how far back can you reasonably push an interview request?

A reader writes:

I have a question about being reasonable when it comes to scheduling an interview, when you are currently employed. I applied for a job today, and then immediately was asked to come in and interview. Unfortunately, I assumed that I would a) never hear from the company b) hear from them in about six months, because that is the way of job boards. I am definitely in the job market and would love to take this position, but because it is year end I cannot take a day off to interview.

Is it reasonable to schedule an interview 3 weeks out or does that make me look like I’m not interested? I already gave them a few dates, but again I can only come in for the interview at times like 8:00 AM or 3:30 PM. Would it be easier to send a follow-up note explaining that I do not want to inconvenience everyone, and the first week of January is best?

Asking to schedule an interview for three weeks away is often going to come across as unrealistic or naive. Most places have a specific week or two weeks set aside for interviewing and often don’t have the flexibility of waiting three weeks past that. They may even be planning to make the hire before the end of the year.

Of course, that might not be the case and they might have more flexibility, but you don’t want to sound like you’re assuming that they do (since it would be an odd assumption, especially since they contacted you so quickly).

If you can do it, your best bet is to try to schedule the interview for first thing in the morning or the late in the day, so that you’re not taking off a full day. But if that turns out not to fit with either of your schedules, then I think you could say something like, “I apologize; I hadn’t expected to hear back from you so quickly, and it’s hard for me to get away from work over the next few weeks because of year-end projects. I’d love to schedule a meeting for the week of X, but I realize that might be well past your timeline.”

Be prepared, though, to hear that they can’t wait that long, and potentially even for them to simply move on with other candidates without even getting back to you (which would be incredibly rude, but not unheard of).

So you may have to decide if you’re willing to lose the interview or not.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Don’t tell them January!

    As a hiring manager, I am much more willing to come in early or stay late to meet a candidate I’m interested in than to wait to fill the position any longer than I have to. You’ve already contacted them with dates, so I would probably send a follow-up letting them know that unfortunately you’re unable to take time off during this busy period and that you therefore need to come in outside of normal working hours. I wouldn’t worry about whether this sounds like an inconvenience — I know when I hire people, having to work around their schedules is a consequence of interviewing people who are currently employed (who tend to be the most desirable candidates), and I wouldn’t want to let a strong candidate fall by the wayside simply because I didn’t feel like getting up early on one particular morning.

  2. Stells*

    I’m also guessing that the holidays play a role with this. Definitely tell them what your availability is (3:30 is totally reasonable!), but also state that you would have more flexibility after the holidays if those times don’t work.

    Three weeks can be fine, or it can put you out of the running. The best thing to do is just communicate and be as flexible as possible.

  3. COT*

    You might get lucky with the holidays–perhaps their process is a little slower than usual, key folks are out of town, or year-end projects are demanding.

    Good luck!

  4. Esra*

    I feel like you could roll the pitch into one, offer 8 am or 3:30 pm, and only once those are off the table ask for the pushback.

    That said, it’s always aggravating when there is no flexibility on interview times, especially when so many employers want someone who is currently work.

  5. Chriama*

    Speaking from my (admittedly limited) experience as an HR assistant, I think interviewers are more willing to accommodate interviews outside of normal work hours than reschedule for several weeks later — especially considering that things get sort of messy around the holidays. It’s the employer’s prerogative to decide how flexible they want to be with interview times, but I think most reasonable employers realize that if they are too rigid they risk sacrificing qualified candidates.

    Honestly, 3:30 doesn’t seem that late. Even if the interview was 2 hours they’d be done by 5:30, which isn’t a late workday for a typical office job.

    Anyway, I don’t think that a reasonable employer would be put out by a candidate asking for an interview time outside normal office hours.

  6. anon in tejas*

    also, just fyi, with my work load, I have tons of conflicts (cannot be rescheduled) so calendaring that far out is not normally a problem. however, I have offered to meet outside of business hours sooner– and that’s often appeared as being flexible and wiling to accommodate but respectful of your current employer.

  7. Miss Displaced*

    I am currently going through this sort of thing myself and find it VERY difficult to take time off my present (and hated!) job for interviews.

    I usually ask to be scheduled for as early or late in the day as possible in order to minimize time away from my current duties and then suggest times that work best 8am, 8:30am, after 3pm, etc.

    Most of the time they do understand and will try to work something out. You can of course also suggest a Skype interview or some other virtual option.

  8. Ann*

    I’m having a similar problem with interviews. I was recently contacted by several companies who want to get positions filled before the end of the year. Except with holidays, that means very short notice for interviews. This puts me in a very awkward position as to what to tell my current job. The most difficult is one that wants to do an interview gamut where I’ll meet with 5 or 6 different people. That means taking an entire afternoon off on very short notice (2 days) and I’m not sure how to even broach that with my current boss as things are never done on short notice like that.

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