Why Availability Matters
When employers interview large numbers of similarly qualified candidates, availability often helps to determine which applicants receive job offers and sometimes serves as a deciding factor. Companies in many popular industries maintain extensive business hours and, as a result, prefer to hire job seekers with flexible schedule availability. Interviewers also like to ensure prospective employees remain committed to the job if hired. To establish the availability and commitment level of each candidate, employers frequently ask questions like “Do you have any responsibilities that might prevent you from meeting your specified work schedule?” during the interview process.
Provide Honest Responses
While interviewees might feel reluctant to reveal potential scheduling conflicts at the risk of losing hiring consideration, employers appreciate honesty and would rather know about issues affecting availability ahead of time. However, choosing whether to disclose a possible scheduling issue largely depends on the nature of the prior commitment. Academic and family-related responsibilities generally represent acceptable types of scheduling conflicts to discuss at an interview, while less important matters seldom deserve mention unless the issue would prove unavoidable if the applicant gained employment. Furthermore, employers may display more willingness to work around scheduling conflicts if the interviewee otherwise demonstrates flexibility. In other words, emphasize the days and times which remain available for work rather than focusing on the limiting effects of the scheduling issue.
Keep It General
Keeping the emphasis on overall availability rather than going into great detail about a specific scheduling issue also helps prevent an interviewee from sharing potentially harmful information. Employers sometimes use interview questions about schedule availability to attempt to find out whether an applicant has a family or subscribes to a certain religion. For example, innocently disclosing a commitment to attending church on Sundays reveals a specific religious affiliation, which may (illegally) influence the final hiring decision. To provide interviewers with only the most necessary and relevant information, focus on demonstrating as much flexibility as possible and an unwavering commitment to the job in spite of the existence of potential scheduling conflicts.