Q: I am interviewing for several public library positions, including one which will mean a 2,000-mile move if I get the job. Once I receive a job offer, I’ll be available to start almost immediately. However, I do have non-negotiable travel plans in three months. I am attending a wedding in Africa, and I will be there for seventeen days. At what point should I disclose those plans? I want to be upfront about it, and discuss it when asked about my available start date, but a number of people have advised me to wait until I have a firm job offer. Is that unethical, and would it cause resentment to spring it on them like that, or am I jeopardizing my potential as a candidate by announcing it during the interview?
SM: Good question, and a bit of a catch-22. You are certainly not the first person, or the last, to have this dilemma. First off, that’s great that you are getting interviews and you sound so positive about your future career in public libraries! Second, I wouldn’t worry about your start date or the potential for your trip to jeopardize anything at this point. You haven’t yet received an offer, so in reality, there’s nothing to worry about. Lastly, if and when you do get that job offer, be honest and up front about your availability, your preferred start date, and your upcoming trip.
Notice, I say, “when” you get the job offer. During the interview process, there is no need to bring up your upcoming international trip or anything that may potentially cause a hiring committee to question your commitment to the job before you even get the job. Your personal life is personal. However, if they do ask you during the interview if you can start right away, then you have to be honest with them and say “yes, but…” and then also say that your travel plans are set in stone and if it is better for them, you could start upon your return. Also, there is usually some time (weeks or months) between getting the job offer and starting the job. Employers know that it may take time to move (especially long distance) or leave another job. Rarely are people available to start immediately, and rarely do employers expect this.
I would also say that if the job description has a firm start date on it, then it is probably going to be something they bring up during the interview, so you should be prepared to answer honestly, if asked. If they don’t ask you about start dates during the interview, I wouldn’t bring it up until you get the job offer. If they want to hire you, they will understand (everyone has family obligations, after all) and make it work. And honestly, if they hold this against you, would you really want to work there anyway? Good luck!