate a start date you're comfortable with after you receive the offer and before you accept. So please consider what your ideal start date is so you don't have to revisit it.
But what if you excitedly said "yes!" without thinking about the date of your first day? Or you suddenly have a delay in relocation or a week without childcare?
If it's something unexpected, you can always explain the situation. Life happens, and it's better to delay the date and come in ready to rock than show up for a day and then have to call out.
If you did discuss the start date at length before accepting, even if you didn't negotiate a new one, your new employers might be surprised at the change. But if you need the time, you can ask.
If you did discuss the start date and agree upon it, and then you accept and decide you want to go on vacation, try to honor the start date.
Why you should take time between jobs
If possible, take at least one week off between jobs. Even if you don’t take a formal vacation, make time to recharge. Read a new book, binge-watch your favorite shows, enjoy a meal with a friend, or simply relish not having to stick to a schedule for a few days. Once you start your new job, you’ll be glad you did.
Negotiating your start date empowers you to effectively prepare for your new role and let your new employer know what they can expect from you as a member of the team: a respectful yet firm approach toward finding mutually beneficial solutions. Negotiating is not just about what you want; it’s about advocating for yourself and what you need to do your best work.