how do you get time off work to go to interviews without lying?

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my company for about two and a half years (just over a year in my current position), and while I’m not unhappy, I’m starting to put out feelers to see what else is out there. The response so far has been great, and several awesome companies have been asking me to come in and interview!

This is where the problem comes in: how do I unsketchily get away from my office for an hour+?

I work in very close quarters with my team, so we all are hyperaware of each other’s comings and goings. In general, I eat lunch at my desk, so suddenly taking several long, unexplained breaks would definitely stand out. And my boss requires a week’s notice to take vacation days (her policy, not my company’s), which is usually longer out than I can schedule an interview.

So far I’ve faked doctor’s appointments and took a sick day where I scheduled several meetings, but I know these methods aren’t sustainable for long, and I definitely don’t want to take a job just because the interview time was convenient. I also don’t want to tip off my company since I’m not even sure yet that I want to leave. Any suggestions?

Yep, this is tricky, particularly when your current employer keeps a tight hold on your use of vacation time.

Ideally, you’d be able to say that you have “an appointment” or need to take care of some personal business, but if that doesn’t fly in your office — either because of they don’t accept vagueness or require more notice than you can give, then you don’t really have any options other than a vague-as-possible reference to whatever reason they DO find acceptable. In some offices like the one you describe, you could say “a time-sensitive appointment,” but if your won’t accept that, then yeah, you’re looking at having to cite a doctor or dentist appointment.

Shady? Sure, I suppose; I mean, obviously, it’s always better to tell the truth. But if you’re in a situation where your employer is making that impossible for you, then this is what you have to do. It’s akin to a white lie, and you’re being pushed into it by their policies.

That said, it’s always worth asking if interviews can be scheduled for early in the morning or late in the afternoon (or even early evening). Some employers won’t be able or willing to accommodate that, but many will — and when they will, that can make it easier and less noticeable to take the time away from your current job.

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. AJ-in-Memphis

    Or longer lunches too… e.g., a lunch meeting, breakfast meeting or “whatever” meeting… It’s shady because you don’t want them to know and you need to be shady to maintain the status quo in the workplace..

  2. MW

    An option that I have used — find or make an “acceptable” reason to be out. For example, if the interview is scheduled for the afternoon, make a dentist appointment or something else, if possible. It’s hard to do on short notice, though.

  3. AdamR

    I’m glad someone asked this as I’d been wondering about it myself. I’m fortunate in that asking for time off here and there usually doesn’t require much red tape and my company even gives us two days worth of time every year to use for “personal time” whatever that may be.

    My trick was always whether I’d be willing to lie about why I actually want the time. Flat out saying I’d have a job interview probably wouldn’t go over too well, but having to come up with a multitude of “doctor visits” might make me feel skittish after a while.

    1. Jazzy Red

      If you have a fungal infection, it could take many MANY visits to the doctor over several months to get rid of it. Or, as Cousin Eddie put it, “he’s got a lip fungus they ain’t identified yet”.

    2. JNYC

      I’ve been lucky, too. If I need time off, my manager doesn’t ask questions. Usually I’m not shy about telling her what the time off is for, but – as others have mentioned – that can backfire later when you need time off for an interview or something else you don’t want to share. I just started couples counseling, and I didn’t want to get into details with my boss, so I said it was nothing serious but I needed to have a couple of hours off in the middle of the day every Wednesday for an appointment. I was more worried about hurting her feelings by keeping it private, but she probably didn’t give it a second thought.

  4. Yup

    My approach would be to first ask the interviewer if they can do an interview outside of work hours because ‘my current employer doesn’t approve any time off with less than a week’s notice.’ I have had awesome interviewers who were willing to let me come in at 7 am or 6 pm, or to schedule an interview far in advance. (Which also spoke extra well of them as interviewers, being flexible and understanding.)

