why do companies make it so hard for employed candidates to interview?

A reader writes:

If companies would rather hire people who are currently employed, why do they make it so hard to interview around a job?

I clearly state that in my cover letter than I’m currently a “Junior Teapot Designer at Hatter & Hare” and email is the best way to reach me, yet I’ve had recruiters call me at 3 p.m. and others ask me to interview at 11:00 a.m. with just two days notice.

WHY are they doing this?

Also, I was venting to a friend about this, he advised me to take the day off from my current job and not inconvenience the prospective employer, but two days is really short notice for a time off request. How much can I ask them to accommodate me?

Note: This is not all hiring managers. Several places have been very accommodating, offering to meet in the morning or late afternoon so I can slip out for a “dentist appointment.”

Well, first, you’re assuming that they’re requiring this of you, but they’ve simply asked if you can do it. You can offer a different alternative: “I’m booked up this week; would next week work instead?” or “Mid-day interviews are hard because I work during the day; could we meet first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon?” It’s utterly reasonable to ask this. They might tell you no, but plenty will be perfectly accommodating once you tell them what you need. But don’t get irked before you’ve proposed an alternative.

It does make sense to offer the soonest possible day you could do it though and not put it off until the perfect time, if the perfect time is more than a week away. It’s simply in your best interest to talk with them fairly soon, since many companies do have hiring deadlines, a vacancy they’re itching to fill, and/or are interviewing people on a rolling basis and will make an offer as soon as they find someone they like for the job.

And the reality is, many candidates are able to accommodate these requests, so it’s not crazy that they’re asking in the first place. After all, why wouldn’t they ask for what would be most convenient for them? They’re figuring you’ll say something if it doesn’t work on your end.

Of course, there are certainly some employers who will tell you that it’s their initial scheduling proposal or nothing at all. And there are plenty more who can be flexible on the day, but who won’t meet earlier or later than normal working hours.

But those who operate that way do it because they can. They have enough good candidates who are willing to meet with them on relatively short notice during normal business hours that they don’t have sufficient incentive to come in early or stay late for others.

Now, a great hiring manager who knows how much it matters to get the right person on her team will do what it takes to talk to strong candidates, even if it means coming in early or leaving late or meeting at an unusual time or delaying the interview for a week or two. (If you truly look like a top candidate; if you don’t, it’s less likely. And you don’t always know from the outside if you’re likely to be considered a top candidate or not.) But plenty of other hiring managers figure that if they have lots of good candidates who will meet on a schedule that’s convenient for them, there’s no reason to put themselves out.

It’s useful to realize that the answer to questions about “why do employers do ___?” is often simply “because it works just fine for them.” If they have plenty of good candidates willing to do X (whether it’s interviewing during the workday, or accommodating last-minute interviews, or accepting a lower salary range), then they don’t have incentive to inconvenience themselves for candidates who can’t or won’t do X.

Hiring isn’t about being fair to everyone, after all; it’s about an employer finding someone to do the job well in the way they find most efficient or easiest to accommodate on their end. A smart employer will ensure that they’re not putting up barriers to hiring the best people (and that means ensuring they’re making it easy for great candidates to talk with them, not just good candidates), but in this job market, they often have a lot of flexibility in doing that. And sometimes that means that their practices will align well with what works for you as a candidate, but other times it doesn’t — that’s just the reality of it.

{ 101 comments… read them below }

  1. cncx*

    the absolute worst job i ever had was inflexible with their interviews- not just timing (“we can ONLY see you at 330 tomorrow” then I had to wait 45 minutes for the CFO to get off a conf call), but also in sheer number (i had to go there four times and it was 3 hours away). I think, as AAM said, that there is a difference between them offering and OP asking if it was all they had, but I refuse to work for a company now whose interview process is jacked up. If they can’t hire people right, they don’t treat employees right.

    1. Kathi*

      Candidates always need to remember they they are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing them. I may be your dream candidate, but if you’ve been impossible to deal with during the interview process, there’s no way I’ll take your job. Cncx is right, a bad hiring process is all too often a sign of a bad company.

      1. Hill*

        Right… because it’s just as easy to find a company I like than to find a company that will hire me.

  2. Sarah*

    I once drove 4 hours to an interview, and when I arrived, the executive assistant informed me that the CEO had left for an afternoon meeting and would not be back. She asked if I could come back tomorrow. I stated that I drove from (city). I asked if I could come on a Monday when my institution is closed to the public, which would allow me to slip away from my current job. She told me that they normally have meetings on Mondays and so that would probably not work. I was instructed to e-mail her and we’d set up another time. I did, but never heard back. I’m glad I never did. It was such a disrespectful situation and a reflection on the organization.

    1. KS*

      My VP does this all.the.time. You should see the look on candidate’s faces when we tell them he left–or didn’t come in. I feel for them.

        1. KS*

          He’ll often switch gears on his schedule at the last minute and not communicate–so his assistant is as in the dark as the rest of us.

  3. Bella*

    Yeah, it takes a lot of time and is a side job interviewing. Once, I had an interview years ago (also a friend and coworker interviewed also at the same place). They called us in two times then asked for a third time and could not tell us if we were in the top choices and our boss was not easy to take time off and started to question me. So I bascially said, I am sorry but this is interferring with my current job so if you can not tell me if I am a top person then I can not come back.
    i never heard from them again but I felt good saying that and putting an end to it.

