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Thursday, October 14, 2010

when traveling to an interview, how fast should you be expected to get there?

A reader writes:

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.)


Wilton Businessman said...

Unfortunately, you're in competition with the unemployed local candidates that can be there on a moments notice. Also as an employer, that tells me you're not really into the job if you don't want to go after it 100%.

Anonymous said...

I did long distance job searches before, and it was always difficult. It's a trick to take time off without impacting your existing job.

Generally speaking in my experiences, the companies were good about it. One company needed to provide a "go/no go" decision and I wasn't able to fly out quickly enough for the final interview. I thanked them for their consideration and moved on without any problems. At least they were up front about it and handled it professionally.

The company did the OP a favor by eliminating themselves as a potential employer. If they can't handle themselves in a professional manner then that's a huge red flag.

Anonymous said...

you're not really into the job if you're not willing to risk losing your current one for the mere possibility of a new one, eh?

Eric said...

What do you consider a "long distance" job search? I am currently seeking jobs in two large cities both about a 2 hour drive away. I live in a smaller city with limited opportunities in my field. I consistently put in cover letters that I am considering a move to the area anyway implying that I would like to have a job lined up before I move. I'm unwilling to quit and move because I provide the primary income for my family of 5.

Anonymous said...

I'm the OP. Thanks for answering my question, Alison. Thanks to the other folks who responded, too.

I don't really think the company acted unprofessionally. They weren't rude. And I certainly can understand a preference for local candidates.

But no, I do not want a new job so badly that I'm willing to drop everything at a moment's notice and potentially leave my current employer in the lurch. If that's what's required to go after a job 100 percent, well, I guess someone else is going to get that job.

Joey said...

Listen, unless you're a rock star or in a profession with few qualified candidates it's hard to expect an employer to adjust to your schedule. With so many qualified candidates out there I don't blame them for passing on you because you couldn't come in sooner. I would. Besides do you always request a day off almost 2 wks in advance?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how others can say that you are not 100% interested in the job in this situation. First of all, the OP didn't know if and when she'd get a call for an interview. It's not like she can tell her employer, "I will need x amount of time off, but I don't know when or even if I'll actually need it." Second of all, it shouldn't be a risk. Life gets in the way, and sometimes, it doesn't play out the way a particular person wants it to -whether it be the interviewer or interviewee.

The interviewer can obviously tell she's from out of town, and if she is in the top 2 choices, then I would think they'd work with her if they were that interested in her.

Anonymous said...

This *just* happened to me (sort of). I was an internal candidate for such a middle-management position. I went out of town for a vacation, and my employer wanted me to interview while i was out of town. The other candidates were all out of state and given 4-5 days notice. I was given less than 24 hours and got the cal while out of state. I was told that the other candidates were perceived to be "dedicated" but in this economy, I think they could just as easily be desperate.

Though, I was out of state for an interview myself...

KellyK said...

I agree with Anon @ Oct.14, 3:45--it makes no sense to risk your current position just for an interview if you can't get the time off at the notice the interviewing company needs.

Also, a willingness to put your current employer in the lurch ought to be a red flag. Why would a company want to pre-select for people who will screw them over when they're looking for their next job?

KellyK said...

As far as how far in advance you have to request time off, it will depend a lot on your company. What are their policies, how bad do they need you on any given day, etc. If it's vacation or a personal day, yes, some places do want a week or two worth of notice. Sure, you can lie and say you're sick, but again, highly unprofessional, and who wants to hire someone who'd do that?

Not that I blame a company for not hiring someone who can't meet their timeline. I just think that decision should be based on needing to fill a position soon, not on thinking people aren't sufficiently committed if they're not instantly available.