    Otherwise, I’d ask for interviews really late in the workday like 4 pm or so. Then, at Current Job, I’d ask my boss if I could leave at 3 pm for “an appointment” and make up the time by coming in early that day or staying late another day, etc. For the nosy parkers who aren’t satisfied with “appointment” I’ve said, “I have some important things I need to take care of. It’s shouldn’t take long, but I need to be there before 5 pm and it’s too far to drive during lunch.”

  5. [anon]

    Start developing a habit of taking lunch away from your desk at least once every couple of weeks, or even at least once a week if you can swing it. That will give you legit cover for lunch-time-ish interviews down the line. Giving yourself a little more wiggle room and flexibility now, and causing less “need” for co-worker nosiness down the line, can really pay off.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      And occasionally dress better than usual just because, unless your dress is already interview quality. Dress nicely and eat at your desk, go out to lunch sometimes, mix it up so that when you do need to interview, there is nothing abnormal.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        And when you do have medical appointments, quit oversharing! Don’t say “I have a dentist appointment,” or “it’s time for my routine eye exam,” just say “I have an appointment.”

        1. Jamie

          Both the warnings about dressing and over sharing are so excellent – it will really prevent sending red flags.

          I have never understood the lunch interview though – or why the OP was talking about an hour +. I don’t think I’ve had one interview that was under 2 hours – and adding in travel time…I’d never feel safe burning less than half a day for one.

          I would be so anxious sitting there in an interview hoping they wrapped it up quickly enough for me to get back to work after lunch.

          1. Bea W

            I’ve only been able to get away with doing phone screens on my lunch break. Those usually last 30 min, but in-person interviews in my industry are typically a 1/2 work day or 4 hours long. That would be a really long lunch!

        2. KellyK

          Ooh, good point. I generally figure that if you have an appointment, it’s no one else’s concern whether it’s an appointment with your dentist, your GYN, your hairdresser, your veterinarian, your psychiatrist, or your psychic friend. (The exception to that being if you want to use sick time or some other “conditional” PTO, or your boss needs to juggle multiple leave requests and try to ascertain who really “needs” the time.)

          1. Jamie

            This would be an excellent alternative game to Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.

            Dentist beats everything > Vet beats Gyn > Psychiatrist beats Hairdresser (unless you have emergency color repair which beats everything) > and everything beats Psychic Friend.

            Needs work – but this has potential.

            1. NutellaNutterson

              If you’re female, your office has an expectation of over-sharing, AND a tight rein on your time, then a “UTI” is about the only way to get free with short notice.

                1. Jamie

                  Do they? I’ve never known a man who suffered from that. I’m sure it can happen, but I think it’s a lot more rare.

                  UTIs create a sick and bizarre sisterhood in women who know the hell that they bring. The most vile, horrible co-worker in the world could have a UTI and I’m offering to cover for her and refilling her water until she can get to the doc.

                2. Chinook

                  I think UTI’s are not as common in men because their equipment is outside the body and can be aired out more efficiently.

                  On the flip side, kidney stones are (marginally) more painful as they make the final pass. (DH and I could actually compare notes due to having them within months of each other).

            2. Jazzy Red

              NOTHING beats a psychic friend, as long as your friend really is psychic (don’t get on the plane! kind of thing).

              1. Chinook

                Hey, my psychic friend knows ahead of time if I will be available and plans accordingly! And she texts her adivce (for free)!

        3. Katie the Fed

          Sometimes your air conditioning breaks too and you need to get it fixed that day. The roof too. The car. The world is an unpredictable place.

        1. Kelly L.

          Mine too–and it’s usually true. It’s a pretty good bet that if I’m in a dress, all my pants are in the laundry.

        2. Elizabeth

          I’ve used that before, too. And I even wear dresses & skirts on a regular basis. This came up recently with a colleague. I wear them because I can. I used to have to crawl under desks on a regular basis. Since I don’t any more, I like wearing nicer clothes.

      2. Amanda H

        Ha, I once dressed nicely on the same day that I didn’t realize I’d forgotten my laptop until I pulled into the parking lot (still not quite interview-nice; I was wearing dark denim jeans plus a nice blouse). I still made it inside the office by 8:20, but did get an “Are you okay?” comment from boss plus “and you dressed up today.”

