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How to Negotiate a Start Date on a Job Offer

by Billie Nordmeyer, studioD

People spend a lifetime in negotiations. The problem is that an individual may not possess the skills necessary to negotiate well or may lack practice conducting particular types of negotiations, such as those that arise during a job search. To make matters worse, emotions can come into play when you negotiate for a different salary or an alternative start date, and you may fear that if you’re too aggressive or if you fail to be sufficiently accommodating, you will lose out on the job offer.

Identifying a Preferred Start Date

One aspect of any job offer that an applicant must evaluate is the start date. If you can accommodate the employer’s preferred start date, be relieved and evaluate the next aspect of the job offer. If not, you must decide what date will better meet your personal needs.

Determining When Negotiating Is Appropriate

Asking for a different start date may be inappropriate and unlikely to succeed in some circumstances. For example, in a very structured work environment, like a tax department that meets date-specific state and federal requirements, the start date may be fixed to accommodate the department’s work flow. In addition, if there are a large number of applicants who possess the necessary skills and credentials to perform the functions of the job you are offered, you may have limited negotiating power. If none of these circumstances exists, the risk of the start-date negotiation is less and your anxiety and concerns about the negotiation should decrease.

Doing Your Homework

In an employer’s market -- a market with a high levels of unemployment and underemployment -- you’ll need to do more than ask for a particular start date. You must make a case for the start date. If accommodating the original start date results in a significant negative consequence to you, ask the manager to consider a different start date. For example, you may require more time to move cross-country than is allowed by the manager’s preferred start date. It’s also important, however, to consider the problem you’re being hired to solve. For example, if you will replace another employee, her departure date may dictate your on-boarding date.

Recognizing the Hiring Manager’s Preference

You and the hiring manager must collaborate to identify a report date that meets both his and your needs. As you enter negotiations, you’ll need to focus on the hiring manager’s goals as well as your own and avoid the appearance of making a demand. Have in mind a solution that accommodates everyone’s requirements. For example, you can create a document that shows how you will accomplish company goals even if you delay your start date. For instance, if you’re replacing a departing employee, suggest that you work remotely for a few weeks, or remind the manager of your particular skills that will lessen the training time.

Negotiating a Different Start Date

If you have an unusual but essential skill set or if you have multiple job offers, you are well-situated to negotiate your start date. You might say, “This position is my top choice, but it will be very difficult for me to report on this date. If we can agree to a different start date, I think we can sign this offer.” In response, the hiring manager will either acquiesce to your request or state the reasons he would like you to reconsider the original report date. At this point, pull out your document and say, “I prepared a document on possible alternatives to my reporting on that date. May I show it to you?” Following your description of the alternatives, the manager will agree or disagree, and you will have a decision to make.

About the Author

Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.

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