staying with friends when traveling for an interview, job was mysteriously canceled, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Staying with friends when an employer flies me out for an interview

I recently had a great phone interview for a position half way across the country, and will be flying out there in a few weeks for an in-person interview. I have some close friends in the area that I almost never see. I was planning on staying with these friends, but I failed to mention to it to the company and I realized when they sent my flight confirmation they had also booked me a hotel. Would it be ok to tell the company I won’t need the hotel room? On one hand, I could save them some money, but on the other I’m worried about it looking like I’m using the interview as a vacation.

It’s totally fine to tell them that you’ve arranged to stay with friends while you’re there and thus won’t need the room. Unless you’re dealing with an incredibly kooky employer, it won’t cross their minds that you’re just trying to get a free trip. This is a totally normal thing to do.

2. Should I recommend a former coworker for a job if I liked her work but others complained about her?

At my last job, I was treated pretty badly and I quit. A colleague of mine who still works there has also been struggling there lately and wants to quit. I was recently hired at a new company and they asked if I knew anyone who specialized in finance. I thought of my colleague right away, but didn’t say anything. I want to help a colleague out (especially since I know what she is going through), but I didn’t even start the job yet. Also, although I have always got along great with her, others have complained about her being fussy. I want to protect myself at this new job (I had been out of work for months), but I feel bad for not passing along this opportunity to her. Also, if they don’t like her, I feel they may take it out on me. What are your thoughts?

If you can genuinely vouch for her work and think she’s good, recommend her. They explicitly asked you for recommendations, after all. But if you have reservations about her work or style, then yeah, you don’t want to stake your reputation on someone you have qualms about. One middle ground is to give them the full story on her — good and potentially not as good. (For instance: “She’s amazing at X and Y and I’ve always found her easy to get along with, but I know that some people found her overly process-oriented.”)

3. Am I a shoo-in for this job?

I interviewed for a job back in March that a girlfriend of mine recommended I apply for. She was on the interview committee and, while I didn’t get the job offer, I was told that I made their list of top three candidates. The reason I didn’t get the job was because the hiring manager already had someone else in mind for that role, but he did tell my friend that he thought I’d be a great fit for a similar role in the near future.

That near future is now. Two similar roles have posted and the hiring manager told my friend to specifically let me know about it and that he plans to fill these positions quickly. Given these circumstances, is it wrong for me to feel like I’m a shoo-in? And would I have to go through the entire interview process again since the job responsibilities are the same as the previous opening I applied for and I had made the top 3?

Definitely don’t assume you’re a shoo-in. They could decide someone else is a stronger candidate, or that for this role they want a skill that they didn’t care about last time, or they could decide to hire the manager’s recently out-of-work friend. Or they could be ready to hire you but get turned off by the sense that you’re assuming it’s yours!

Whether or not they’ll want you to go through the whole interview process again is really up to them. Some employers will, and some won’t. The hiring manager might want to interview you again so that your conversation is fresh in his mind to compare to other candidates, or might want to talk to you about some concern that he didn’t fully explore last time, or maybe there are different aspects to this role that he wants to talk with you about.

Basically, treat this like a whole new hiring process. If they do short-circuit it, that can be a pleasant surprise — but definitely don’t assume it.

4. Why would a position be mysteriously canceled?

Back in March, a position (city employment) was advertised for about a month, closed, and then re-advertised at the end of May “to increase the pool of qualified applicants.” The job posting closed at the beginning of June, and I was selected, according to my online application status, for an interview. However, when two weeks went by with no official invitation to interview, I contacted HR, and was told that the job posting was no longer available, although HR refused to specify why.

It seems somewhat bizarre to me to advertise a job, re-advertise said job, select candidates for an interview, and THEN decide not to fill the position. I was just curious if you had any insight into a possible explanation as to why the job might have been cancelled, and why HR refused to specify a reason for the cancellation. If it is budget cuts, why not say that? Or, perhaps the individual currently in the position decided not to leave, and if that’s the case, why not say so?

