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Start Date

So, you’ve hired your prime candidate and they can’t wait to get started—congratulations! But how do you pick the right day for them to start work? Read on to learn how to plan ahead and set a new-hire start date.

What Is a New-hire Start Date?

A new-hire start date is the specific day that the new hire agrees upon with the employer to show up at work and officially join the company. The start date should be included as part of the job offer to the new hire.

Start Date vs Actual Hire Date

While the start date is generally agreed on when the new hire receives their job offer, it is not uncommon for that date to be pushed either forward or back due to unforeseen circumstances. The actual start date refers to the date the new hire ends up starting work, regardless of the anticipated start date.

Why Getting the Start Date Straight Is So Important

You know how people say you don’t get a second chance at making a first impression? The same applies to new employees starting off the next chapter of their career at a new workplace. People want to start off their new jobs on the right foot, and getting the start date straight is crucial.

The new hire’s first day is their first experience of the company’s culture, so consistency and clear communication are key for setting the tone. The last thing you or the new hire wants is for them to show up on their first day and have people scrambling about what to do. It is vital that HR and the new hire’s team are prepared for this day and that there is a plan in place.

How to Pick the Right Start Date

Picking a start date for your new hire may be a small detail of the onboarding process, but there are several factors that determine it. Here are steps to help you consider everything and set the right date.

Step 1: The Needs of the Company

How soon does the hiring manager need this role filled? After all, the new hire has been selected for the job because they’re needed by the team to jump in and help with the work. This will depend on the nature of the job. For example, does the company’s survival depend on this job being filled, or is it more important that it’s filled by someone with the right skills? Start by knowing how urgently the new hire is needed.

Other needs of the company to consider in selecting the start date might include setting up a workspace, planning around team members’ absences, and scheduling onboarding and training with staff and/or leadership. If there are multiple new hires coming in, you may prefer to start them all on the same day for efficiency in onboarding or orienting activities.

Step 2: Pre-checks

What pre-checks does the new hire need to pass before starting, and how long will they take? Most companies will require new hires to pass a background check and drug test before starting work. Some jobs also require physical exams, licensure verification, or more extensive background checks.

Consider that some locations may not be able to respond as quickly to background checks or may not have many clinics that offer the necessary testing. It also depends on what specific pre-check components are needed, and, of course, how long the new hire takes to initiate these processes. Always encourage your new hire to respond to any related requests as soon as they are able to.

Step 3: The Needs of the New Employee

There are several reasons a new hire may need to request a change to their start date.

  • They may need to give two weeks’ notice to their current employer. If so, you should always allow them the courtesy of doing so. After all, that’s what your company would expect of someone leaving.
  • They may prefer to wait to give notice until after they have passed their pre-checks. This is another case-by-case scenario, but it is always best for the new hire to feel comfortable that nothing resulting from their pre-checks will get in the way of starting their new job.
  • The new hire may need time to move, graduate from school, etc. They may have family commitments made previous to the job offer.
  • You’ll also want to consider timing their start date to ensure the new hire doesn’t miss out on any potential bonus or benefits unnecessarily.

Sometimes you may need to adjust a start date for various reasons, but it’s best to keep it intact if at all possible. The big idea here is to plan ahead.

Communicating the Start Date

Even though the start date is usually agreed on at the point of the job offer, HR needs to stay on top of whether the date needs to be moved. Whether the new hire or the hiring manager needs to change the date for any reason, it is HR’s responsibility to make sure that both parties are aware of any necessary changes to the plan. It is best to document any changes to the start date via email.

It is also up to HR to inform both the new hire and hiring manager when the pre-checks are cleared. Your company probably has a standard procedure for training or orientation on the first day, so it’s important that everyone involved knows when to expect their new hire to show up.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Start Dates

Can I change the start date after the offer has been accepted?
Yes, but it should only be changed if the pre-checks are being delayed or if some other unforeseen and reasonable conflict arises from the new hire.
How far out is the typical start date from when an offer is accepted?
Two to four weeks is the typical timeframe, but it always depends on either the company’s or the new hire’s circumstances.
Brian Fleming

Brian Fleming

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from BYU and have four years of professional experience in HR and Recruiting. I am also currently pursuing my MBA. No matter the field or setting I’ve been involved in at work or school, I’ve always really enjoyed writing in a way that makes the subject at hand relatable to the reader.

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