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The question is prompted by a situation in which I am waiting for a firm to schedule my on-site interview (which involves them making travel arrangements for me).

The question itself, however, is more general: how long does it typically take for HR to determine an interview time and schedule travel arrangements for candidates that require air travel (assume the firm/candidate are in the US)? What are the major obstacles that HR has to face in this process?

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    Perhaps they should just give you a time and then pay the receipt, up to a limited amount so you sort the flight yourself... – Solar Mike Jun 18 at 14:58
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You asked,

What are the major obstacles that HR has to face in this process?

But you've answered that question in the one right before it:

how long does it typically take for HR to determine an interview time and schedule travel arrangements for candidates that require air travel

Determining an interview time can be an obstacle because it likely means coordinating lots of resources (rooms, important people). Scheduling the arrangements can be an obstacle because it likely means getting a quote from a travel agent and having that quote approved. Of course, the actual act of making the arrangements may only take a few minutes - but the obstacles to be overcome prior to spending those few minutes may take hours or days or even weeks.

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The other answers are partially correct - it can take time not only to schedule your on-site interview, but any other candidates. The process requires that HR ensure all of the interviewers have time in their schedule and haven't scheduled vacation.

The missing piece in the other answers is ensuring you've communicated your "advance notice" requirements to the recruiter. I've never experienced a recruiter telling me the day prior to the trip that I would need to fly. I imagine it could happen, but with people leading complex lives, and often needing to schedule a "vacation day", last minute notice is a losing strategy. Typically advance notice times in my experience are in the range of 1-2 weeks. In-town interviews less than 2 hours tend to have less advance notice, and phone screens are usually "pick one of the following times" a few days in advance.

Perhaps the most important piece of the interview process is to keep in mind that your interviewers will have to not only make the time to interview you, but also make up any time on their regular tasks. This is why pressuring a recruiter is a bad idea, and thanking your interviewers for taking the time to interview you is a good idea.

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Firm travel plans may be made as late as the day prior to an interview.

It’s typical to book business travel very last minute. The same norm extends to travel for candidates. If you’re inside a 2-day window, it might be worth calling your recruiter to ensure there hasn’t been an error.

It could take several weeks to schedule an interview (if you’re still waiting on a firm interview date). The recruiter should be able to at least give you some likely dates if you want to plan your days off.

Good luck in the interview!

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