So many possible reasons! It could be a budget issue, or they’re reconfiguring the position, or they’re moving someone internal into it, or it’s on hold while they figure out some question related to it, or they don’t want to open it until some favored candidate is available to apply, or the person who manages the role left and they want to bring the new manager on first, or all sorts of other things too. HR might have declined to tell you the reason because they didn’t happen to know off the top of their heads, or because it was more detail than they wanted to give a random caller, or who knows why. It’s very hard to truly know this stuff from the outside.

5. Alerting a prospective employer that I’m about to be away for two weeks

I travel a fair amount for work, and I am also job hunting. I just had an interview for a position and know that the process involves a second in-person interview. In ten days, I’ll be leaving on a business trip for two weeks. Should I make the hiring manager aware of my schedule? I was thinking of sending a follow-up thank you email saying something to the effect of: “I will be traveling internationally from X to Y dates. I’m available to meet in person at your convenience before I leave or after returning, and I can be reached by phone or email while I’m out of town.” Is that a good idea, or is it better to wait until I’m invited for a second interview? I don’t want to give them any reason not to move forward with my application, nor do I want to seem presumptuous, but I would think it’s considerate to make them aware that my schedule might not fit with what they have in mind for the hiring process. It’s also highly likely that, at some point in my job search, I’ll be committed to a two-week trip that conflicts with an interview invitation. Do you have any advice for dealing with this situation?

Yep, that’s totally reasonable to do. It’s not presumptuous — you’re not calling to schedule an interview so you can get it done before you leave; you’re just letting them know about your schedule because it might make their lives more convenient to know in advance.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. Prickly Pear

    3- I knew I was a lock for this open position in my company. Everyone was cheering for me- my immediate supervisor, her supervisor, the person leaving the position, random higher-ups in the company. I mean, I got the notice from three different employees independently. I was super happy (and cocky) and applied jauntily, and never even got called to interview. When they announced that the job had been filled by not-me, I was shocked, I tell you! I later realized I’d dodged a big ol’ bullet (the job description changed to something I would not like at all, and the person I’d be working directly with was *not* on my cheerleader list) but at the time, my head felt like a deflated balloon.

    5- I just faced this dilemma a couple of weeks ago. I had an interview with a company and had to explain that in our industry, people with vacation time get encouraged to use it during the summer months, when business is a little slower and there are plenty of people available for coverage. They asked me for a start date and I said a month out, to allow time for my already scheduled (and paid for) vacation. I cringed as I said it, but figured that starting a new job and having to take a week off the week after I’d start would be worse than having all that out the way. The interviewer wasn’t put off by that (seemingly) but I still feel like I torpedoed my chances.

    1. CAA

      Assuming this is a professional position, giving a start date that’s a month out while explaining that it’s due to a previously planned vacation is very unlikely to have torpedoed your chances. If it did, then think hard about whether you would really want a job with a company that can’t figure out how to cover your position for two weeks.

    2. Priya

      Hi! I’m the person for 3, thanks for sharing your experience. Yesterday, I got the call for the in-person interview and am aware that I got to skip the initial phone screening. My girlfriend is going to chat with me tomorrow so that I have the same info going in that the other candidates got in the phone interview. Fingers crossed!

      1. Blue Dog

        While I wouldn’t say you were a shoo in, you certainly have a leg up (and it might very well be true that the job is yours to lose). But I would think the worst thing you could do would be to ACT like you are a shoo in or are in any way entitled, as that might really turn them off (i.e., we really liked her the first time, but when we brought her back it was as if we met a different person).

        1. Priya

          Thanks, all! More updates: the manager is calling back a few people he has liked in the past so I’m definitely going in with my A game! Interview is July 7th!

            1. Priya

              Update: I was not offered either job. Deeply disappointed, not sure which directon to go in now but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

    3. some1

      I hate, hate when employers don’t notify internal candidates that they are not being considered for a position, and the first time the candidate finds out is when the new hire is announced. Such a lack of courtesy.

