When asked to travel to another city for an interview, how soon should an applicant be willing to get there?
A nonprofit recently asked if I could travel to its office to interview for a mid-level professional position that had been vacant for more than six months. This was on a Thursday (Sept. 16), and I said two Mondays from then (Sept. 27). That seemed to really turn off, even irritate, the interviewer. He said he had hoped I could come in next week, and it was clear he was no longer interested in talking to me.
I would need to take time off and travel six hours each way on my own dime. I also work in a small office and like to give my boss decent notice when I'm taking time off. Am I wrong to think he should have given me more time? Do I need to be more flexible, or was that a red flag?
I don't think you were unreasonable at all; the timeline you suggested was just under two weeks, which isn't crazy when someone needs to make travel plans. If it posed a problem for the employer, he should have explained that to you and given you the chance to incorporate that information into your thinking, not become irritated or uninterested.
There are legitimate reasons why they could need to move more quickly than what you proposed, regardless of how long the position has been open. For instance: Let's say you're one of their two top candidates. The other top candidate has been offered a position by another employer and needs to accept or reject that offer within 10 days, so needs an answer from this employer before then. They don't know which of you will end up being their top choice, so they want to interview you before that deadline expires. Or, alternately: The decision-maker for the position is about to go out of town, and they want to wrap this process up now, because it's already been six months, for the love of god, and they have enough other strong candidates that they're willing to cut you loose if you can't fit into that timeline.
But the point is that they should have explained the time constraint to you and given you the chance to decide how to respond.
This is another reason why long-distance job-searching sucks, of course. It's true that if you're job-searching long-distance, you should be prepared for timelines to be tighter than what you can easily accommodate; at that point, you need to decide if the job prospect is worth it to you or not. (And it's perfectly reasonable to decide that it's not.)