Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Liz Ryan Headshot

Boundary Setting and Gut-Checks for Job-Seekers

Posted: Updated:

Dear Liz,

I got a call from a recruiter mid-last week about an interview out of town that
was wonderful (a great opportunity) and horrible (the world's worst timing,
disrupting my life in a big way) at the same time. I tried to change the date of
the interview, but the CEO was about to go on vacation for six weeks. The
company's recruiter was talking to the third-party recruiter about having me
arrive at the local airport at noon and do a two o'clock interview at their
office, one hour away. I told him (my guy, the third party recruiter) that was
way too tight for my comfort level. They pushed back and wanted me to interview
at three at the latest. One problem with the flight, my cab, or my luggage and
I'd have missed the interview. I wanted to fly in the night before and rest, but
they wouldn't do it. As you can guess, the flight was delayed and the interview
was rushed. Now I'm mad at myself more than them. When your gut is screaming BAD
THING but the only rationale is "I don't like to rush," what can you say?



Hi Gerald,

Thanks for writing. I'm sorry you had to go through that! One of these days,
we'll do a course or a tele-seminar on just this topic: the sticky awkward
negotiations around job interviews. It's a minefield, as you know!

For starters, if the CEO is about to go out of town for six weeks, the burning
question on my mind as your career advisor would be "So, are they planning to
make an offer before the CEO takes off?" I wouldn't let you go on an interview
where the deal is "You come and see us, and then the CEO goes on vacation while
you twiddle your thumbs for six weeks and wait for the CEO to get back before we
make a decision."

Concerning the fly-in specifically, it is always fine to say "That time
unfortunately won't work for me, but I can come the following week and meet
everyone except the CEO. After that meeting, if your people feel I'm a good fit
for the company and if I feel the same way, I can talk with the CEO by phone or
even fly close to where he or she is vacationing so that we can meet live." (If
they'd balk at the extra airfare, you'll know a ton about how much pain is
involved and how dearly they're valuing your abilities.)

Assuming you agree to interview on a certain date, it is absolutely appropriate
for you to have time to prepare and to rest before the interview. If it's more
than a quick Boston-to-New-York or Chicago-to-Kansas-City type hop, your request
to fly in the night before was totally reasonable. Look at the message they sent
you, in mathematical terms: X (where X equals your need to get a good night's
sleep before an interview) is less than Y (where Y is the $149 cost of your
one-night stay in a Residence Inn). That's a huge, radioactive, glowing red

We often "shush!" our gut when we should be leaning in more closely to ask "What's
that you're trying to tell me?" In a situation like this, you could say "Oh! One
hour's cushion isn't enough time. One problem with the cab or the baggage
handling and we'll both have wasted time and money. Let's have me fly in the
night before." If they say "No, can't do it" you'll play
not-even-really-all-that-hardball and say "What a shame, I was looking forward
to meeting your team."

The universe sets up these situations for us to remind us of our power. When the
flight is delayed (inevitably!) your gut says "Heh heh, guess you'll listen to
me the next time!" We only feel our power when we use it. It's the most
wonderful feeling in the world.

With respect to these jokers, don't feel bad, because you dodged a massive
bullet. How important is this opening, anyway? What, the CEO sprung a six-week
vacation on them at the last minute? Heck, no. They all knew his or her vacation
was looming. The little matter of getting you into town for an interview just
wasn't quite important enough for anyone to focus on until crunch-time. Then,
the pressure was on you! Remember the old placard people used to hang in their
cubicles, something like "A Failure to Plan on Your Part Doesn't Constitute an
Emergency on My Part?" We can hold these folks to the same standard.

Imagine the hubris that it takes to call a talented job candidate like you and
say, "Yes well, out of the blue we have decided that we need you here just a few
days from now, and bee tee dubs we're too cheap to put you in a hotel the night
before." Forget them. It was a painful learning experience, but you won't be
bitten by this snake again.

Ah, boundaries! We only see them when we've already blown past them them, at
least half the time.

Your sturdy gut (we can say instinct if we want to be refined) has guided you
very well this far. Listen to it! If you 'only' have your gut-check and no data
at your disposal at the point of need, you can always say "I'm not sure I'm
comfortable with that." Let them wonder and stew.

I'm sorry that you had to go through the stress but delighted that the universe
put its little universe-foot down and got you away from those people before
something horrible happened (a job offer appearing, for instance). You might
want to double-check your relationship with your headhunter, too. With advocates
like him or her in your corner, who needs corporate bulldozing amoebas?



p.s. Our online courses "Your Human-Voiced Resume," "Build Your Personal Brand,"
"Crafting Compelling Pain Letters" and "Stop! Don't Send That Resume" begin on
August second. More info here.