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.

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