  4. Rose*

    As an HR Manager, I complely agree with this response! When I have 100 candidates who look great on paper, I dont need to ask my hiring manager to stay late or come in on a weekned. Also, I do personally feel that if a candidate really wants the position, they will find a day that they can take a long lunch or leave a little early to come in an interview. I would never expect a candidate who is working to put their current job in jeapordy and take off in the middle of their work day with barely any notice and I am willing to work with their schedule as much as possible, but sometimes the hiring managers are only available at certain times and as unfair as it might be to the candidate, if they cannot interview during those times, they may end up losing the opportunity to another candidate who got in front of them sooner. Anyway, so my point is… it doesnt hurt to ask for a better time if the time that was proposed to you just doesnt work, but if you REALLY want the job badly, it may just be a good idea to come down with a toothache and make that emergency dentist appointment.

    1. Janelle*

      “Also, I do personally feel that if a candidate really wants the position, they will find a day that they can take a long lunch or leave a little early to come in an interview.”

      “…if you REALLY want the job badly, it may just be a good idea to come down with a toothache and make that emergency dentist appointment.”

      What about if that candidate is currently working in a ‘basic survival’ type job where it simply isn’t an option to take a long lunch or leave early? Like a call centre, or restaurant work, where you have no autonomy.

      I find it really disturbing that an HR manager is urging people to lie to show how badly you want something. Sure, Rose, I’ll lie to my current employer, just as I’ll tell you all sorts of lies to get that job.

    2. Maranatha*

      I have a little bit of a problem with this, Rose; while I see your point that every effort should be made to meet a hiring manager’s request, is encouraging/expecting an employee to lie an employer ever a good thing? Do you want to hire somebody who is willing to lie to you?

    3. Lexy*

      But… maybe I don’t want the job that badly? I mean… if I have options I’m going to talk to employers who respect my time (and I’ll respect theirs in turn and not ask for, say, a 6:00am interview or to come in on a Saturday) rather than someone who is inflexible.

      At the same time, like Alison said, if you have options then you can certainly be pickier and less willing to accommodate interviewees schedules. I don’t think there’s a moral imperative to do otherwise.

      I do think that it’s a mistake to assume that someone needs to “want the job that badly” so as to inconvenience themselves, their current employer and possibly their pay (if they don’t have available PTO, or are paid hourly). Being respectiful of their current employer is a great indicator that they will be respectful of you.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      “…it may just be a good idea to come down with a toothache and make that emergency dentist appointment.”

      Wow. So, as an HR manager, you’re recommending that employees lie?About medical conditions? Is that the kind of employee you want working at your company?

      1. Rose*

        Why is everyone picking on me? I would never encourage anyone to lie, but really, honestly, does anyone actually tell their current employer that they want time off for a job interview?

    5. Joey*

      You’re looking at it all wrong. Its not about them losing an opportunity. Its about you losing a potentially great candidate. Are you really cool with losing a person that might be a better candidate than the other 99 top candidates?

    6. EngineerGirl*

      Rose, I see a lot of problems with your argument.

      First, you have 100 candidates that look good on paper. On paper! To you. That number will change when the hiring manager looks at them. The hiring manager (a specialist) will see things in resumes you can’t (you just don’t have the knowledge to discern a technical specialty). So you have less candidates than you think you do. Lets say after the hiring manager looks at them, you have 60 left who are qualified by the hiring managers judgement. Next, you do phone interviews. 30 left. Now you want to do in person interviews. But some of those people are busy (they’re great workers after all) and can’t make your days. Some work too far away for a lunch interview. And when you ask some people to have a “dentist appointment” some will immediately reject a dishonest company. 20 left. And you are just starting your in person interviews! How many of those 20 are going to be top tier?

      Second, the top candidates won’t put up with inflexibility. So you are cutting yourself out of the highest producers. Sure, you can get a good worker for 80k. And you’ll get 1x work. Or you can get an incredible worker for 100k. And get 5x work. Guess who’s the best deal? But you cut that person out because they weren’t available on the date you wanted.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “really wants”. A good candidate is looking for a good job. Is this a hazing ceremony where you have to “prove” how bad you want it?

      In all, you don’t understand that adults negotiate with each other for the mutual benefit of both. Each bend a little. Your inflexibility sounds like a mother to a toddler: take it or leave it! I’d have to be really, really, really, really desperate to take it under that kid of rigidity. Because I would know that would be how you operate on other issues too. Not worth it.

      1. Nikki*

        I like this! I will have to remember your hazing metaphor. Sometimes I am way to eager to please so I might put up with a rigid schedule. Will try to be better about it now.

      2. Rose*

        Um it wasn’t really an argument. Now I am performing hazing?? LOL this is getting out of control. Our interviewing schedule is certainly not ridged. Yes, if it were a super specialized position and I only had a couple of candidates who were qualified and say 1 of them could only interview on Saturdays, then yes certainly I would try my best to convince the hiring manager that they needed to accommodate their schedule. If the hiring manager won’t come in on Saturday then what can I do? They lose out on a potentially good candidate and the candidate loses out on a potentially good opportunity. Also, you quite obviously didn’t actually read my post because I clearly stated that I do my best to accommodate everyone’s schedule. So EngineerGirl, I see some problems with your argument.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Actually I did read the post. I did see that you stated that you had flexibility, but then you nullified the statement by asking people to have a dentist appointment. That statement wiped out anything said before it, as far as I’m concerned. FWIW, if you suggested that to me it would have ended the discussion on the spot.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        This, one hundred and eleventy-seven times!

        Rose, you’ll change your attitude when you’re looking for a new job, and the HR person treats you the same way.