  2. Beth Anne

    #1. At my last company we had a lot of people that traveled often and did this. We had in our travel policy that you could get reimbursed for gifts for hosts that you stayed with whether it was a gift card or a fruit basket. I liked that they did that so you could stay with family/friends and reimburse them a bit as well :)

    1. Muriel Heslop

      That is an awesome policy! This happens a lot at our company and they will usually cover a nice dinner out for the hosts during our stay

    2. Mel

      We have a similar policy: If you stay with friends, you can buy them dinner on the company for every night you stay–and our company dinners are not cheap.

      It’s a great policy. Employees are happy, friends are happy, and the dinner bills are still cheaper than the company would pay for hotel and dinner for one.

  3. scmill

    #4 – I once had to call a candidate the morning of his interview which was scheduled for that afternoon and cancel because of an announced hiring freeze. I should have made an offer to someone I had interviewed the previous week since I would have been able to bring them on in. But I didn’t move fast enough. You snooze, you lose. :(

    1. Jessa

      Yeh, a lot of times this can happen due to budget freezes, they want to hire but accounting puts the kibosh on it. Especially in government jobs where they may have to suddenly wait til the next fiscal year. I know when I worked for the State of Florida, woe betide anyone who needed to do anything after May or so (June was the fiscal year and they ALWAYS ran out of money for things.)

  4. GrumpyBoss

    #5: I think this is a good idea that can tell you a lot about an employer, actually. I once was in a similar situation and was warmed that the interview process was lengthy and may stretch out for months. After having a couple of phone interviews, I did mention that I had an international vacation scheduled in a couple of weeks and would not be available. 3 days before the vacation, they wanted me to fly me in to a different location to take some sort of assessment testing. I came back to them with a few dates that would work after my vacation, citing, “I’m excited to be considered for this next step, however, as you may recall, I will be unavailable the week of X-Y.” The company then tried to bully me by saying it sounded like I really was not interested in the position and that they felt they could not possibly wait.

    I took this as a major red flag. I’m not even on the payroll yet, and they are trying to control my schedule. Makes you wonder if this is the sort of place that won’t respect

    1. GrumpyBoss

      Hit submit by accident before finishing my thought! To summarize, makes you wonder if this is the sort of employer who won’t respect your scheduled PTO or will call you while on vacation.

      1. Ruffingit

        Agreed. You were upfront with them and they still tried to schedule you during that time. It shows a total lack of respect and then the bullying you on top of that? NO THANK YOU.

      2. some1

        To me, it shows a lack of flexibility and understanding in general. Why should you cancel a vacation for an interview when you might not get the job.

  5. UK Jo

    #1 – this could actually look really good to the employer. If they know you have friends (or family, had it been that) in the area then it gives credence to your wish and willingness to relocate for a job, and improves the chances that the relocating part will be successful. Nothing like the loneliness of a completely new area where you know no one at all to make you so homesick you want to throw in the towel… Best of luck! :)

    1. straws

      +1 This is just what I was thinking. Plus, you’re not extending your time there like a vacation, you’re simply taking advantage of the free time you’ll already have available.

      1. Jon in the Nati

        It is. Unless one wishes to say that they have a ‘shoe in’ the door for the job.

    1. Andrea

      I just looked this up; it bugged that much. And yeah, “shoo-in.” Glad I’m not the only one.

  6. L.S. (Letter writer for #2)

    Thanks Alison! I really like your middle ground suggestion, I didn’t even think to do that.

  7. Ruffingit

    Alison #2 reads rather oddly with this sentence, it may be worth correcting: A colleague of mine-who still works there-has also beens trudging there lately

    I think they meant to say “has also been struggling…”

  8. Number 5

    Hi all,

    I’m the writer of question #5, regarding scheduling interviews with existing travel plans. Thanks Alison, and everyone, for the input.

    I had a second, related (and longer) question that I would be interested to get feedback on. It’s theoretical at this point, because I was not offered the job, but I’m curious how others would have handled the situation.

