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Back in October I accepted an internship offer at a reasonably large and reputable company. I did not sign anything, but over email I said that I accepted, and the recruiter said that she was excited by my acceptance and looking forward to working with me.

After over a month of not hearing anything back regarding start dates or official documents, I emailed them asking when I could reasonably expect to learn of my start date, end date, and any other dates that I should be cognizant of. They responded informing me of when my probable start and end dates would be.

However, they were also very clear throughout the application process that my internship is contingent upon successfully passing a drug test. To be clear, I'm not concerned about my ability to pass, but I have heard that this company gives people an extremely short window between when an invitation to take the test is given and when the test must be taken.

Between today and my start date I will likely be going on a backpacking trip and one or two volunteer abroad trips, during which I will almost certainly not be in places with drug testing facilities.

I fear that I may be in danger of losing the offer if I receive an invitation to take a drug test while I'm traveling and thus wouldn't be able to take it by the deadline.

How can I ask my HR representative about this in a professional way that wouldn't make it look like I'm trying to schedule my drug use around the drug testing date?

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Just before you leave, send a SHORT polite email saying,

"Ms Smith, just alerting you that I will be travelling on these dates: date, date. Looking forward to hearing from you."

That's the whole thing.

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    I disagree with doing this "just before you leave". There's no reason not to do this immediately. Keep them as informed as possible at all times. – Maybe_Factor Nov 29 '17 at 22:50
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    What if I'm only certain about going on one trip now, and I will decide about another one on a later date. Should I keep them updated as each decision is made? – J. Doe Nov 29 '17 at 23:09
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    Send a short polite email about ONE trip when you have LITERALLY BOOKED it. It's that simple. Later IF you go on another, send a SEPARATE, >SHORT< email stating that, but ONLY THEN. – Fattie Nov 30 '17 at 1:03
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    I agree with Maybe_Factor. Since the company has already placed an emphasis on the drug I'd be proactive and simply contact the HR rep with something like "I know the drug test is an important requirement. Although I certainly don't expect to have any problems passing test, I do have plans to be traveling on the following dates and hence unavailable for test taking. (give a list)." HR gets a zillion contacts. No sense to beat around the bush and expect them to connect the dots. – MaxW Nov 30 '17 at 1:32
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How can I ask my HR representative about this in a professional way that wouldn't make it look like I'm trying to schedule my drug use around the drug testing date?

I don't see how this will necessarily be taken as you trying to use drugs during that period. For future reference, you should have mentioned this before (perhaps on October when you accepted the internship), as this situation could have been avoided completely.

I recommend you inform about this trip (pun not intended, lol) as soon as possible, so they can have it into consideration in their schedules, or well discuss the situation further with you. No need to elaborate much, perhaps something like: "Mx. HR representative, I will be out of town on dates [...]. Sharing with you the dates for your consideration."

However, if the date conflicts with the drug test, then it seems that you should decide if you prefer that camping and volunteering trip versus this internship.

To phrase it in other way: if you are going through a recruitment process, really want that job, and you are expecting a drug test shortly I would suggest you strongly consider postponing (or at least not scheduling more) any trips or events that could affect your candidacy.

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