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I got an email from one of my dream companies today, it says

A member of the [the team I applied for] will be contacting you within the next week to schedule your phone interview.

Today is Thursday, so let's call next week the 1st week. So basically I think the hiring manager most likely will call me some day in the first week to schedule a technical interview with me. My question is: how much can I delay this interview?

I have a good reason. On the Wednesday of the 2nd week, I have to present my Ph.D. defense. I don't think I will have any time from now to my defense date to prepare this interview. Can I schedule my interview some day during the 3rd week. For example, if I was called Monday on the 1st week, can I schedule the interview on the Monday of 3rd week or even later? Will it somehow leave a bad impression to the interviewer?

Any suggestion is appreciated.

  • 9
    One non-obvious risk of delaying: they are likely interviewing multiple candidates in parallel. If they find someone the really like, they may close the deal without you getting a chance to talk to them. In my experience it's pretty hard to flunk a PhD defense, it's very easy to flunk an interview. Sorry, you have to pick your battles here – Hilmar Apr 27 '17 at 15:48
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    No more than 2 months, usually. 2 weeks is absolutely no issue, unless you joined the hiring process late and they are already about to make offers to prospective candidates. – Peter Apr 27 '17 at 19:18
  • Have you tried? Let us know how far you get. – as a guest Apr 28 '17 at 9:53
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    I'm unavailable next week. I'm very excited about the prospect of this job, but can we make it the week after? – Strawberry Apr 28 '17 at 11:39
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    I can't imagine them not accommodating your request. – Mars Apr 28 '17 at 19:28
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As in most cases, honesty will almost certainly be enough. If you say, "My PhD defense is on Wednesday and I'd like a couple of days to decompress and study so that I can perform well on the interview", I suspect you will get the answer you desire.

However, if they don't give you the time, that suggests that this company–or at least this team–may not be a dream worth pursuing. In either case, you will have gathered valuable information about culture and values.

Congratulations on your PhD!

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    I don't think I've ever encountered a situation where interviews had to be wrapped up like that. However, that's why I included "may" in my response. – KevDog Apr 27 '17 at 18:45
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    I asked to push back a technical interview a couple of weeks because my wife was due any day, and the interviewer responded by pushing it back a month because his wife was due two weeks after mine. – user3288829 Apr 27 '17 at 20:47
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    @JoeStrazzere - and if that's the case, they should tell you as much and you should probably just accept that you'll have to attend the interview less prepared than you'd have liked. Not the end of the world. – Ant P Apr 28 '17 at 9:19
  • @user3288829 if that had happened to me, that would have meant my technical interview happened about 10 days after my son's birth - at which point all I could really think about was [fx: Hulk voice] "Ug. Daddy Sleep". Much better to plan the technical interview ASAP with the caveat that it will be deferred if the baby arrives. – Martin Bonner Apr 28 '17 at 11:34
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My team has had candidates request delays of a couple weeks, and that's usually not a problem. The stronger the reason you offer, the less likely it is to be a problem -- a PhD defense or an already-planned trip out of the country is a good reason to delay, so absent an urgent need on the part of the company that won't be a problem. If you need the time to complete your shot at the Guinness record for consecutive hours spent playing Call of Duty, on the other hand, best not to mention that.

Sometimes a company does need to conduct an interview quickly -- they need someone to start right away, or they already have a candidate they'd like to make an offer to but maybe you're better if they can find out quickly. In cases like that, delaying might cost you the interview this time around, but shouldn't harm a future application. Because you don't know what their situation is, and because it's best to come across as someone who will work with them rather than just making demands, it's best if you raise it as a question instead of leading with "I can't":

Them: What times next week are good for you?
You: I'm defending my PhD on Wednesday; would it be possible to push it out to the following week, maybe Monday?

The important points in this response are:

  • You briefly explained a major conflict; most interviewers understand the gravity of a PhD defense.

  • You asked about delaying.

  • You proposed something that's not too much more of a delay; if they asked for "next week", then the following Monday isn't that different from Friday in most companies.

If they can't accommodate your request, then you'll have to decide if you can spare the time before your defense. If the job is at all related to the field of your PhD, and it's only a phone screen, I would hope that you wouldn't need too much time to prepare. (But I've never defended a PhD myself.)