    As I wrote, I travel for work, and the travel schedule is set pretty far in advance. I went through the interview process for a position knowing that I had a two-week work trip coming up. Based on the nature of my work, it’s not necessarily impossible to quit prior to completing a trip, but I would feel unethical doing so and don’t really consider that an option. The trip was scheduled such that the start date I would have been able to offer for the new job would have been about a month and three weeks after the date of my third (and final) interview. As the process moved forward, I wondered if I should make them aware of my situation and at what point (i.e., after the second interview, telling them I wouldn’t be able to start, at that point, for a little less than two months… when asked to come in for the third interview… during the third interview… in my thank-you note after the third interview…). I eventually decided not to say anything, as I didn’t want to hurt my chances and hoped we could find a way to make it work if they chose me. It ended up being a moot point because I wasn’t offered the job, but I am curious how others think that kind of thing might be handled (especially hiring managers). What is the right time to say something – or should I not say anything?

    Also, does the lateness of the start date make a difference? I feel like I would certainly say something if the start date I could offer was more than two months after the interview process ended, and I wouldn’t feel the need to say something if it was less than one month (that seems like it should be doable), but the time in between those two is a grey area for me.

    It’s kind of a similar to a situation to having a vacation scheduled, but different in that I couldn’t quit my current job and start the new job (and just take a vacation early on in the new job), because I would need to stay at my current job through the time I would go on the trip.

    I should say that in the above situation it was a position that was being newly created, so I felt like there may have been more leniency in the start date. Does that make a difference?

    I appreciate any guidance/opinions!

    1. Ruffingit

      I would look at this from a different viewpoint. Why would you find it unethical or not an option to quit before completing a trip? I think it might help you to examine your thoughts on that because if you’re job hunting, you need to start giving some credence to what the future employer might need as well. 7 weeks after a third interview is a long time to ask an employer to wait given that 2 weeks is the standard in the US. I think you’re really hurting your chances in a lot of jobs by not realizing that you can quit even if your current job has planned a trip for you. Employees leave all the time, it’s on your company to handle that. You should not be planning your future around the trips you’re making for this company. You should be planning it around when you want to make a move. Clearly, you’re looking to make a move now given that you’re job hunting.

      So, I’d say if you get a job, let your current company know you’ll be leaving in two weeks. Any trips planned in that time will be handled by the company. I cannot imagine you’re the only person who could make these trips and if you are, that is something the company needs to rectify anyway because, as we so oft say here, the HBBWTL theory applies (Hit by bus, win the lottery). If you weren’t there for either of those reasons tomorrow, they would cope.

      TL:DR – Examine your notions against quitting when trips are planned. Get comfortable with giving two weeks’ notice and move on.

      1. Artemesia

        This. Your employer would drop you in a heartbeat if it were in their interest to do so. Messing up your own career to meet an obligation that is mostly in your head is self destructive. And would it help your company for you to do a work trip and then leave? Why wouldn’t having someone who will be with the company doing this be better in the long run? Asking for one extra week before starting a new job i.e. 3 rather than 2 is probably reasonable — to finish a project or whatever, but delaying a long period? Do you think your company would inconvenience themselves similarly for your needs?

        1. CoffeeLover

          This might be nitpicking, but I just wanted to say I don’t think this “us vs. them” mentality is a healthy one to have. If leaving before this trip would for some reason seriously inconvenience your employer and coworkers, I do think you should stay (especially since a month and a half is not a crazy time commitment). There’s nothing wrong with leaving on good terms with a good impression. Now, I’m from Canada and my employers cannot in fact “drop me in a heartbeat,” so maybe that skews my view :P.