        I’m currently being loaned out to another department and we had a meeting later on. I do tend to dress more nicely for meetings, but I’m sure I still got my boss to wondering if there was a place that offered me, say, a 6:30 interview slot.

        1. Jamie

          I get it almost every time I wear shoes that aren’t sneakers. Not so much about anything else, but for me it’s the shoes.

          1. JNYC

            I used to get that when I wore a skirt or dress of any kind. It really used to piss me off because my pants suits were much nicer, but no one paid any attention to the details of what I was wearing – just… I guess it was whether you could see my legs or not.

            1. Chinook

              I still remember the day my IT firm was moving locations and one of the guys pointed to me and said to the others “see, I told you she owned jeans.”

      3. AB

        Re: dressing up from time to time. I’ve always done that in all my jobs, randomly going to work wearing a nice blouse with a pantsuit (in my line of work most people dress very casually — I tend wear more formal clothes than my colleagues, but typically not a suit).

        If you start doing it from the day you are hired, people get used to you being dressed up on random days, and when it is in fact because you are going for an interview, you won’t attract any unwanted attention.

      4. HAnon

        +1

        Also, to avoid looking like you’re obviously wearing a suit but still be dressed for the interview, leave your suit jacket and heels in the car and wear a cardigan into work with your suit pants.You can throw on the jacket when you get in the car on the way to the interview :)

      5. Jessa

        OH yes, the dressing occasionally. Or you’ll get caught out instantly. If you never wear anything nice at work, and you have no way to change before your interview, no excuse will work at all.

    2. Lindsay

      Definitely start taking more lunches out of the office, just to be less predictable. Also, it’s good for you to get away from your desk during lunch and recharge for the afternoon.

  6. CK

    When I was going through this, a lot of interviewers were considerate/flexible enough to schedule far enough in advance (a few days to a week where necessary) that it wasn’t an issue booking time off. No harm in asking…

    1. AB

      Yes — last time I was interviewing, it was very easy to schedule it to 1 week or more ahead of time. Don’t assume it’s not possible even if they ask whether you can come the next day.

  7. Lily in NYC

    I am in the middle of a dental surgery nightmare, and I have had 4 appointments so far and will have about 5 more. I would just create a need for “minor dental surgery” – no one will blink twice at multiple appointments.

    1. Sweetpea

      This is what I did, but since I wasn’t having any dental issues I said I had to take and pick up my mother from her dental surgeries. My mother lives in the same town as me, so this excuse works well.

      1. Sweetpea

        I also changed my clothes in the (clean) bathroom of a fast food restaurant that was in between my current office and the place I was going for the interview.

        1. FormerManager

          I did that too…..I always made a point of occasionally wearing my black interview pants with a casual top. On interview day, I would carry my shell, dress shoes, and jacket in a tote and change near the interview site. I called it “making like superman.”

        2. Tony in HR

          I would always scope out the area I’m interviewing in and change in a truck stop bathroom (usually clean and spacious) or find a mostly abandoned parking lot that I could pull far away from traffic and change my pants and shoes.

        3. Natalie

          I was pretty proud of my changing plan last time I had an interview – I work in a business casual office and I don’t drive to work, so taking my suit in the car wasn’t an option. So I dropped it off at a dry cleaners to have it pressed and picked it up between work and the interview. Changed in a public restroom and rolled my original pants and shirt up and tucked them into my bag.

          1. LeeD

            If the dry cleaner also does tailoring/alterations, I bet they would let you change in their dressing room.

    2. Kristen44

      Oh, Lily, 9 dental appointments to handle a dental situation? I feel so bad for you! You have my sympathies. :o(

      I’ve also had to leave work to handle pet appointments that couldn’t wait until the weekend. (So maybe get a cat if you don’t have one already? JK!) My husband has taken a couple hours here and there to deal with house stuff/handymen.

    3. Jamie

      My heart goes out to you – on going dental stuff is brutal! Hope it goes well for you – and painless.