        1. Rose*

          Wow, this is rude and mean-spirited. Did I ever mention that I treat people badly? I thought that this was a forum for everyone to professionally share their opinions and experiences. Actually I am one of the nicest people anyone could ever hope to work with during an interviewing process and I do my best to accomodate everyone’s calendar. However, it isnt always up to me. I have hiring managers who work certain hours and refuse to take interviews outside of specific times. If a candidate wants to interview at 7pm and the hiring manager won’t do it… then I can’t do anything about it. Also, since everyone seems to know oh so much about me, I have been a job seeker before and I have had some bad experiences as well. When I was working and looking for another job, I took personal time for interviews. Also, yes (gasp) I didnt tell my boss that I was interviewing.

          1. V*

            But some people don’t have the financial or job flexibility to take time off work like you were able to. Some people don’t get PTO, and some require every dollar they make to make ends meet. I understand your point as well, though, that a candidate needs to have SOME flexibility as well (i.e. not asking for outrageous interview times like 9pm or something).

    7. Jamie*

      I’m a little baffled why Rose is taking so much heat for what I saw as some pretty innocuous comments, IMO.

      She said she is willing to work with schedules as much as possible, but it depends on the hiring managers availability – and if she has a ton of candidates who can make it during their normal availability she wouldn’t ask them to stay late or come in on a weekend so everyone can be accommodated.

      That seems fair to me. And I’m sure if she didn’t have good candidates coming in for the interviews during their normal hours she would open it up to get who she needs.

      The more rare the skill set for which you’re hiring the fewer people in the pool so you will be more likely to accommodate.

      As far as the lying goes – she’s not telling anyone to lie. She’s saying that in her opinion that’s one way to get to the interview if you’re already employed. And as far as hiring for the kind of employees who lie…if anyone who ever lied about why they needed time off or were calling in sick were ineligible to ever work again then the unemployment rolls are going to skyrocket.

      I guess what I took away from this is that she’ll accommodate if she can, but if she has enough good candidates that she doesn’t need to ask her current employees (hiring managers) to alter their hours she won’t. And that there is no harm in asking for alternate scheduling, but if it’s not possible and you really want it you may have to find a way to get some fast time off.

      Sure – they risk missing out on some awesome candidates because they won’t accommodate – but there are always some limits on who you interview because otherwise you’d have to talk to hundreds of people for each position.

      I’m just a little befuddled that this generated so much controversy when it’s pretty run of the mill when it comes to hiring practices.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the “how dare you advocate lying” comments are a bit much — I mean, this is what many people do (and need to do) when they need time off for a job interview. Yes, it’s ideal to simply say “I have a personal appointment” or not give a reason at all, but the reality is that in some offices people will ask, and “personal appointment” is code for “job interview” in a lot of places. Saying you have a dentist appointment is pretty typical in this context — because the alternative is making it obvious that you have an interview. Which can get people fired in some offices. So really, I don’t have a problem with someone making up a different kind of appointment, and I’m surprised that so many people here claim that they do.

        Frankly, I suspect people wouldn’t be coming down so hard on that suggestion if Rose hadn’t said the other things she said in her comment — particularly that a candidate who wants the job badly enough will find a way to get there. I think that’s BS, and as I pointed out lower down, the best candidates have no idea if they want the job at this stage. So that’s really problematic thinking, and I suspect it’s part of why people are outraged about the suggestion to lie.

        1. Rose*

          Wow, this is the last time I am posting anything. Everyone is taking what I said the wrong way and now the comments are snowballing into how I treat candidates badly. I have NEVER treated anyone badly. The dentist appointment comment was a joke because the person who asked the original question mentioned that. I have also never told a candidate to lie. I guess (now that I know how many sensitive folks we have on here) I should have said this in a different way. If it were me and I was very interested in exploring a particular opportunity, and say the recruiter said that the hiring manager was very busy and could only meet with me at a certain time, I would want to try to make it. If I couldnt make it, oh well… I guess it wasnt meant to be and perhaps I dont want to work for a company who can’t be flexible… but that is ME and my personal opinion. I was not saying that I personally do not try to work with candidates on their schedules, or that I think candidates should be treated as their time is not valuable. I think that there are a lot of people who have bad interviewing experiences. Perhaps even have been out of work a long time. I get it, I am sure that I would be angry if I were in the same situation. So I am just going to try not to take all of these rude comments personally.

          1. Liz*

            I think the problem with your comment was that you don’t seem to care about getting the best employee, just the one who was either

            a. Not currently employed, so could come at any time,
            b. Not particularly bothered with making random excuses to their current employer with any second though – I know you meant it as a joke, but it read rather like you’re leaving them anyway, why bother caring any more which would mean a bad employee, or
            c. Their employer would love to see leave and gives them all the time in the world to seek other employment – which has been discussed before as perhaps a good thing for certain people but we’ve had to let people go before and we would have loved for him to come and tell us he’s got an interview.

            This place is great for discussion, don’t decide that you’ve been kicked out.

            1. Jessa*

              Regarding this, I agree with you, but also

              D. does not care if they get fired if they get caught because somehow their boss found out they were interviewing.

              The issue here is that some people cannot afford to lose the job they have til they have another one. Even if the first job was a bad fit. An interviewer doing this kind of “well we can only interview when you’re working,” is risking that employee being completely out of work. You didn’t hire them and their boss found out they were looking and dismissed them.

