How Can I Get Away to Attend an Interview?

By Joe Stein

For those currently working, one of the biggest challenges when conducting a job search is how to get away in order to participate in interviews.  The idea is that you probably don’t want to generate suspicion or rumors about your work intentions while you are interviewing.  Furthermore, the reason why someone who is working decides to seek a new job is often due to work/life balance or the general work environment.  These types of situations can make it even more difficult to get away for an interview.

The concern around avoiding suspicion is that you do not want your current employer to treat you differently, such as not assigning you certain projects, scrutinizing your work more, or even terminating your employment.  It can also just be difficult to get out of work once you arrive and start to get into the midst of a busy workday.  All of this adds stress to a potential job search and, unfortunately, discourages some people from seeking new employment.

It does not have to be painful to get out of work for a job interview, but it can require some strategy.  There are a number of paths you can travel to secure time away from work, but each one requires a different approach.  Let’s explore some of these possible strategies:

• Work Around Your Schedule – Some Recruiters or Hiring Managers are more flexible than others regarding the timing of the interview.  If the interview is only going to be an hour or two, perhaps you can do it before or after your current work schedule.  Not all will work with you, but you probably will be surprised at how many will if you ask.  This way you can avoid any suspicions, since you will not be missing or adjusting your work schedule at all.  I have typically liked the early A.M. appointment since it sometimes can be difficult to get out “on time” at the end of the day and you avoid this potential issue by doing it prior to work.

• Lunch Time Interview – If you receive an hour lunch and the interview is near your current employment perhaps you can do it during this mid-day break.  This one, however, is tough to pull off since you really have to be able to correctly time the start of your lunch, along with having to deal with the traffic associated with this time of day.  This also can’t be an in-depth interview since time is so limited, but perhaps you can meet for a ½ hour.  This type of scheduling is probably better suited if you need to “sneak out” for a drug screen prior to starting a new job.

• Let Your Current Employer Know –This is certainly the most honest approach and one that can be done if you believe your employer will respond professionally.  I don’t recommend this approach unless you are very confident that your employer will be understanding and will work with you.  You can meet with your Manager and explain that due to compensation, career opportunities, etc., you feel the need to look for another job.  Unfortunately, many employers will take offense to this news and you may find yourself in a situation that is even more unworkable and perhaps even unemployed. 

• Dr./Dentist Appointment Route – This is probably the most popular route that job seekers take in working around an interview.  Of course, this requires you to mislead your current employer by making up a false reason to explain your absence.  I normally do not recommend a course of action that is not steeped in 100% honesty, but this type of “white lie” is pretty standard when job searching.  In fact, your Hiring Manager has most likely told this same fib a few times in his/her career to explain an interview related absence.  A potential challenge, when using this excuse, is if you normally don’t have many Dr. or Dentist appointments.  If you suddenly start taking these types of appointments, you could arise suspicion either about you seeking a new job or your health.  A good reason to get regular check-ups all the time…not only for your health but it is good for job seeking!

• Use Your PTO/Vacation - If you have time accrued, you could take a day (or ½ day) off in order to attend the interview.  This works well once or twice, but it is difficult to do more than that because asking for time off with minimal notice can set off alarms for a Hiring Manager.  Be sure to ask how long the interview(s) is expected to last.  If you are interviewing with multiple people over a time period of a few hours, then using a vacation day may be your only option.  If you already have time off planned, such as a week of vacation, you could try to time your interviews for that period.

Conducting a job search when already employed can be a challenge at times.  Just finding the time to attend interviews can require considerable planning.  It is not an impossible task, however, it all starts with determining the time needed and how flexible your Interviewer will be towards scheduling.    You can then determine the right course of action to take in order to attend your interview.

As always, best of luck in your (or your child’s) job search.