      I just went through it myself earlier this year and I swear I almost did a cartwheel out on my last appointment.

    4. Collarbone High

      I was going to suggest this too, for the same reasons. Dental surgery is ideal because:

      * It legitimately requires multiple visits.
      * It can easily take half a day or longer (I had a 6-hour root canal last week), buying you lots of time.
      * You can invent reasons for more “visits” (temp crown fell off, tooth got infected, etc.)
      * People would rather not hear about it, so even the nosiest colleagues are unlikely to press you for details.

      So sorry to hear about your nightmare, Lily!

  8. Beth

    A skirt, with a solid color blouse and flats, can become an excellent interview outfit by adding pumps and a jacket in the car. For men dress slacks and an open collar shirt can become an interview outfit with a tie and jacket. No need to do a “change” anywhere, just leave the items in your car and put them on before entering the interview building. Also, I’ve interviewed folks who came in and said “My work place is very casual, I tried to dress a happy medium between work and interview attire. I hope this is sufficient for the interview.” How can I say “no” when I’m told they put thought into it?

  9. Brton3

    This may sound immature of me, but if they treat you like a child and expect you to explain yourself in detail every time you need to be out of the office for a brief period, you are under no obligation to tell them the truth.

    1. Jamie

      I actually don’t consider that immature.

      If you ask where I’m going and I say “dentist” it might not be because I’m a pathological liar but merely because I don’t want to discuss my gynecological issues with you.

      We’re all adults – and sure I’ve told people specifics when I’ve wanted to – but “appointment” or “something personal I need to take care of” should be all that’s needed.

      1. KellyK

        Yep, I don’t think it’s immature either. I think that unless the medical issue (or whatever it is) is affecting work, it’s nobody else’s business. (And even when it does affect work, there’s still a limit to how much detail anyone needs.)

        We have a whiteboard in the office with everybody’s name on it, and if you’re out during the day, you move your little magnet an write a reason. If I have to leave during the day, it’s pretty much always just “appointment.” I try to avoid oversharing at work about medical stuff. Sometimes it’s just more information than anybody needs (which doesn’t stop some people from asking).

        I did tell my boss when I had a miscarriage (early enough that nobody knew I was pregnant), because I had to go in for blood work 2 or 3 days in a row, on short notice, so it was fairly obvious that something was wrong, she was concerned, and I didn’t want her to worry.

        And I will probably let her know that I have an EMG coming up (right now it’s on her calendar just as “dr appt,”) because I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to do my job after I get the nerves in my arm zapped repeatedly, so I might end up taking more time than just the hour or so I need for the appointment.

        1. Jamie

          There is nothing wrong with sharing if you’re so inclined.

          One of my bosses knows more about my current medical issue than anyone outside of my doctor and husband. She’s been tremendously supportive and she’s so knowledgeable about what I’m going through it’s made it so much easier.

          With everyone else it’s much more general – here’s my schedule, some days are better than others but I’m fine – etc.

          In my case I wasn’t afraid there would be concern about my slacking…I was, however, very nervous that if I was vague there would be assumptions made which are far worse than what it actually is – and they are kind people who care about me and I didn’t mind being open about it.

          That said, I’m quite contrary so if I had been forced to give a reason I needed to take my time on the books for appointments, I’d have given the bare minimum required by FMLA forms.

          My rule of thumb is there is nothing wrong with sharing if you don’t mind telling and they actually want to know – and they don’t feel entitled to the information and do accept “appointment” as an answer when given without prying.

          1. KellyK

            I like your rule of thumb. Nothing wrong with sharing, but it shouldn’t be expected.

            And I do like the idea of sharing if you’re afraid people will worry that it’s something worse than it really is.

        2. JNYC

          I had that on both arms, and I took a friend with me because I thought it would be very painful. But it actually wasn’t too bad. The doctor was very nice, and talking to her and my friend during the process probably took my mind off it. It also turns out that I didn’t have nerve damage, and I don’t know if it hurts more or less if you do have nerve damage.

