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I had an interview recently where I thought things were going well, until asked about availability, and I had to say that I wasn't available immediately because I've booked travel home. Then the interview was over, because they needed someone to start ASAP.

Is there any protocol to say at the beginning of an interview something like "By the way, just to let you know that if you were looking for an immediate start, I wouldn't necessarily be available, but I'll be available in January if that makes a difference?" or something similar. Just to avoid getting to the end of a good interview and then realising your availability and the employer's doesn't match. Or would it be seen as rude and potentially starting the interview off on a bad note?

This is in England.

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    To be honest, I feel like this is really on the employer, not you. Most hiring processes I've been part of include some indicator of availability right up front, during the application process - or at worst, during a phone screen with HR before the interview. I've never come across an employer that had a specific start date in mind who waited until the end of the actual interview to bring that up. – dwizum Dec 12 '19 at 13:48
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    Expectations may vary by job. A retail job posted in a window is probably immediate especially now in a place with a Christmas retail season, a software developer opening could have a general assumption of weeks of latency possibly ranging to months for the right candidate. – Chris Stratton Dec 12 '19 at 15:50
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    If there's something good about it - you just completed a successful interview. They will probably remember you and who knows - some day this may help you... – Pavel Donchev Dec 12 '19 at 16:31
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I'm not sure if the availability needs to be discussed at an interview, it should be discussed during the application process itself.

If the position requires to join immediately (or in a span of 7-14 days), that should be highlighted in the job description itself. So, usually the applicant would be aware of that as a requirement for the job and decide whether to apply or not.

So, there are two possibilities:

  • The condition was advertised and you missed it: You're to blame, next time be careful.
  • The condition was not advertised and was only mentioned to you after the interview process: Not your fault, nothing you can do about this now.

Bottom line: The joining timeline is something not to be part of an interview process, it's supposed to be part of the job criteria and should be finalized even before the job application is accepted and processed.

To avoid this, you can mention you availability and earliest possible date of joining after receiving an offer (or notice period, or any other commitment) in the application or cover letter - just to be double sure that there's no missed requirement.

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    The advertisement of the job was a piece of paper on the shop window saying "X position needed, e-mail Y". Nothing really to go on - I accept I would have been at fault if there had been a job description saying "Immediate start required". Good point about the joining timeline, that makes me feel better for not having mentioned it initially. I wonder if I should have put it in my application though. – Lou Dec 12 '19 at 11:56
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    @Lou if I read an advert with "X position needed" without a future start point like next month, next spring or next winter I would automatically assume it means "now" like yesterday... – Solar Mike Dec 12 '19 at 13:15
  • @SolarMike That's good for you I guess, but doesn't have a particular bearing on my question - unless your suggestion for my avoiding a similar situation in the future is to simply not apply in the first place. – Lou Dec 12 '19 at 13:52
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    @Lou Just to add, this is not to discourage you from applying, but just to let you know that from next application onward, if you see a missing joining timeline, assume that they want you to join at earliest, and ensure you communicate your availability with the application. – Sourav Ghosh Dec 12 '19 at 17:00
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    @Lou, If the sign was in a retail shop just before Christmas for a job inside the retail shop, then yes, I'd assume they needed someone right now for the Christmas season. If that's the case, that's on you ask right away as soon as you enter the shop and drop your CV off (or to ask about in your first email if your first contact is through email). Not only, you'd need to ask about the starting date, but also the ending date, because many retail jobs are seasonal and will stop in January-February. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 12 '19 at 17:06
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You've got a few options.

One is to write about it in your covering letter.

The key with this that you need them to be interested in you anyway. This means you need to be sure you have discussed the reasons you're great before you bring it up.

Another option is to bring it up during the interview. In my experience, it's best to bring things up in an interview when they come up naturally (i.e. try to make the interview a discussion, rather than saving all your questions until the end).

And equally with the first point, if you bring this up during an interview, then when you do, make sure that when you do, they're interested in you anyway. Talk about why they want you. Talk about your experience in the technologies they want. Describe how well you work in a team. And only then tell them that they'll have to wait longer than they want to get you on their team.

A third is to wait until you get an offer with a start date, and respond with a date that works for you. Similarly, for this to work in your situation you need to have laid the groundwork for why they want you more than anyone else.

If you're worth waiting for then they'll wait.

  • I understand your point - my key worry is wasting mine or the interviewer's time by getting through an interview before realising I'm inherently unsuitable based on my availability. I guess this problem becomes mitigated when I have more availability, but until then maybe I should write it on my cover letter ... – Lou Dec 12 '19 at 11:57
  • In this case, they were seeking immediate cover for an employee leaving due to personal reasons, so I don't think they would have waited for anyone. Perhaps in a future interview I'll keep this in mind though. – Lou Dec 12 '19 at 12:16
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    @Lou Yea some situations are different. In general I think "my key worry is wasting mine or the interviewer's time" is an attitude that can only hurt you. You're good at your job. Get out there and tell people why you're good. – Player One Dec 12 '19 at 12:19
  • Cheers for the kind comment :) – Lou Dec 12 '19 at 12:30
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IMHO, there are certain availability expectations according to candidate situation.

For example, if candidate currently employed, it should be understood that there will be some sort of notice period, depending on the industry and location

You haven`t stated it, but i glean that your trip home is planned to be longer than two weeks

In that case i think you can always address it in the form of question when appropriate during or at the start of the the interview.

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