        2. Private*

          I’m in this situation, now. I’m at a small company of 3. I have never missed a day in 7 years. Now, I’m attempting to get the hell out of this hell hole, and I have so much anxiety when HR reps want to meet at 10a, 12p, 3p, 4p. I suggest 8a or 7p. They say “No.” It is out of character for me to leave during the day. I feel I’m going to be stuck at this job forever. If I let on that I’m interviewing, it will put me in a very bad situation. There are HUNDREDS of people who want my job. I work in a “glamorous” industry. Blah. Blah. Blah. I am so miserable. I wish HR reps could comprehend how someone with great work ethic who wants to leave their job still want to maintain their job until they secure a solid offer. Anyway…

          1. Private*

            (more) I do not feel comfortable lying. It’s as if some of us are getting screwed over because we want to do the respectable thing…just meet before work or after work, so we do not disrupt our current employer.

      2. Rose*

        Thank you! I am really getting beat up here and I don’t think that I said anything bad. That will teach me to comment on a post. I am just going to read from now on and not actively participate. There are too many hostile folks on here. I thought that people were supposed to be a good mood on Fridays :)

    8. Kind of Disgusted*

      The current economy allows for companies to treat candidates badly – and thus the comment from “Rose” who wants us to lie to our current employer. I’m currently employed and looking for another job. I recently was asked to come in for a second interview the next day after my first phone interview. I could not because of work commitments at my current job. Well, I lost the chance at the job. I have enough self-esteem to feel that I’m a great hire and too bad for them. But also too bad for me because the amount of job openings in my field are dwindling.

      Years ago, I was once asked in an interview by the hiring manager, where my employer thinks I am during this interview. I told them, which was true, that I took a vacation day for the interview. I think that’s the answer she was looking for. I wasn’t screwing over my current employer like “Rose” suggests.

      I’m really tired of HR personnel who really aren’t that bright but who now hold so much power! They rely on psychological testing, social media and other tactics to hire candidates instead of using what God gave them – their good old brain.

    9. Maria Von Trapp*

      I’m sorry for the way many of the commenters responded to your post. Sometimes people are vicious over the Internet because it is difficult to forget that there is a person with feelings on the other side of the screen. I’m sorry that you were treated in a rude, disrespectful manner.
      My husband is in charge of hiring for a large, well known company where many people want to be employed. He is fairly rigid about when he will interview because he works ridiculously long hours and if he accommodated every person’s request then he would never leave work. I think people need to consider that the people interviewing have lives, families and responsibilities and might not always be willing to give that up to accommodate one person’s request when there are fifty other people who can come in at the requested time.
      Also, sometimes rigidity could be company policy. At my husband’s company policy states that they are not permitted to interview on weekends. So, if someone wants to interview on a Saturday or Sunday he has to say no even if that person is an awesome candidate and he has no control over that. He will be a flexible as possible but it is impossible to make everyone happy.

    10. Private*

      I’m in this situation, now. I’m at a small company of 3. I have never missed a day in 7 years. Now, I’m attempting to get the hell out of this hell hole, and I have so much anxiety when HR reps want to meet at 10a, 12p, 3p, 4p. I suggest 8a or 7p. They say “No.” It is out of character for me to leave during the day. I feel I’m going to be stuck at this job forever. If I let on that I’m interviewing, it will put me in a very bad situation. There are HUNDREDS of people who want my job. I work in a “glamorous” industry. Blah. Blah. Blah. I am so miserable. I wish HR reps could comprehend how someone with great work ethic who wants to leave their job still wants to maintain their job until they secure a solid offer. I do not feel comfortable lying. It’s as if some of us are getting screwed over because we want to do the respectable thing…just meet before work or after work, so we do not disrupt our current employer.

  5. Mary*

    Understandable about being an HR person and wanting a candidate to come in at a time preferable to HR and/or the hiring manager. But as a contractor, whether I say a doctor, dentist, toothache, etc. as an hourly paid person; I lose money for time away from work. I have been lucky in that companies I have interviewed at have sympathized with my dilemma and have usually have tried to accommodate me.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      Yes, I’m the same way. I get paid for every 15 minutes that I work. Sometimes the benefit of my job is that I have some flexibility about slipping away (although not always) but I’m not getting paid for the time I’m away and it kills me to watch every quarter hour tick by as I’m waiting in the reception area for whoever I’m interviewing with.

      1. MrsKDD*

        But should you be getting paid to go to a job interview at another company? Everyone seems to be getting up in arms about lying to an employer, but there’s no ethical issue with letting them pay you while you try to get out? And I will say, for the jobs I’ve wanted badly enough (like my current one) I had to lie to my employer to get out of work, due to the nature of the business I was in. I didn’t like lying, but I didn’t like that job I had more. So, at the risk of sounding evil, I kind of agree with Rose to an extent.

  6. Jane*

    I agree with what several others have said – it works for them, so they have no incentive to change. They don’t want to stay late or come in early. In my industry (law), firms typically want to schedule interviews about an hour after they come in (10) and about an hour or so after lunch (2 or 3) and they want it to be convenient for all of the partners who will be lined up to do the interview. This is usually pretty inconvenient for those of us who are employed, but people routinely make it happen. By inconvenient, I also mean stressful because we can schedule something thinking we can make that time and then go and miss a bunch of “emergency” emails, then get yelled at for not being responsive. Or, we might schedule something and then the next day be told we are being staffed to some “emergency” project that makes it impossible to make the interview. “Emergencies” are very common in this line of work unfortunately.

    1. Jane*

      And also, the prospective employer is not risking anything by doing things this way. The risk of pissing off your current employer is all on you and there is no guarantee that you will be rewarded by an offer. Yeah, it’s unfortunate but this is one of those areas in which the prospective employer holds all the cards (assuming you are really really dying to work there). And how they handle the interviews may not be indicative of whether it’s a good place to work. It may just be how they handle things becuase it’s most convenient for them.

