how to answer when an interviewer asks “what do you do outside of work?”

does it look bad to be unavailable on one of the dates an employer suggests for an interview?

A reader writes:

On Monday, I got an unexpected call from an internal recruiter. We talked about next steps, and she indicated that if my resume was approved by another member of the firm, I’d get an interview. She said the interviews were on Thursday and Friday, and asked about my availability. I’d previously booked non-refundable (so non-flexible) travel with a friend for Friday, so I told the recruiter I’d be out of town on Friday and only able to interview Thursday. I didn’t think this was unreasonable, especially since I was available for one of the two days.

Someone else told me that this looks weird or bad, and that I should have been available, even on such a short notice, to interview both days (in order to show interest in the position). I’m having a panic attack now, that I’ve ruined a potential opportunity, just because of one day’s unavailability. I had no way of knowing about the potential interview when I booked the travel and wouldn’t have done so if I’d known it could conflict with one of their dates. Is it bad to tell the other person you’re unavailable certain days when you schedule an interview? Should I avoid scheduling commitments I can’t change during times when it’s possible I’d get an interview? Help!

No! That would mean that you couldn’t schedule anything the entire time you were job searching, which could be half a year or even longer. That would be ridiculous.

Decent employers know that candidates have lives outside of their job searches, and do not bristle when a candidate has a pre-existing commitment. The person who told you that you should cancel non-refundable travel in order to make yourself available at all possible times has a really messed up relationship with job hunting and/or power dynamics. That kind of kowtowing to employers will actually make you a less attractive candidate, not a more attractive candidate. (I would be appalled if I found out a candidate cancelled non-refundable travel — or any travel — rather than tell me that they couldn’t interview on a particular day. I’d also be concerned about their judgment.)

It is normal to have other things going on in your life, it is normal to have other commitments, it is normal to have times on your schedule that won’t work, and it’s normal to explain that to employers. Assuming you’re not making yourself impossible to schedule anything with, it would be a massive red flag if an employer bristled at the fact that you are a human with a life.

does it look bad to be unavailable on one of the dates an employer suggests for an interview? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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