          1. KellyK

            Thanks! I just had it today and it was not nearly as bad as I had expected. The needles were tiny (think acupuncture rather than blood draw or injection), and the shocks were weird, startling, and unpleasant, but not exactly painful, and over very quickly.

            And, even better news, normal test–no carpal tunnel surgery needed!

    2. Liz in a library

      Nope, I totally agree with this. Obviously there are exceptions, but generally I don’t think it’s my employer’s business what I do with my time off as long as I’m reasonable about taking it.

    3. Tony in HR

      I never felt bad lying about interviews to my last job. I was searching because they were forcing me to do things that were unethical, immoral, and in some cases illegal. A little white lie to get my butt out of there? Not a bad thing when they’re breaking wage laws in at least five states.

      1. Cara Carroll

        I am with Tony. Lying because you really have no other choice is something you shouldn’t feel bad about. I am currently in the same situation, my values do not align with the company’s. I tried for a very long time to not disrupt my workday with interviews. Then realized if I was to ever get considered for opportunities I had to start thinking about “me” for once and not my employer. Good luck OP!

  10. Anonymous

    How about some sort of dental “procedure” that requires multiple appointments? Good reason to be out but won’t make people worry about your health, as apposed to multiple doctor appointments.

  11. Cody C

    I know it is probably bad karma but I have used the funeral excuse a few times it covers the time window and the dressing nice all in one reason. If that’s to morbid go the other way everyone loves a wedding!

    1. JoAnna

      This may not work if the OP’s work requires him/her to bring in a program from the funeral as proof that s/he was there. I’ve had jobs require that before, if your “excuse” for missing work with only a day or two of notice was a funeral.

        1. Chinook

          A funeral program is a handout on the deceased giving details about them and usually contains a photo. Catholics often call them prayer cards (I like when they are small enough to use as a bookmark in a missal or bible). They are essentially souvenirs from the funeral.

    2. KellyK

      I’d stay away from that only because it tends to lead to more questions. (And because I would feel guilty being the recipient of misplaced sympathy.)

      1. tesyaa

        Friend’s father’s funeral is not a cause for major sympathy, but it’s an understandable excuse. You can’t get away with this more than once, though.

        I’m not in favor of lying, but come on, an interview, what’s the choice really?

        1. annie

          Yep, when dressing up (in a very casual environment), I have said I have to go to a wake after work when quizzed.

      2. PJ

        And you do have to remember who died when, so you don’t end up attending your grandfather’s funeral 3 times!

        1. Natalie

          That could actually be plausible for me – due to having a blended family I have 10 grandparents, 7 of whom are still living.

          1. Chinook

            No offense, but if I was a manager and an employee had to attend more than 4 grandparent funerals in one year, I would want an explanation to make sure you weren’t pulling a “Klinger.” But, once you started explaining that it was your step-dad’s step-father, then I would waive you off and understand that your family tree is complicated.

          2. Anonymous

            Reading old threads, but I just had to necrocomment that my husband has 10 grandparents and I have right, so I feel you there!

  12. CathVWXYNot?

    I went through a very similar situation while applying for my last job a few years ago. The problem was compounded by the fact that the interview process involved meeting with multiple people, many of whom were very difficult to schedule. I’d get a phone call mid-morning saying “so and so is free today at 2pm, can you come in for half an hour?” This went on for a few weeks… luckily, the two buildings are only a short walk apart, but it was very awkward to keep dashing out of the office (grabbing my suit jacket from my locker downstairs as I went) at short notice.

    (Yes, this was a red flag about the job, but I took it anyway and have no regrets, as the job I was trying to leave was a much worse fit for me).

    One thing that really helped was that I confided in one colleague at the same level as me, who agreed to run interference for me when I had a “doctor’s appointment” at short notice (hey, it was an appointment, with a doctor! Sometimes even an actual physician rather than a PhD! And they were all “specialists who are really hard to schedule unless they have a cancellation!”). I’d let my manager know about these sudden appointments myself, and would then let my friend know. She’d cover for me, in a very matter-of-fact way that deterred too many questions, when anyone else asked where I was. This definitely made my absences much less disruptive and noticeable.

