When can you start

Simple question, good way to lose a job, if you get it wrong, or your answer blows up in your face.

When you answer that question, make sure you can give an answer without any second thoughts. The interviewers need to have a definite answer. The trick is to make sure you can give them one.

Simplicity is the key.

There are a few dos and don'ts.

  • Do everything you can to make life simple for yourself, and be able to start without any problems.
  • Do whatever's required to be properly organized to start on time.
  • Do your notifications to former employers or welfare agencies properly
  • Don't make commitments you can't keep.
  • Don't start a new job with any legal obligations to a former employer unresolved.
  • Don't start the new job with a series of problems for the new employer to solve.

If you're currently employed

If you're in a job, they know you have to notify your employer, and make domestic arrangements.

Have all that figured out before you go to the interview.

  • Have a realistic time frame ready.
  • Anticipate any possible difficulties with the current employer.
  • Check out any binding obligations you may have to the current employer. (Particularly if you're on contract, because you could be committing breach of contract. You may also breach employment laws if you don't notify termination properly. Check it out beforehand.)
  • If there's a long period of notice required, like a month or two, explain the reasons, and cite your obligations. That puts you legally in the clear with both employers, because you haven't misrepresented yourself.
  • If you have any domestic or other family obligations, get those organized in advance. It's advisable to make sure you can time manage effectively whenever there's a possible job coming up.

If you're unemployed

Unemployed people do have commitments, just different types of commitment. You don't have the employer considerations, but you'll find in most countries there's a bit of paperwork to be done.

  • If you don't do the paperwork you can find that you're owing your unemployment office money, etc. In some countries, receiving unemployment benefits while employed is an offence against Social Security law.
  • You also need to clear your time frame so you can start with no external problems.
  • If you have time commitments, clear them up the minute you're told you have the job.
  • Get rid of anything domestic that could interfere with your new job. You now need to work on a whole new daily routine, so the sooner you start getting that organized, the better.

Damage control, dealing with the unexpected

That's the relatively simple bit, dealing with your own commitments.

Unforeseen complications can arise, and third parties can get in the way.

If you find you're suddenly hit with an impossibility, like getting called for jury duty, or some crisis on the day you're supposed to start work, you need to be prepared to do some damage control.

Damage control is basically covering yourself:

  • Check out your options, immediately, regarding what you can and can't do to get yourself out of the situation.
  • If you can get out of it, get out of it.
  • Reschedule if at all possible anything where you don't have to be personally present. This usually works about 75% of the time.
  • Find alternatives, so you can get the situation under control. There usually are provisions made for people being unavailable at a certain time, both by the employer and whatever situation's causing the problems.
  • Give the new employer immediate advance warning, explain you're trying to reschedule or defer the problem. See what they say. Some will be OK with the situation, if you can't get out of it, it's springing it on them at the last minute that's unforgivable. (If you don't give them any reasonable level of notification, it does count against you. Even if it's a perfectly legal situation, you're not doing them any favors letting them know at the last minute.)
  • You can claim, in any dispute, that you gave complete and timely notification, explained your obligations, and had a good reason for not being able to start. Legally, that's important, if you find yourself being penalized for something you couldn't avoid.

The important thing about start dates is clearing out the obstacles and managing times and places.

Prior to the interview:

  • Figure out your notification times and things you need to do.
  • Be sure you can start without any problems, as far as you can.
  • Don't commit yourself to anything for at least a month after the interview.
  • Don't allow holidays to clash with employment. You can take a holiday any time, but not a job. Just don't schedule or pay for anything, if there's any possibility of landing a job.
  • If you're on rostered leave from a former employer, you may want to consider your leave, the interview and your notification to the employer. It is possible to arrange, while on holidays, for severance pay, etc. In many cases it figures out better for all concerned, if a replacement is already in the job, because the employer doesn't have to start from scratch, hiring someone.

Medical issues

Some people have to operate their lives around various medical conditions. That's not really a problem for employers, who know their obligations, but when starting a new job it can be a bit inconvenient for applicants, disrupting routines.

Get some advice from your medical practitioner regarding rescheduling, or any options you may have to make it simpler for yourself.

Commuting issues

This is theoretically a minor issue, in terms of employment, but in practice it drives people to distraction, excuse the pun.

Thanks to travel times, parking costs, and the fact that a domestic budget does have to work sometimes, a new job can be a supply of unknown costs and times.

These are things you do have to get running smoothly, preferably from day one. Check out everything you need to know, so you don't arrive at work looking disorganized, and spend your new wage paying for new problems.

The first day of a new job is always unforgettable.

Just make sure it's something you want to remember.