Telling it straight is the best policy – our weekly column from various newspapers around Ireland

Q: I’m in a bit of a pickle. I’ve been called for an interview for a maternity leave post that I’ve a good chance of getting – I’ve worked for this insurance company before and got on well. The only problem is that smack bang in the middle of it all I’m scheduled to go to the UK on a five-week course that I have booked for the last three months. The interview is on Thursday. I’m thinking of going along anyway to make an impression, and turn down the job if I’m offered it – I feel if I don’t go to the interview it will be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Am I doing the right thing? (LT, email).

A: My opinion is that you are doing 100 per cent the wrong thing.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employer. They have a problem – someone is going on maternity leave and they need an able replacement. That’s their top priority at the moment, the reason they are convening the interview panel.

So you rock up for the interview. You give a good account of yourself. You have previously worked for the company, and feel they are favourably disposed to you.

After the interviews, they decide you’re the person for the job. Someone is deputed to make the telephone call. At which point you ‘er’ and ‘um’ and ‘oooh’ and ‘ah’ – and let them know the bad news.

So now instead of you being a solution to their problem, you’re the creator of a fresh one. Granted, they will have a second choice in place from the interview, but they will be entitled to ask – and may well ask you straight out – “when did you know you wouldn’t be available?”

And their next thought will be wonder why you hadn’t alerted them to this fact before the interview.

You have now moved from a person with a good reputation in the company to someone who has wasted their time. You will be ‘in sight and in mind’, but not in a good way.

A better way to approach this unfolding scenario would be to contact the company immediately. Tell them your predicament. Say you don’t want to waste their time. Be up front and unambiguous.

At that point they may decide they are still interested in you as a candidate – and take steps to provide for the five weeks when you will be unavailable. It’s an unlikely outcome, granted, but at least you haven’t wasted anyone’s time or led them up the garden path.

A time to link, a time to hold back

Q: I did a job interview today and felt I got on well. It was a gruelling affair – much more than an interview, in fact. I was interviewed first by three people, then I did a technical test, prepared and delivered a presentation to the three people, and then had a final wrap-up interview too. It lasted over two hours. I felt I built up a good rapport with the people involved. Hopefully, I will get the job. My question is: should I invite them to become connections on LinkedIn? (LL, email)

A: No.

Definitely not now, not when they are still in the middle of their deliberations. If you get the job, you can invite them; if you don’t, you can invite them at that point too.

But I think it would be inappropriate at this stage. Stay unlinked for now.

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