  • Unfortunately, just now they gave me 3 options and all of them are in this week. If I ask for two weeks from now, that is a delay of more than 1 week. Anyhow, I will ask and see. – MIMIGA May 1 '17 at 18:03
10

For example, if I was called Monday on the 1st week, can I schedule the interview on the Monday of 3rd week or even later? Will it somehow leave a bed impression to the interviewer?

Yes, it should be fine to push the phone interview out an extra week or so due to current work and other obligations. ( Such as your PHD )

Should the scheduler get a bad impression because of this? No. Life happens, that is why they are calling to scheduling the interview at a date and time that works for both parties.

Having said that, there is always a chance that it may put someone off that you pushed the interview too far out, but you have no control of that and IMHO the risk is relatively low.

4

How far would depend on the company and how soon they need someone and how many possible good candidates they have to interview. So that is not answerable. However, most good people to work for would be pretty understanding that you need to concentrate on your PhD defense and push it out if their circumstances allow.

3

Look at it this way: the email did not say "your interview is on the 3rd at 2pm." They know they need to work out a mutually agreeable date.

That said, I would suggest replying saying something like you would like to have it before the Xth or else after the Yth, because of your defense on the Ath. That gives them more flexibility than if you wait until someone calls you and then say "none of those dates work for me, how about a week after your last one?"

I've prepared for a thesis defense. Taking some time out for a job interview before it is probably the best thing to do. It gets your mind off worrying and fussing and gets you looking past it to the life you'll be living after you complete this degree. It might even give you some good ideas for things your research can apply to or the like. You don't really need to prepare for a first job interview very much. Just talk to them about what you've been doing and what you want to do.

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    "You don't really need to prepare for a first job interview very much". I disagree . You want to show that you've put some time an effort int this. I would strongly recommend researching the company and the role and having some intelligent questions prepared. – Hilmar Apr 27 '17 at 15:45
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    "very much" - spending an hour or so establishing that you would or would not like to work there, and jotting down a few things you want to ask about. Not days of prep, answer rehearsing, creating a slide deck, gathering data, and so on. – Kate Gregory Apr 27 '17 at 16:13
  • @KateGregory I have only had one technical interview, and it somewhat resembled an oral exam. It wasn't "why do you want to come here" but "why is x technique better than y for z". I guess this might be what OP is expecting? – user66066 Apr 27 '17 at 18:36
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    @TheoreticalPerson That's what I understand by a technical interview - but I have never prepared for those. I expect to respond with what I know already. How do you go about guessing which techniques to look up? – Martin Bonner Apr 28 '17 at 11:38
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    @MartinBonner well perhaps my situation was slightly unusual, as I had never worked or studied in the field of my interviewer, and they knew this, I decided that they were likely to ask about the basics of that field. I just read some course notes, it must have made an all-right impression because I got the job. – user66066 Apr 28 '17 at 12:56
3

There are a few notes:

Good Reason is Subjective

A good reason to you may not be a good reason for them. It could cause all kinds of confusing. So your best bet here is to really decide what you want.

Is this job more important then ______? No, well then does it really matter if they say no?

Picking a date

Now with that said, keep in mind they are looking for other candidates, but they have asked you to find an agreeable date. An agreeable date is usually close, but not set in stone. Asking to do it a couple of days later, usually doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

Hey can you do a phone interview Monday at 4pm.

No, but about about Wednesday at 3pm?

It's all part of scheduling. You don't even really need to say why your answer is no. It's ok. If your looking to postpone a more then a couple days, then a reason is customary but not required. Essentially you have all the power here.

When they come back with a date

Now what may happen is that they come back with a reason, or a timeline, that they need you to work in.

We understand that you would like the 15th, but we would like to make a decision by the 10th, and want to have the phone interviews done the week of the 1st. Is there any way you can work with us?

Now you have to decide. It's ok to say no. It may mean your less likely to get the job, but it doesn't mean that you won't get the job. They may work around you yet, or they may not have other candidates that are as strong. Heck they may even find out that everyone's answer is "need to wait" and adjust their time schedule.

Bottom line

I like seeing things in absolutes.

Is this job more important then ______? No, well then does it really matter if they say no?

Right now your trying to get some "personal time" to unwind and prep for a PHD defense. Is that time and that PHD defense more important then the job? If so then don't worry about it. Be open and honest about your needs, if you loose the job opportunity then, so what? There will be others.