    2. Lexy*

      Ditto public accounting.

      Yes, I was free when you called me last week… but now I got called to a client doing a restatement and there’s no way I’m leaving this conference room before 8:00 tonight.

      At the same time getting the schedules of 3-4 senior managers/partners to align for an invterview is it’s own special hell. So I definitely see the stress on both sides.

  7. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    I have a pretty flexible office job, and I’ve “gone to the doctor” and “been sick” for every interview. Not the best practice, but it allows me to slip away for daylong interviews. It gets hard when I’m actively looking for a job and interviewing at a lot of places, because inevitably I’ll rack up a number of absences in a short period of time. I always ask for interviews slots at the beginning and end of the day, and hiring managers tend to accommodate me.

    1. -X-*

      Please don’t encourage lying (Rose) or talk about your own lying (post above) with a link to a blog with so much detail in it. It’s not good.

      1. Rose*

        LOL I am not encouraging lying!!! Geez, the dentist appointment comment was my lame attempt at being funny, because the original person who asked the question mentioned a dentist appointment… GEEZ people.

    2. No shame*

      I agree 100% with Rose and Kay, if you really really want that job interview you will come up with something. And sure if you don’t want to say the “dental/dr” excuse, then give another excuse (which is lying again to your employer so I don’t see the difference). But if you have the guts to say “I need to take this and this day off for an interview’, then by all means go for it as well. Come on be realistic, Rose is stating the truth no need to give her advice about lying.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Rose is *not* stating the truth. It isn’t either/or. There are a lot of options in between. It is reasonable to take a day off to attend to personal business. Or you have an appointment. No lying needed.

        1. Jamie*

          It really depends on work culture. Some places not giving a reason for needing time would be met with suspicion. No, lying shouldn’t be needed, but I personally don’t see it as a huge moral failing in this situation.

          If people insist on wanting to know things that aren’t their business then little white lies can be a social lubricant, IMO.

          I took some Advil before a meeting…someone asked what was wrong. I said headache because I didn’t want to discuss my cramps. Lie? Yep. Necessary? No, I could have just refused to answer saying it was personal and people would have wondered all kinds of things. Some lies I just wouldn’t lose sleep over.

          Also, not everyone has the kind of job where you can take PTO on short notice. A lot of companies have policies that you have to put in for it weeks in advance. That could mean no interviews ever.

          1. bo bessi*

            Agreed. I always just go with “an appointment,” and have never had a problem. If it was questioned, I would absolutely go with a little white lie. Luckily I work for a great company at the moment where no one would bat an eye if I needed to leave an hour or two early.

            1. MMMM*

              I stepped out recently for an interview which I scheduled for 5PM, which the recruiter was thankfully able to meet with me at that time. I left my current job at 4:30 and I reminded my boss I was leaving for “an appointment” and he said “you’re not going to a job interview are you?” which I obviously denied.

              It is VERY hard to continuously leave (especially in a work culture where no one takes lunch or leaves before 5:30)

              Sucks to attempt to get away, especially when you are entry-level or all the way down on the totem pole.

        2. Jen in RO*

          I really, really don’t see the problem. People lie all the time and I don’t see how it hurts my employer if I say I’m going to the dentist instead of having an “appointment”. Like Jamie said – if I told my team lead that I have to go somewhere unspecified, she would be very suspicious since we are close and tell each other things like this. I might have an interview soon and, unless I can schedule it early/late, I am 100% going to lie and say I’m at the doctor.

          1. Jessa*

            Because if you don’t normally go to the dentist, don’t have dental insurance, etc. If it’s out of your normal behaviour to have a dentist’s appointment, your bosses may go hmmm…employee never asks for this. And then they wonder if you’re looking and you can end up without ANY job particularly if the new job doesn’t hire you.

            I know a lot of places where if there’s even the remotest hint someone is looking, it’s OKAY bye. We don’t need you if you don’t want to be here. Even if they’re wrong and the person ISN’T looking.

            If the company is so rigid they won’t interview on weekends, maybe that’s something that needs to be changed. If they can’t interview before or after hours, then maybe they need to change that. Because their BEST candidates are working.

            Also unless you’re hiring all the time, I don’t see why a manager can’t be spared normal working hours for a couple of days to line up unusual interviews. It’s one thing to say “Okay we’re having a special session Saturday, this is it take it or leave it.” to every single applicant who needs an unusual time. And then giving that manager Friday off so they can come in that one day.

            At that point if you’re asking people to make excuses and come in, you’re down to your finalists. That’s a far different scenario. I might fib to a nasty boss and take a chance at losing the current job if I was one of 3 applicants. Not if I was one of 150.

            The hiring company has the option to be flexible, the person with the existing job that they cannot afford to lose does NOT.

      2. Ash*

        Tell that to my husband’s work who has no PTO or sick leave (and definitely does not let their employees take unpaid time off either), gives their employees half an hour for lunch, no other breaks, starts them at 8:30 (and if they’re late more than three times, they’re fired) and they can’t leave until 5. Please tell me how you would schedule time off for an interview for that.

