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Q: I have vacation plans in place for the summer and I’m also actively interviewing for jobs. Do I need to tell potential employers upfront about my plans, and if so, at what point it is appropriate to ask for the time off?

A: Unless you’re planning to be out for 2 months, or pretty much for any period of time that exceeds the time off benefits you’re likely to receive (2 weeks typically), you don’t need to mention anything prior to the negotiation process. Why? Because you don’t have the job yet, and it’s simply not relevant until that stage in the process.

I’m not saying it’s good practice to take your new employer by surprise on the first day of duty. But DO bring the vacation aspect into the conversation once you know the job offer is in the process so that you’re both giving them a heads up, and putting yourself in the clear. This means after the interview, and a conversation has taken place letting you know that they’d like to move forward with hiring you. You can say something like this:

“I’m really excited to come on board. I also wanted to let you know that I had planned some vacation/personal time at the end of August, and I wanted to ask if it would still be alright for me to take that week off. I understand it will count towards my 2 week allowance.”

Unless it directly affects your ability to jump into the new role or to hit an important deadline, chances are they will have some leniency. You will likely have to allocate that time off from your allowance and may end up using up your vacation time before you’ve even started. But that’s your call.

The one exception here is if you are being hired on a contract or freelance basis, particularly for a specific project, and the terms of your coming on board are based on a deadline. If that’s the case, you do need to let them know upfront about your availability, so that they can make a decision accordingly, and ensure the work won’t be affected. Never wait until you’re already in the job, or try to pass it off as sick time. Transparency from the get-go will avoid any negative feelings from your new supervisor or teammates.

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