    The only thing I feel bad about is that some of my colleagues were apparently genuinely concerned for my health… they were relieved when I resigned to take the new job and admitted what had been happening, because they thought I was really sick.

    1. JNYC

      It was fortunate that they were understanding. I don’t think I would tell anyone my “get out of the office for interview” tricks because colleagues might feel like they had to pick up some slack while I was out of the office. Plus, it just feels like rubbing their faces in the fact that I “fooled” them. Not saying everyone would feel this way – just saying how I feel about it.

      1. Jen in RO

        My team lead knew when I was interviewing – we’re pretty close and she was also unhappy about the company for the same reasons as me. She didn’t really have to cover for me (our boss is remote and I tried to schedule the interviews really early/late so he wouldn’t be able to notice I’m away for an hour), but it really helped having someone to reassure the other coworkers that yes, she knew I’m away and there’s no problem. (I was also lucky enough to be able to schedule interviews before/after other appointments – fixing my car, having to be home for a delivery.)

        I have absolutely zero issues about lying, though. I had an “OB-GYN appointment” on the day of my last interview for the job I’m starting in a month and I don’t feel guilty at all.

      2. CathVWXYNot?

        No-one had to pick up any slack for me – we all had our own distinct projects, and I continued to get all my work done while interviewing by coming in early / staying late on days I had to nip out for half an hour. And I didn’t worry about rubbing anyone’s faces in anything – there were a LOT of unhappy people in that office who understood the way the company handled people who were found to be job hunting, and they’d always been happy in the past for other people who’d “escaped”. Many of us are still friends and still see each other socially – and, two jobs later, I’m now working in the same team as two of them!

        You gotta know your audience!

  13. Tony in HR

    I occasionally blamed church or volunteer comittments. If anyone knows you’re active in those extracurriculars, they won’t question that you’re needed for something every once in a while.

    If you have kids, childrens’ appointments of ANY sort are golden. I find that no one desires to pry when I say “I’ve got an appointment for Tony Jr.”

    And then there’s the superhero method. Just mention that you’re needed at Avengers Mansion, and your coworkers will wonder which one of the Avengers you are.

    I’m Hulk. Always Hulk.

      1. Tony in HR

        My first ID badge at this job listed me as an HR Superhero. It keeps me sane.

        Plus, I have rage issues. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. ;-)

    1. Cody C

      Excuses I have used
      Attorney
      Admissions counselor
      Podiatrist
      Realtor
      Plumber
      Oh I am Thor thank you very much gotta run an errand to Asgard

      1. Jamie

        Water heaters have a reputation for crapping out at the most inconvenient times – I believe they are the appliance saboteurs of savings accounts every where.

        And there is no guilt in blaming something on your water heater.

        1. CEM

          I once had my fish tank spring a leak in the middle of the night. I was late to work, because I had to transfer my fish into a bucket of water with a bubbler, drain the rest of the tank, and supervise the Salamander I used to dry the carpet. That really happened to me, but feel free to use it. No one will question that one!

          1. Jamie

            This makes me wish I was looking and had to lie to my company – neither of which is true…only because I now desperately want to call in due to needing to stay home and supervise a salamander.

            If you meant some carpet drying machine I’ve not heard of, I don’t care, I’m totally picturing me having a meeting with a lizard wearing a little beret and kicky boots going over his numbers.

            1. PJ

              Honestly, Jamie, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Everybody knows salamanders wear cowboy hats.

              1. Jamie

                You know how people say they just spit something out because they were laughing so hard and unexpectedly?

                I always assumed it’s usually hyperbole – you know to make a point.

                Although since I’m currently swabbing Mountain Dew out of my keyboard, I now know it can be real.

                Seriously, this stuff is sticky.