          1. Ruffingit

            Here in the US, six weeks to be able to start a new job would be way too long for a lot of places. Not for all, but the standard acceptable notice period for old job is two weeks so a lot of employers understand two weeks before starting. Six though? A good number will balk at that so it’s important to realize that. It’s not about screwing over your present employer, it’s about being able to start with your new one in a reasonable amount of time. If the OP is interviewing now, then she should expect to receive a job offer at some point and she should expect that most people hiring would like someone to start within a reasonably small time frame. If you’re an absolute rock star with amazing qualifications, you can get away with asking for six weeks. If you’re not, you better be prepared to have the offer rescinded and given to the next person in line who can be there in two weeks or less. I don’t think the OP wants that to happen, so I’m encouraging her to look at this as moving away from what old employer needs and moving toward what she can give to new employer because it’s not fair to ask new employer to wait several weeks to accommodate old employer.

            1. Number 5

              Thanks for the advice!

              That makes a lot of sense. I don’t really want to get into the specifics of what I do, but if I dropped out of a trip, even giving advance notice, it would be a hassle for my coworkers, clients, etc. That being said, I think your point is valid, and it would not be impossible for them to figure out a solution, just a big hassle for a lot of people. But I guess if I am at the point of quitting, I should be more concerned about my new position and less about my soon-to-be previous employer, as you wrote. And as long as I do give two weeks, I don’t think I can be faulted.

              As a follow-up, do you think it would even be worth explaining the nature of the situation to a new employer (in a polite manner, making it clear that my first priority is to make things work for them) and asking if a later starting date is possible, or if it’s better not to say anything at all?

              Hopefully when I do get a job, this won’t end up being an issue…

              1. Not So NewReader

                I wouldn’t ask the new employer. Too risky. It could make you sound uncommitted. They could easily find this off-putting and even decide “yeah,right. Number 5 gets back from this work trip and then there will be another reason not to start this job. Nope. Move on.”

                Your current employer knows that this is all a part of being in business.

                Is there a particular reason you are so worried about this up-coming trip? or is just the general principle of it all?

              2. Ruffingit

                Don’t broach this with new employer for the simple reason that I think it will make you look bad as in “So, you’re asking us to wait six- eight weeks for you to start so some other company won’t be inconvenienced? Obviously you don’t care about our inconvenience in having our position unoccupied for that period of time so clearly you don’t care that much about the job. Let’s see who the next best candidate was, goodbye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out…”

                That is what a lot of them will be thinking and they’re not actually wrong. If you ask for an accommodation of several weeks so your old employer won’t be inconvenienced, you will be inconveniencing new employer. At some point, you’ve got to choose who you care about more and hopefully the answer is new employer.

            2. Penny

              Two weeks is only standard for admin-level jobs, in my opinion. I would burn some serious bridges by only giving two weeks notice in my current position. For my last two jobs, I gave five weeks and six weeks notice. (Granted, the subsequent opportunities were fairly flexible.)

              If the OP is looking for jobs in a similar field (international development, for example), then the new employer should be understanding and accommodating about these trips and the delayed start time.

              1. Ruffingit

                If it’s the norm in her field to give several weeks notice, that’s fine, the OP won’t have an issue with a later start date, but given her reluctance to mention a later start date to potential employers, I’m assuming several weeks notice would not be appropriate otherwise the OP wouldn’t even be asking about it. It would be understood that in her field, several weeks is fine. Not the sense I’m getting from her at all.

      2. CoffeeLover

        +1
        OP, I agree that it doesn’t sound like this is something you should be extending your notice period over. Your current employer can work around your leaving, especially if the trip isn’t for another month.

    2. CoffeeLover

      I would wait until the offer stage for several reasons:
      1) This is usually when start date is discussed
      2) It’s uncertain how long it will take them to make the offer (could take months)
      3) If it’s a position they need to fill urgently, I feel like the onus is on them to mention that because most people will need to give a reasonable notice period and depending on how senior the position is that could be a month or more

      1. CoffeeLover

        I just wanted to add that this applies to the time period you were asking about. If for some reason you can’t start for another 6months then that’s definitely something you should mention earlier because otherwise it may be a waste of your time and theirs.

