The Waiting Game: How Long Is Too Long to Wait for a Candidate?

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Is it a non-starter if a candidate can’t start right away?

The months-long process is almost over. You posted the job, interviewed multiple candidates, and found someone you thought would be great for the position. You went back and forth a time or two negotiating the employment contract, and you’re in agreement about everything. Well, almost everything. You want to have them onboard as soon as possible – two weeks or maybe three – but they need more time. Is timing everything?

Not necessarily.

Things to consider when the candidate wants to start later

First of all, you have to consider your business needs. Do you truly need someone on the start date you proposed or do you just want someone on that date? What is your flexibility? Recognize that the higher the level of the position you are filling, the more time that person may need before leaving their current job and starting a new one.

You’ll want to find out why the person is requesting extra time before starting with you.

  • Is there a contractual obligation the candidate has with the current employer? It’s understandable that an employee would not want to burn any bridges at their old company, no matter how excited they are about starting the new job.
  • Does the new hire have a commitment to the current employer to train a successor, or follow-through on a project? If this is the case, they are demonstrating they want to fulfill their obligation, which indicates that they take their job seriously, and want to do it well. Optimally, it means they will function in the job you have offered them in the same way.
  • Does the new hire hope to have a vacation between leaving one position and starting another? That too, is understandable. You want your new employee to be refreshed, ready to start with energy and enthusiasm, and not be burnt out from day one.
  • Are there other issues, such as relocation or family obligations, that preclude the new hire from starting when you want them to?
  • Is there a monetary reason they can’t start when you’d like? Is there a bonus or vesting that they would miss out on, would they have to pay back education or moving expenses? If you are sold on this candidate and really need them sooner than they feel they can start, consider what you can offer them in the form of compensation or benefits that would make them whole.

Getting the message across

A good candidate will want to make sure you get the message that they are sincerely interested in starting the job with you and it’s only a timing issue that stands in the way. Perhaps you can work out a compromise: for instance, maybe the new hire can make himself available for a few days for training or to attend an important meeting, can read materials and get up-to-speed ahead of their start date, or start when you want them to but then a short time thereafter, take time off for a vacation or moving.

If you’ve assessed the candidate’s reasoning and attitude and that feel there’s a strong, legitimate reason for the start date delay, and you can in any way accommodate it, you probably want to. If you can’t, be honest and encourage the candidate to keep you in mind, and you do likewise. Build the bridge and keep them in the pipeline.

However, if you get the sense that the hoped-for new employee isn’t being truthful, might be still be interviewing and is stalling for time, you might want to hold the line on the start date. This is especially true if you had a strong number two candidate still available and willing to come onboard on your schedule.

With thousands of successful placements since 1994, the expert recruiters at Mankuta | Gallagher can help you throughout the entire hiring process, so you can find and hire the top talent you’re looking for today and in the future.