        1. LMW*

          When I was in my last months at the three-year “temp” job, I had a bunch of interviews. One place, located 45 minutes from my job, made me go through a phone interview, three in-person interviews and a lunch. I had to take unpaid time off for every one of those interviews, and since it was so far away, that meant a half day off for each of those interviews. And they weren’t the only place I was interviewing either. The last month there (before I got my current job, which also required a half day interview) I was averaging two interviews a week. That’s a lot of unpaid time off and a lot of excuses to make. I’m just lucky that I had a wonderful boss who responded to my “Hey, I need to leave at noon Friday” with “No, problem.” and no questions, even though she must have known I was looking. I get that the hiring process takes time, and that is mostly needs to happen during normal business hours, but when candidates are dragged in again and again and you know they are working and have to repeatedly ask for the time off, then its time to be more flexible (and to that one company’s credit, they drove the 45 minutes to take me to lunch somewhere near my office so I could just take the normal lunch hour).

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          It sounds like he can’t ever be sick or ever go to a doctor appointment either! I know there are jobs like that, but…how is that livable?

          1. Jessa*

            Because if you don’t take them you have no place to live. It’s not “liveable” in a normal sense, but it pays more than unemployment does. People need to put food on the table.

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    What is the saying? Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to obliviousness?

    Because most likely, these hiring managers aren’t reading your resume and thinking to themselves, “OP is employed full-time! Why don’t I ask her to come in smack in the middle of the afternoon?” They’re probably reading your resume, thinking, “This person might be worth interviewing!” and then putting it in a pile of people worth interviewing. Then, in a separate step, they (or someone else who’s doing the scheduling) set up an interview, in which the first time that comes to mind is the time that’s most convenient for them. At least, this is the process I suspect happens when there’s a large number of candidates for a role. And if you don’t say anything, that’s the interview slot you will get — but if you do say something, more likely than not you can get, if not an off-hours slot, at least one that allows you more time to request a day off.

    In my line of work there’s rarely a big group of qualified candidates for any open position, even in this economy, so it’s often taken as a matter of course that interviews will be done before 10 AM, at lunchtime, or after 5. But I think we only have this mentality because we don’t have such a large crop to choose from that we can find the right match exclusively out of people who are conveniently available during regular working hours.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      “What is the saying? Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to obliviousness?”

      Or stupidity.

  9. Hawkeye*

    Back in the day when there were more positions available than good candidates, I once had an employed candidate request to interview at 4:30 AM due to traffic and the distance between my office and his current office.

    I agreed by stating, “that is a half an hour after I arrive in the office so I will have the coffee on and be waiting for you.”

    He was the best employee ever, just goes to show you that you never know!

      1. Jessa*

        I interviewed at crazy hours when I managed the overnight shift at an answering service. I had a lot of 1 am interviews of people.

  10. Sarah*

    I set up a ton of interviews where I ask if you can come in on a specific date/time because I find it easier to schedule instead of asking when the candidate can come in. BUT I really hope that if that date/time doesn’t work for the candidate they tell me. I am more than happy to re-schedule if possible.

  11. shawn*

    First, not every person scheduling you for an interview has read your cover letter. Yes, someone should have read (or skimmed) it, but that isn’t always the same person setting up the interview. Secondly, like what has already been said, I’ve always operated under the assumption that if the day/time I suggest is inconvenient then you will speak up. Finally, as long as you aren’t a passive candidate we sourced, I’m also operating under the general assumption that you know and are ok with the fact that you’ll need to get away from work at some point to interview. This doesn’t mean you need to be available at all times and/or on short notice, but making it hard for me to bring you in is at the very least an annoyance.

  12. Walker*

    The nature of my job means I cannot miss an hour or two, I either have to be there all day or take a full day off. However, I generally work one week on one week off, so on the week off I could interview at pretty much any time. This hasn’t been as helpful as I was hoping though, as a lot of interviews I’ve been invited to have been on a set day, usually a full-day interview, and there’s no option to ask for a different date. All you can do is ask and then decide if you can afford the time of from your current job if rearranging the interview isn’t an option.

  13. Anonymous*

    The fact that something has been working well so far doesn’t mean it’s appropriate and should continue. Hell, for a very long time, it worked pretty well not to employ women or minorities. It works pretty well to allow companies to outsource all their work overseas. And the only people who seem to think the status quo is just fine and dandy are those who haven’t been affected by it yet.

    Even from a purely hedonistic standpoint, a company who thinks a candidate who “wants the job enough” will find a way is missing the fact that they’re often finding a way by interrupting business and/or lying. If you “take long lunches” (right, because you can totally get to an interview, have the interview, and get back in the space of a long lunch), or take PTO (which on short notice requires you to make up a lie about why it’s so damn urgent)…Why would you self-select candidates who are willing to be dishonest and inconvenience their employer by taking off with no notice? You really don’t think they won’t do the same to you every time something shiny beckons to them?

    1. fposte*

      But it doesn’t matter if you think employers *ought* to change on this; without a reason, they’re not going to.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I really don’t think you can compare this to not hiring women or minorities, and I assume you don’t really mean that comparison either. They’re perfectly willing to interview you and seriously consider you, but you need to do it when it’s convenient for them if they have others just as good who are willing to.

      I don’t happen to agree with the mindset that “if a candidate really wants the position, they’ll find a way.” The best candidates are those who generally have multiple options, and I don’t want to screen them out because they’re not willing to jump through my hoops to “prove” they want it badly enough. The best candidates don’t really know if they want it or not until they’ve had a chance to talk with the hiring manager.

      However, the reality is still that if a manager has plenty of great candidates who will interview during the workday, they don’t have incentive to miss dinner with their kids or wake up two hours early to interview an additional one.