    3. CAA

      I must be the only hiring manager who asks during the in-person interview “if we offered you the position, when would you be able to start work?” I also ask about upcoming vacation plans. It’s pretty typical for people to say they want to give notice and then take an additional one or two weeks off between jobs. It’s also not uncommon for people to have a 1-week vacation planned for sometime in the next six months.

    4. Anon for this

      I did what you are thinking of doing (late start date). DO NOT DO THIS.

      I got headhunted and a new job offer very quickly. Old Job asked me to delay another two weeks because I was in the middle of a very important project that would not finish until then. New Job was unhappy because they wanted me ASAP but agreed it would be fair for me to finish up and that a later start date was ok.

      Then a different manager at Old Job wanted me to stay another few weeks because of a different project that did not absolutely require me. That caused enormous drama. I finally had to tell thr manager my last date was final but it was very uncomfortable all around. If New Job had somebody else competing they probably would have said no thanks.

      DO NOT DO IT.

  9. Elizabeth the Ginger

    #4, it’s frustrating not to know why the position disappeared, but maybe it’ll help you feel more at peace with it to remind yourself that ultimately it doesn’t really matter. You wouldn’t be able to change the outcome by knowing – after all, it’s not in your power to adjust their budget cuts, or to convince them that their internal candidate isn’t actually any good or…whatever. It may or may not be a fair situation, but it’s out of your hands.

  10. Not So NewReader

    For OP 4. June is new budget time. It could be that the board did not agree on the new budget. (Maybe it was an out-and-out free for all.) The person who informed you felt it was best to say nothing at all rather than even to try to begin to discuss all. the. problems.

    I have seen municipalities take FOUR months AFTER agreeing on a budget to begin to implement that budget. Incredible red tape, lack of communications, in-fighting, oh my, the list is endless. It’s amazing anything gets done at all.

    Sometimes the answer to your type of question is so embarrassing that it easier not to answer.

  11. Audiophile

    #4: I’ve been there. I’ve applied for positions, gone back to the system to check the status only to find out it was canceled. I’ve also applied for positions, been interviewed, only to see them re-listed or be told “they’re extending their search.” I know it’s difficult, but you have to let it go. Fixating on it, isn’t going to change anything.

  12. Lia

    I just wrapped up a search with two internal candidates (out of 6 total interviewed). Our policy is to move the top two forward for a final interview with senior leadership.

    One of the two had thoroughly prepared. They had thoughtful comments, answered everything fully, and had excellent followup questions. The other acted entitled, had done NO prep work (which became obvious about 5 minutes in) , and well…we are putting forward the first person and an external candidate who had also done a lot of impressive preparation. I am not looking forward to the complaining non-selected internal will do, but they had this position to lose…and they DID.

    1. Revanche

      I had the very same experience. I interviewed multiple internal candidates for a role and all but the most senior one prepared wonderfully. That one, of course, expected it to be handed to him based on his time in service and assumed that all that time in service was stellar (it wasn’t). Needless to say, the entitled one was disappointed and quite certain it was everyone else’s “fault” the job went to someone else.

  13. Elizabeth West

    For #2, it might be the toxic environment that is causing the complaints and not anything the coworker is doing wrong. The OP said she was treated badly there; perhaps the coworker is having the same issues. If she really is a good worker, I’d go ahead and recommend her the way Alison said. If you thought of her right away, chances are it wasn’t just because you know she wants to get out of there.

    1. L.S. (Letter writer for #2)

      Thanks for your thoughts, Elizabeth. The environment was indeed toxic for the both of us (including many other people). There was very little morale, so that did probably contribute to the environment.

      1. Brigitte

        Yeah, this is so strange to me. It seems as though you’re trusting the judgments of a toxic work environment instead of your own.

  14. Mena

    #4: I was in a simliar situation … job posted January. My skills were a great match. I never heard from them and the posting disappeared. Then the posting re-appeared in June and I was given an offier in July. I found out that the company decided to fire the hiring manager, which stalled the position positing. It worked great for me as I assumed some of the fired person’s leadership responsibility. You never know – don’t assume it has anything to do with you!

Comments are closed.