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how much do I need to alter my own schedule for a job interview?

A reader writes:

I have been applying for other jobs and have had some success (thanks to your helpful tips for cover letters!)

I had a phone interview with a company last week and we are trying to schedule a time for me to come in to meet with several members of the hiring team in person.

My question is how much do I have to maneuver my own schedule to meet their needs? I am excited about the role and would like to get in for an interview as soon as I can. But the availability I gave (five full days over about a week and a half) didn’t work for most of the people I’d need to meet with. They asked me for my availability the following week, which is just not good at all. It’s a very busy time at my current job. I have several meetings with some higher-ups that are just very difficult to reschedule

I’m unsure about what to do here. If I give open availability to the interviewers, I risk needing to reschedule these meetings which would definitely raise a red flag to my current manager. But if I only give availability that works around my schedule, it leaves the new company with few options to meet the needs of their hiring team. I certainly don’t want to risk them rescinding the interview because I’m too difficult to schedule with! But I also think my current position is the one that’s paying me and the interview is no guarantee of a job, so why should I risk alerting my manager to my job search? Maybe I’m overthinking all this too and it’s not a huge deal one way or the other. Any advice would be helpful!

Ideally, interviewing scheduling allows for some back and forth. You say “I’m open on XYZ days,” they say “those won’t work for us, could you do ABC instead,” you say “I’m scheduled to teach an uncancellable class those days, are there any other options that would work,” and somehow in there you find a time that works for everyone.

The reality, though, is that sometimes schedules just don’t match up and someone will have to compromise. Sometimes that’s just because everyone involved has a packed calendar, sometimes it’s because the employer is being overly rigid about dates (like only offering one or two and refusing to consider others), and sometimes it’s because there’s a reason for that rigidity (like some interviewers are coming in from out of town and so all interviews have to be done in a three-day period).

A good employer will try to be flexible for a really strong candidate, but they’re going to be subject to the kind of restrictions I just mentioned.

A bad employer won’t even try to be flexible and will just announce a single date they expect you to show up, take it or leave it.

A good employer may get a little frustrated if they throw out a bunch of options and you don’t seem like you’re trying to make any of them work. They’ll reasonably expect that if it’s proving tough to get schedules to line up, you’ll give a little on your side to try to help that (just as they should on their side if they can).

So what does that mean for your situation? In your shoes, I’d give them a list of dates over the next three weeks that you absolutely cannot do and offer to make yourself available for anything outside of those, even if it means having to move things around. (And be judicious in composing that list; if you say you’re unavailable 75% of that time, you’re making it pretty hard for them.) And it’s fine to give some context, saying something like, “It’s an unusually busy time at my current job and I’m locked into quite a few commitments there, but as long as we can avoid these dates, I can find a way to make it work.”

If they come back and say, “sorry, we can only do (date you can’t do),” then at that point you have to decide if you’re willing to agree to that or not. But with a decent employer, it’s reasonable to explain your restrictions and ask if there’s a way to work around them.

how much do I need to alter my own schedule for a job interview? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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