How To Negotiate a Start Date (With Steps, Tips and FAQs)

Updated June 9, 2023

After you complete the interview stages and receive a job offer letter, you may encounter obstacles with an employer's proposed start date. As flattering as it may be to receive a job offer, you also need to make sure you can uphold your commitments and start a new job when you are fully prepared. By taking the time to review negotiation tips, you can successfully negotiate your start date with an employer.

In this article, we review what it is important to negotiate your start date, tips for negotiating your start date, how to go about the process and review a sample letter and template.

Related: Interview Question: "When Can You Start?"

What is a start date?

A start date is the scheduled day, month and year of which an employer expects a new hire to begin working for the company. Employers may set a start date to align with payroll obligations or to ensure that a new hire starts the onboarding and training process at the same time as other new employees.

Why is it important to negotiate your start date?

It is important to negotiate your starting date to ensure that you have enough time to complete your prior commitments or lifestyle changes. Here are some examples as to why a new hire may want to delay or speed up their start date:

Relocation requirements

You should negotiate your start date if you live in a different state from your workplace. This means you will most likely need additional time to sell your home, pack your things and find a home near your workplace location that may require negotiating a delay in your start date.

Current employer requirements

You may negotiate your start date to fulfill training duties for your replacement at your current job or to fulfill your two-weeks notice requirements out of respect to your current employer.

Need for wages

If you are currently unemployed and in need of a job to pay rent and fulfill other components of your livelihood then you may advocate for a quicker start date.

Personal commitments

Having a pre-planned vacation or family event such as a wedding or funeral is another circumstance where negotiating your start date is important.

Related: How to Accept a Job Offer

Tips for negotiating your starting date

It may seem challenging to attempt negotiating a start date with a new employer as you don't want to cause them any inconvenience, but you'll want to agree on a date that allows you to be prepared to begin your new job. Here are a few tips to apply throughout the negotiation process:

Be honest and specific

This helps your new employer understand why you need a later or earlier start date for your position. It may also help them sympathize with you and grant you approval for a later or quicker start date.

Allow yourself to be flexible

Negotiating your start date may cause your employer to push back their original start date to a week or a month later. This may be the only option as some employers have specific onboarding schedules for new hires that occur on set dates. Therefore, you should make sure to be grateful for their accommodation, even if it means losing a pay period.

Take advantage of the open-ended question: "When can you start?"

Some new hires feel obligated to agree with the employer's initial start date proposal to appease the employer or make up for being unsure of when they can actually start. Be sure you're ready for this question in an interview so you can give the employer an accurate answer. This may also help prevent potential confusion later on when you accept the job offer and have to ask for a different start date.

Related: How to Negotiate Your Starting Salary (With Tips and Examples)

How to negotiate your starting date

Review these five steps to determine how to negotiate your starting date with an employer:

1. Thank them for their job offer

Before you ask about altering a start date, be sure to show them your gratitude and enthusiasm for the position they offered you. This helps them understand that you want the position and don't take their offer for granted when you ask for a different start date.

2. Clarify their proposed start date

Whether speaking in person or over email, be sure to clarify whether or not they want you to start on a specific date. By asking this question, an employer may ask you if there is another date you'd prefer which opens up the opportunity for you to ask about a different start date. If not, it confirms their expectations and allows you to propose a different start date for your job.

3. State your desired start date

Give a specific date or a few separate dates that work best for you to start work. Be sure to reiterate your eagerness to start your new position.

4. State your reasoning for the alternative start date

Back up your proposed start date with an explanation as to why. You don't have to go into great detail, as a simple explanation works fine. For example, instead of saying "My best friend and I are going to Amsterdam for a week," say "I have a prior commitment" to provide a more professional reason. Overall, stating your reason for putting off a start date helps the employer understand why you want a different start date and that it isn't because you simply don't want to start work yet.

5. Ask to complete additional tasks in the meantime

To demonstrate your commitment to the new employer, ask them if there is any training or tasks you can start working on before your start date. For example, maybe you can attend an onboarding training session the day before you leave for vacation.

Related: How to Negotiate at Every Stage of Your Career

Negotiating start date template

There are a variety of ways you can negotiate your start date in a professional and personable way. Review this start date negotiation template for an email response to help structure your own:

Dear [Insert employer's name],

I am so excited to start working for [Insert company name here], but I realized that I will be [Insert reasoning for putting off start date]. I understand that this will interfere with your proposed start date for my position as [Insert position title] on [Insert month, day and year].

With my prior commitment, I can be available to start work on [Insert month, day and year]. Please let me know if there is anything I can do before my [Insert commitment name here] to minimize any inconveniences to you and the company.

I look forward to hearing from you,

[Insert first and last name]

Related: How to Write an Acceptance Email For a Job Offer (With Example)

Negotiating start date sample letter

Here is a sample letter using the above template to help you create your own effective response for start date negotiation:

Dear Casey Arbor,

I am so excited to start working for Lanem Marketing, but I realized that I will be away for my sister's wedding from August 9 to August 15, 2020. I understand that this will interfere with your proposed start date for my position as a marketing specialist on August 11, 2020.

With my prior commitment, I can be available to start work on Monday, August 17, 2020. Please let me know if there is anything I can do before my family's wedding to minimize any inconvenience to you and the company.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jordan Smith

Frequently asked questions about negotiating start day

Here are some additional questions with answers to help you through the process of negotiating your start date:

What happens if an employer cannot approve my proposed start date?

If an employer cannot approve your proposed start date due to job factors or employment needs, see if there is a midway point you can negotiate to give you more time, whether it's to relocate or finish your current job. For example, if your employer says they cannot approve your proposed start date of August 23 and likely needs you by the 10th of August, ask if you can start on the 15th.

When is the right time to try to negotiate a start date?

Negotiate your start date after you've received a job offer and received information about your start date. This ensures that you communicate with a potential employer right away to determine whether or not your start date needs align with theirs. If you asked about a start date during the interview process, you may appear overly confident that you will get the position. Only negotiate a start date if an employer asks you directly during an interview.

What is the appropriate format for trying to negotiate a start date?

The appropriate format for trying to negotiate a start date depends on your current circumstances. For example, an employer may ask you for a proposed start date that works for you during an interview or phone call. In contrast, others may include it in the offer letter. In an interview or phone call scenario, you may communicate your proposed start date, verbally. However, a job offer letter may constitute an email or mail letter response.

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