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Should You Tell an Employer About an Upcoming Holiday Before You Start a New Job?

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by Lisa Johnson

almost 2 years ago

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'By the way, I have booked a holiday!' Recruiters have learned to hate those words. For some insane reason, candidates feel the best time to throw them out there is when they are being offered or about to be offered a new job.  And it's about the worst thing you can do. 

Why? Recruiting a new employee is expensive.  I am not talking just about recruitment fees; there are hidden (and not so hidden costs) that the employer faces when they decide to employ you.  

There are IT costs, salary costs, insurance costs, tax implications, stationery, hardware...the list goes on.  And one of the biggest investments they will make is in your training.  The cost of a handover to a new employee is not insignificant. To make this all worthwhile, the employer expects to get a return on investment – and that means they expect you to be at work and working, especially through those first few months when productivity may not be fantastic and you are still learning the ropes.  

If you take a three week holiday during this time, you are effectively undermining your worth to the organisation. Not only have they spent a lot of money in employing you, but they now have additional costs covering your employment while you are on holiday. 

Often, if the employer knows up front that there is a holiday booked, and if they still think you are the best candidate for the role, they will make allowances for the holiday and there is no effect on your job offer.  BUT if you spring it on them (and your recruiter) at the very last minute, you face an almost guaranteed backlash from the employer.  Nobody likes a nasty, last minute surprise.  Your holiday could just be the equivalent of them opening the front door and finding a burning paper bag of dog excrement on the welcome mat. Think I am exaggerating?  I bring you these real life examples that have happened in the past few weeks: 

Case 1 – the case of the long term temporary contract gone down the gurgler

A candidate was offered a nine-month contract role only to tell the consultant at offer stage that they had a four-week holiday booked during that time.  Contract offer is withdrawn by client.

Case 2 – the case of it's all or nothing baby!

A candidate was offered a permanent role and accepted with a note to say that they had a holiday booked in the next few months.  Client withdrew the offer completely, choosing to go back to square one and start the recruitment process all over again rather than proceed with the candidate.

Case 3 – the case of the clear cut favourite who crashed and burned at the finish post

In this example there was one candidate who stood out from the crowd and was a clear favourite to take the permanent job offer.  When the offer was presented, the candidate admitted that they had an upcoming holiday booked.  The client responded immediately to ask for references on their second choice candidate, saying that they now had serious doubts about the integrity of the original candidate.

It is not smart to keep this kind of thing until the end of the process.  Do not think that you should make the client fall in love with you first before springing the pesky holiday on them.  They don't love you THAT much, and you are going to sour the relationship before it even starts.  Remember, from their perspective, there is always another candidate. 

So what should you do if you have holidays booked and you want a new job? 

If you are in a permanent position already and you don't want to wait until after your holiday before looking for a new role, then you should make everyone aware that you have an upcoming holiday right from the get go. Will this put some potential employers off?  Potentially, but springing the holiday on them at the end of the process will put off just as many, and you will have invested all that time and emotion in the new role only to lose out in the end. If you are immediately available and looking for temp work, you need to make that holiday period clear with your recruiter from the start.  The recruiter may suggest looking at short term work to last until you go on holiday, or, if there is a longer term opportunity on offer, they at least have the chance to put the situation to the client for consideration. Be honest and upfront with these things.  Otherwise you risk wasting everyone's (including your) time.

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