  14. Cat*

    I’m curious what people do to take time off for interviews without lying. I couldn’t take a random vacation day without people asking where I was going (not out of nosiness or maliciousness; just in a “oh, have something fun planned?” way). I guess I could say “appointment,” and wouldn’t get questions about that, but if you’re getting into set-ups where you have to take a half day more than once in a regular period of time for an “appointment,” people are going to start wondering what’s wrong and are going to be legitimately concerned, which I have no interest in inviting. And I think saying “Oh, I have some personal matters to take care of” would be a dead tip-off that I was interviewing.

    To be honest, this is one of those situations where a white lie doesn’t seem that bad to me, I guess, and heads off a lot of other problems.

    1. K.*

      At two previous positions I was really, REALLY lucky to be working for employers who knew I was having interviews elsewhere, and didn’t mind. (In one case it was because I was relocating over 400 miles away, and they were cheering me on; in the other, it was because I worked for an honest-to-god platonic ideal textbook perfect manager and she knew there was no more room for me to advance after four years in her department.) I never expect to have fortune that good again, and currently I have a lot of “private appointments.”

    2. Lexy*

      I’ve had vague appointments/long lunches. When interviewing for my current job I was working Monday-Thursday so I interviewed on Friday.

      I’m not looking now, but everyone says dentist when they interview. So much that it’s a joke. “Ugh, I’m having a bad week, better make a dentist appointment” and such.

    3. Mike C.*

      “Boss, I need some time off from X to Y, here are my plans for making sure everything is covered”.

      1. Cat*

        Sure, but if you work somewhere where the norm is to say why when you say you’re going to be out, your boss is going to figure it out really quickly whether or not she asks.

    4. Miss Displaced*

      I know, I really hate telling a lie to go to an interview, but what is one supposed to do? Believe me, if I could I would schedule them all on ONE day and take a vacation day, but things just don’t work out that way in real life.

      I just try to schedule for 8 am or 9 am and try to minimize. Works pretty well unless you end up going on a LOT of interviews!

    5. -X-*

      I take single and even half-day vacations (not for job interviews recently, but for other stuff) all the time without saying where’s I’m going. Just say “I’ve got things to do” firmly. On email, I often just say I’m taking the day off w/o more details. Or “Iove got some stuff to do”

      I’ve done it a couple times in single week. I don’t think it’s a problem. That’s what vacation is for – to do your own stuff.

      “Oh, I have some personal matters to take care of”

      This is a tip off if you’d don’t normally speak like that. If you use language like that often, it won’t be.

      1. -X-*

        Oh, I’m lucky to have generous vacation time and can take it on short notice. If you didn’t, I understand it’d be harder to be truthful

      2. Cat*

        Yeah, I guess the thing is, at my office, it is not the norm to take vacation time without saying what you’re doing. Which is what it is – you could argue everyone is nosy; generally, I think it’s collegial – but taking time off without specifying a reason would instantly have everyone gossiping about you going to a job interview.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Then you need to start being more like X now, and not telling about every dentist appt, funeral, and trip to the beach. After awhile, perhaps, people will quit asking you, or at least not be surprised when, again, you don’t give them any details.

          1. Cat*

            So in order to avoid a white lie that will hurt nobody later I have to hurt my relationship with my co-workers by fighting a losing battle against office culture now? I guess my morality just doesn’t require that.

          2. Jen in RO*

            I think this is a pretty ridiculous approach. I don’t go to work *to* make friends, but I *have* work friends who make my days better and I would never stop sharing personal things. My “dentist’s appointment” won’t hurt anyone.

    6. Dan*

      Well, at my company, I just say “I’m taking Monday off.” In the case of an out of town interview, “I’m taking Monday and Tuesday off.” No lies needed.

    7. jesicka309*

      “Is it alright if I leave an hour early on Thursday? I have an appointment I can’t reschedule.”

      No lies, and be prepared to stare them down if they ask you what it is. “It’s personal”.

      If they insist on knowing, that’s where you break out the white lie. “I have a prostate exam.” “I have to get an ultrasound on my ovaries.” “I’m seeing the gyno.” “I’m getting a difficult to remove wart taken care of.”

      They’ll never ask you for a follow up (how’d the dentist go? Tooth get pulled?) and too bad if they’re uncomfortable. It’s their own fault for prying into a personal appointment. I’ve never had it go beyond the stare down, but one day I want to use one of my gross medical excuses just to see my manager’s face.

      1. Cat*

        I’m more talking about situations where the issue isn’t that you couldn’t take time off without offering an explanation; the issue is that if you did so, everyone would immediately think that either you (a) had a job interview; or (b) had some hideously embarrassing personal problem. Which might be fine; I just don’t think lying at the outset (“Dentist appointment!” or whatever) is really a terrible thing in those situations.

  15. OP*

    A large part of writing to Alison on this topic was venting; so it’s great to hear the hiring managers’ perspective and other jobhunters’ as well.
    Thanks for all the advice and opinions!

  16. Anonymous*

    I’ve been coordinating and conducting interviews for almost 15 years (I’m a Recruiting Manager), and I personally believe it’s short sighted for an employer to not understand and respect the needs of an employed candidate.

    Part of my practice has always been to interview the candidates first myself, and only schedule the Hiring Manager if they pass my interview. Once I’ve interviewed the candidate and I think they’re good, I’ll just tell the HM, “Look, you really need to talk to this person. S/he is currently employed, and is only available to come in at 7am (or at 6pm). But I think it’ll be worth your time; can you make it work?”.

    9 times out of 10 we make it work. However, I only do this if I truly believe they should meet the candidate. I would never ask this of a HM if I hadn’t vetted the candidate first.

