Q. I have been looking for a job for the last few months and I'm worried about coming into summer. I have scheduled a two week vacation and new job or not, I really do want to take it. At what point in the interview process am I obligated to let a prospective employer know of these plans?
A. People looking for jobs continue to make plans, and schedule vacations. But there is no need to share too much information too soon, as your vacation plans may not be all that important to some of the people you meet. In your networking meetings, or first interviews, you do not need to discuss your non work plans. The less said the better, even if you are excited about your plans and even though vacations can make for great conversation. But people should remember you for the skills you bring to a job.
As the interview process proceeds and the company becomes more interested in you, they may ask when you would be available to start the new job. This is a positive indication, but still not an offer. At this point you can let the hiring manager know that you would be available to start on very short notice, and ask when they would hope to see someone start. Remember that you can start a job, and take a vacation in just a few weeks, or delay a start. Look at all options. Listen for any details about plans for the first few months on the job. Are there deadlines to be concerned with, or month end responsibilities? Take note of how these might cause conflict with your vacation plans, so that when the time is right you'll be prepared to overcome any obstacles.
When you do receive an offer, thank the person; reinforce all the great reasons they want to hire you by outlining the contributions you can make. If there are points in the offer you want to review, or consider negotiating, you should let them know you will review the offer and get back to them. Discussing the vacation plans should not come separately from a discussion of other issues you want to discuss in the offer.
If you are satisfied with the offer, you can let the hiring manager or human resources person know you are really excited about the offer, and you are eager to start. With no pause, you should continue by saying you have a situation which you hope won't cause any issues, which is a confirmed plan for a two week vacation. Provide the dates, and ask which start dates would work best for them. "Would it be better for me to start, and work for the two weeks, and then take the time off, or would you rather I delay the start?" Your expectation should be that you'll take this time off without pay, which you should offer, but your organization may decide to "front" you the time and let you borrow against your accrual.
Make sure to reinforce your willingness to minimize any disruption on the organization and your new colleagues.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.