Keep in mind you need to look at what your trading (Some time to prep for a critical point in your life) for what you would be getting (a chance to be considered for maybe moving to the next phase of this hiring process). Only you can decide if it's worth it. Keeping in mind that once you have your "worse case answer" your worse case is not that likely.

You're interviewing too

Also remember what a lot of people forget, you're interviewing them too. You're also in a hiring process. You're trying to decide if you want to "hire" them to pay you. Would you really want to work for a company that forced you to stress out more than needed, just to fit their outlook calendar. Sometimes the answer is yes to that, but you need to make that call as well. If they really don't care about your PHD defense and your needs for time to prep for it, then, is that someone you want to work for?

For example, I would not be willing to make scheduling accommodations for someone saying "I already have my PHD defence scheduled for that week". But I also don't care that you have or are working on a PHD. It has no value to me. I'm probably not someone that you want to work for.

0

Prioritize

Which is more important, the interview or the Ph.D defense ?

I'd suggest securing the Ph.D ought to be your sole priority. Why would you take any chance of messing that up ?

However, you may have your own reasons for preferring to chase the job, and if you have such a preference then you need to at least ask the company for a date after the Ph.D defense.

I'd point out that even if you do the interview you have no assurance you'll get anything from it. How much risk is there associated with doing the interview at a difficult time and how much risk to your Ph.D status ?

Worse case scenarios :

They say no and you decide to skip the interview. There will be other positions. Don't lock yourself into the mental straight-jacket of feeling you have no option but this position.

The alternative worst case is that you really put yourself under insane pressure, try and do both and screw both up.

-1

First off, I wish you good luck & hope it works out. Im going to supply an answer as someone who has scheduled and conducted technical interviews be it in person, in g-hangouts, or via phone. I've hired (and not hired) candidates as the result of these aforementioned interviews and been a candidate taking them as well. This has been from software engineering gigs writing/maintaining low-level code, writing automation software that's 'not-so-low-level' and even gigs in at the transport layer to design long-haul optical networks. I only say all this to point out its real-world experience & not going to sugar-coat anything. I'm usually conducting multiple screenings at once and I don't get hung up on any single candidate. If I find a suitable person while waiting on another person, I may find I can't wait and have to go with the candidate in-hand. I don't know what your field is but sounds like its your first interview out of school (maybe im wrong, it happened once). If so, they already know this. If you paid attention and focused on actually learning your craft as we all should have, you'll be fine. Make sure they know that you do not want any possible delay to impact the possibility of getting the job. Its usually not a big deal, but many times behind that vacancy that led to your interview there is a team that needs the help ASAP. Gauge their need in this respect during your initial call; this will allow you to better gauge the risk in postponing.

I wouldn't worry too much though. In a tech interview for someone right out of school I just want to see if the candidate can think on their feet, has the mindset that I believe would allow them to posses basic analytical skills that they show an interest in honing, has at least a tenuous grasp of what critical thinking is (o.O) and obviously I'm getting a feel of their technical knowledge albeit at varying difficulties depending on the seniority of the position. Alot of smart managers will delve into your thought process around an answer rather than the answer itself, so it's more like a simple conversation around technical concepts rather than an oral test. As you gain experience, interviewing for more senior roles will have far less of a margin for error - either you know the right answer or you dont. That comes with naturally with time and I wouldnt sweat it. If they need an experienced researcher, engineer, etc... with 15 yrs experience then it might not be a good fit yet.

Sorry its long-winded, but I want to be helpful. I hope this is and, again, good luck.

EDIT: I have to add this: depending on the organization's needs, 3 weeks is usually a long time to the manager thats been looking for the right fit; alot happens in 3 weeks. The call should take less than an hour. There's no way you can ever study for an interview unless you know the posistion is designing optical amplifiers or something similar and need to brush up on your raman back-scatter coefficient equations or something equally asinine. This market moves fast and you're always competing. You have to be the guy that can defend his thesis while he's on the phone doing an interview while simultaneously filling out your patent filings for the world's first functional cold fusion reactor to be competitive.

  • I think you are American. In Europe, managers in technical fields are used to notice periods of a month and often three months. Someone coming from a PhD doesn't have to work his notice, so may well be available sooner overall. I'm not saying you are wrong - just applying some context. (Also, European context is not helpful if the OP is in America!) – Martin Bonner Apr 28 '17 at 13:01

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