    Also, my company has implemented video interviewing, which makes flexible scheduling a lot easier.

  17. marty*

    “…but if you REALLY want the job badly, it may just be a good idea to come down with a toothache and make that emergency dentist appointment.”

    And so, if I do lie to my current employer and you end up hiring me – you’re OK with me lying to you, right?

    1. Rose*

      The dentist comment was a JOKE. The original poster had mentioned a dentist appointment so that is why I said it… geez. Honestly, I dont give a crap what people use their personal time off for. That is their business and they can tell me or not tell me whatever they please.

    2. Jen in RO*

      If I were a hiring manager, I would definitely expect my employees to lie to me if they were interviewing – and it’s a little white lie that doesn’t hurt anyone, so I don’t understand why everyone is getting so worked up about this. I don’t know if it’s cultural or something, but “I have an appointment” with no specifics would ring the interview alarm bells in every environment I’ve been in.

  18. Teo*

    I got an interview email at 2am from Chipotle 8,5 notice for my interview that would be help the same morning as a received that email I did not go just because of how rude that was. Even if I’m a college student I should get more then 8,5 hours notice.

  19. Christie*

    I wonder if it’s reasonable to give someone notice at 4pm to be at an employer’s place at 8:45 am the next day, to interview with five people for 45 minutes each, with a mere 15-minute break scheduled about 3 hours in–and this is NOT for a managerial level job let alone an executive position? And mind you, this was 4 days after a phone interview, without any word at all or asking if I could make myself available for 5 hours out of a work day.

    1. Christie*

      Update: I did not get an offer for that job. But it was clear that by the THIRD round of in-person interviews, that they’d already decided on someone else. They could have just been honest at round two, and left it there. As it was, I had to make up excuses multiple times.

  20. Me*

    I’m in this situation. I’ve been asked to go to an interview with online bookable slots. I work part time over the middle of the day and of course, the only slots available are during my working hours (all 4 of them).
    So I now have to phone up to see if I have to take what’s online or if I can schedule one for a different time, or come up with an excuse to leave work/not be in since I have no holiday left.
    Calling in sick isn’t wise for me since I’ve had genuine sick days and it may look bad calling in sick every interview. I can’t see appointments sitting well with my employer because of my short working hours – She would expect me to be able to schedule around 4 hours a day.

  21. Christie*

    I had another instance where I had applied for a staff position in design at a small college in Central New York. They would not do a screening interview, but insisted I fly up from the DC area, at my own expense (they would offer a small amount for a hotel room for one night), and ALSO, every candidate was given a seriously involved project to complete that involved designing a web page, including scripting and programming, and a magazine spread, none of which could be put in your portfolio. After 10+ years in the field with an extensive portfolio, I am beyond spec work, and it was clear the hiring managers had no clue how to assess and hire designers.

    1. Scott*

      Wow Christie. That’s insane. I have a long background in the design field as well and am astonished at the amount of “sample work” or “tests” companies want designers to do. The recession and decline of print work (direct mail, newspapers, phone books, magazine, etc.) has demolished a once great industry. For a person w/ absolutely no experience fresh out of school needing to prove themselves…sure, I get that. But if you have a portfolio, what the heck!

      The last time a possible employer asked me this, I replied back with this, via email:

      “At this point in my career, I don’t do tests. This is nothing personal, but that is why I brought my portfolio to the interview last week. It’s along the lines of asking an experienced accountant to do a sample bookkeeping task, a doctor to do a sample surgery or a mechanic to do a sample car repair.

      If you’d like to move forward, I’m interested in hearing what you’re offering in terms of pay, benefits, vacation, etc. and what the start date would be.”

      Obviously I never heard back from this guy, but it felt good getting that off my chest. Absolutely insulting.

      1. Christie*

        That’s basically what I told them. Sorry, not playing that game.

        I recently interviewed for a different job, different company, and they had me in twice, each time for 2-4 hours of interviews with multiple people, and it became clear when they told me they’d made their decision that the second round was a waste of my time, they already knew I was out of the picture. So rude. They first tried to schedule all the interviews at once, over 5 hours, with a 25-minute break, with less than 48 hours notice, and I said, uh, no. I’ll meet 3 folks, and if there is still mutual interest, follow up with more.

  22. Scott*

    This multiple interviews for a job nonsense is driving me insane.

    Before the recession, you get an interview, you talk w/ the hiring manager and/or the manager of the dept. you’d be in, it’d take an hour or two and you’d be on your way. I had a couple instances when a job was offered that same day.


    Suddenly HR and every mid-level manager wants to be an utter d%#k to candidates and make them jump through all sorts of hoops, for some sick power trip reasoning or p#%!$ compensation nonsense.

    The worst for me post-recession-start was the 4 in-person interviews across 4 separate days I did for a large hospital that would have been a great job w/ a lot of security (it’s a hospital!). After 4 interviews they didn’t even have the decency to let me know they were no longer interested. After that, no matter the job – whether it’s for a grocery store bag boy or President of the United States position, I vowed to never do that many interviews again. You get a max of TWO in-person from me now, and a few phone interviews at the most. Beyond that, if you don’t give me an official answer and offer letter within 7-14 days of the interviews starting, screw you company.

    In fact, if a company tells me during the interview, “Well, there will be another interview if we consider…” I immediately start the disqualification-of-them-as-a-potential-employer process in my head. They don’t know this, but they just made a very interested candidate start actively looking once again for something better.

    Screw companies since 2007. Right up the @$$.

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