Accepted job offer, but am waiting on paperwork

A week ago, I sent an acceptance for a job offer. All in all, a Good Thing. There is one small rub, though: they are doing the paperwork, including background check, after making a conditional offer. And I just found out today that the background check is not yet finished. I had been told that it would take “about a week.” so it should be done soon.

The new employer wants me to get started as soon as possible (yesterday, if that could be arranged). But I have to give two week’s notice at my present job first.

So this puts me on the horns of a dilemma.

[li]I very much hesitate to jump ship while all I’ve got is a conditional offer. [/li][li]I am concerned that if I ask the employer for more time, for this reason, they might at least suspect that I’m worried about a crime I committed (I have a clean record, and my credit, while not perfect, doesn’t suck… but see below). Or they might even get mad and pull the offer.[/li][/ul]

I wonder if I might be a trickier case in a background check than usual for a couple of reasons. First, my previous employer’s department was sold and then dismantled after I left the job. Second, I have been subletting a place for a couple of years after my previous apartment had a fire. I get all my mail and do my taxes from the new digs, but wonder if that might be a problem that my name isn’t on any lease.

So, what do y’all think?

What does this “background” check mean?

Are they checking references, drug test, criminal records, school records?

When I was in H/R the longest took the criminal check. Usually it was 7 BUSINESS days.

We wouldn’t make a conditional offere till the reference and credit check was done. We’d make the conditional offer without the drug test and criminal background.

I wouldn’t give notice till I got the firm offer. But then with a firm offer you could just leave your present job without notice. Unless they’d give you two week’s severance pay, you don’t owe them two weeks notice.

There’s no need to feel obligated to give notice.

I can’t imagine any employer expecting you to give notice based solely on a conditional offer. Make it very clear that you can start the new job two weeks after receiving a final offer.

Is there any possibility of wiggle room with your current employer? Any way they might let you go sooner than two weeks if you ask? If so, that might be something to offer the new employer. But requiring a final offer before giving your current employer notice seems reasonable, customary, and fair.


I’ve even seen this in internship offers during college; they basically want you to quit your part-time job immediately with a conditional or verbal offer. I said I’d have to have a formal (written) offer before giving my notice at the job.

Thanks! I guess that I will say I need something better than a conditional offer before moving on.

Unfortunately, while I’m not required to give any notice at all, I will still need my present employer in my corner. Or at least, people from my present employer (although I would hate to make myself ineligible for a rehire). I have a no-bridges-burned policy, and don’t intend to start breaking it now.

Of course: while the other posters are correct that notice is not strictly required, it is still considered to be a professional courtesy. My suggestion was that – once you get the final offer – you tell you current employer that you can stay the full two weeks if needed, but ask if less time might be possible.

I have seen the “conditional offer” totally backfire on a friend of mine. So yes, wait until you’ve got the final offer.

Put me in the wait camp. The new employer would expect the same two-week courtesy and will understand and should understand why you need a firm offer. Wait, give your two weeks. If the new employer can’t deal with that you probably don’t want to work for him anyway. (IMO)

Good luck!

Don’t mention the background check or anything. Just say “I’d like to wait until I have an offer letter in hand.” Don’t make it about the reason that offer letter is delayed–that’s their problem.

I accepted a conditional offer, but everyone realized I had to give two weeks notice, and couldn’t do that until the condition was lifted. Have they really been asking you to give notice without a full offer? How could they even give you a start date?

I have an employee in exactly the same limbo right now. Fortunately, we have a trusting, respectful relationship such that she felt she could share the situation with me. This has allowed me to prepare and plan at a much higher level than would otherwise be possible.

I have also hired people, and had my HR dept. pressure them in similar ways. If an employee did decide to just ditch their current employer, I would never fully trust them again. I love it when they ask to give a month’s notice, because it makes me think they’ll do the same for me if I’m good to them.

At this point hesitation on your part only creates feelings of suspicion on their part regarding your background screening and the chances of favorable results being obtained. Unfortunate, but true

That said, even if you are 100+% sure there are no issues that may pop up, it’s still common for currently employed candidates to not give notice until all pre-employment screening has been completed and the new employer is holding the door open.

I disagree.

I think a simple “I’d prefer to have a firm offer in hand before giving my notice.” Should suffice. If forced to elaborate, just talk a bit about the current economy, and it being unwise to put oneself in a precarious position.

Right. It’s quite reasonable for the OP to wonder if “while we run a background check” doesn’t actually mean “while we interview this one other person”, because sometimes it means exactly that.

Something still seems out of sequence

In our hiring process the background & drug screening doesn’t start until the offer is accepted, including signing forms authorizing said screening to take place. There are costs involved with screening, and we don’t even go there until the offer is accepted.

Definitely wait. We’ve been waiting for over 19 *months *now on a “conditional offer”. It’s insane. Paperwork, lawyers, investigations, negotiations…You don’t want to wait that long without a job, trust me. We’re dying over here.

After re-reading the OP, I think what we have here is an offer that is “contingent” instead of conditional.

I’ve been in the employment biz for over 25 years. It sounds like to me you have received an offer of employment that is contingent upon satisfactory completion of pre-employment screening; drug & background screening.

the documentation you returned to them was an acceptance of their offer and probably included authorization to run the background screening. You didn’t mention it but you may have also received what is referred to as a Change of Custody form to take with you to the lab for drug testing (if required).

Employers typically do not go through the expense of running screening until an offer is accepted, which is what they considered took place when you signed the offer letter.

without question, wait for the background check to be completed. As an employer that depends on background checks, it is understood that the results are important. You can be sure that the company will take the results into consideration if there is a problem and not worry about your situation. You need to do the same. As for the details of your life and having the background investigator figure out the details-that really isn’t your problem. As far as I know, commercial background checks don’t contact the candidate, but after a week, if you want to show you are anxious to be cooperative, call the employer and offer to talk to an investigator if they so wish. I doubt they will, but offer it to the employer, not the investigator, since the employer is the important person here. It would show that your goal is to complete the task, always a good trait in an employee.

If the OP signed an offer letter where the offer is contingent on the results of some tests, that is harder. We would not make an offer before a background check comes back-though for us that never takes 7 working days. So our offers won’t be contingent on that. We do make our offers contingent on passing the drug test. That seems fair since it is entirely within the employee’s control.

Once an employee signs the offer letter, the two week clock (if that is what the employee asked for) starts ticking.

We have an additional problem, which I doubt impacts the OP, in that we also make our offers contingent on obtaining a Government security clearance. Most times, that isn’t a problem, but it is outside our or the employee’s control. On rare occasions that situation can become really bad.

Of course the employee isn’t really here until he/she is actually working. I did have one person stop by on Friday to inform me he wouldn’t be taking the job. He was to start on Monday. That burned some bridges.

Bottom line: it’s not your fault that the other company can’t get their ducks in a row to make you a final offer. So there’s absolutely no obligation on your part to (possibly) hurt yourself in order to get working for them sooner. Just tell them “You understand of course I can’t give notice at my current job until I have a final offer”. Tell your (potential) future boss the same thing “Gee, it’s too bad your corporate HR can’t get me a final offer, because I’m really excited to start with you, but can’t give notice at my current job until I get the final offer”. If your (potential) future boss gets upset at this, maybe you want to rethink working for him or her.