                1. JNYC

                  This reminds me of a question that I’m hoping you (Jamie) can answer. I used to go to an Internet cafe (around 1999-2000), and they used to stick their keyboards in the dishwasher. Can you still do that and have it come out OK? I have an ergonomic keyboard that got wet at work, and it completely died, but I’m talking about a plain old, regular, USB-connected keyboard (and anyway, what is the difference between a plain old keyboard and the curved ergonomic ones?). Do you know, Jamie?

                2. Jamie

                  You can if you disassemble first so you’re only washing the case and not the electronics here is a great wiki on this…

                  http://www.howtogeek.com/65915/how-to-clean-your-filthy-keyboard-in-the-dishwasher-without-ruining-it/

                  And this isn’t my area of expertise, but to my knowledge the only difference between a regular and ergo keyboard is form.

                  I temped for someone with an ergo once and it was a freaking nightmare – I can’t type that way. Day two I brought my own from home.

            2. Chinook

              How do salamanders dry carpets? Do you attach squeegies to their feet and tail and let them run around? Or do they use a wet vac?

              1. ThursdaysGeek

                Plus, salamanders are kind of wet and squishy themselves — I can’t see them getting the carpet completely dry.

    2. Anonymous

      “If you have kids, childrens’ appointments of ANY sort are golden. I find that no one desires to pry when I say “I’ve got an appointment for Tony Jr.”

      I’m guilty of using my kids. I try not to mention the child’s name, since I have 4 (2 of each kind ..lol) it makes it easy for me to be vague. You never know when a kid or the school nurse ends up having to call me at work while I’m out interviewing…

  14. Sneaky

    I had this issue come up several times last year while job searching and it was a nightmare every single time. My office was one where I had to fight just to get time off for surgery, let alone to sneak out for an interview.

    First problem, my office was VERY casual, I was in shorts and flip-flops most days, so suddenly going to a suit would be WAY suspicious. I couldn’t even bring a suit to work to change into because they’d see, and I’d feel like I was in Mrs. Doubtfire during the birthday dinner scene where he/she had to keep changing from man to woman.

    So, to solve this, I had to be creative, and also just lie about it. First, I always tried to schedule interviews in the morning, so I could go first thing and not worry that I’d go to the office and not be able to sneak away. This also allowed me to make it to work afterwards and work later to make up for the lost time.

    For my alibi, I blamed dog issues. I regularly dog sat for a friend whose dog had regular seizures. So, if I had an interview in the morning I’d just send my boss an email telling him that dog had a seizure and I had to take it to the vet to be checked out but would be in as soon as possible. I hated using the dog for an excuse, but that’s just the way things work out sometimes…

    So yes, it’s a sucky situation, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And if your job is that difficult to sneak out of occassionally, then maybe it’s a sign that you are right for wanting to switch jobs…

    1. Jamie

      I don’t know – a particularly brutal root canal can make you want to yank them all and move to a far away land where you can live without teeth and subsist on nothing but smoothies and marshmallow peeps.

  15. Mary

    I joked around to the head of HR at a previous company when asked why I wore a suit that day and laughingly said “Job interview!” She took the bait and laughed.

    Two weeks later when I resigned to take my new job she said “Well at least you told the truth.”

    The words just came out when she asked; it probably wouldn’t have worked if I had planned it that way.

    1. JNYC

      I was waiting for the elevator to go to “lunch with a friend” (interview) when a colleague once yelled across the lobby, “are you going for a job interview?!” She was trying to be funny, but she nearly gave me a freaking heart attack.

    2. designer K

      My sister used to use what I like to call “the boy who cried wolf” method. She dressed up every once in a while, and when someone in her casual office commented she would say “it’s for an interview”. Everyone laughed, and since she worked the whole day no one ever really thought she was interviewing. So a few years later, when she actually was interviewing no one thought anything of it.

  16. Felicia

    Sometimes you can’t get time off for interviews without lying, but like you’d do for a real dentist / doctor appointment it’s best to make sure you miss minimal amounts of work scheduling it early or late in the day. Generally most places generally don’t ask follow up questions when you say doctor, but if you go to the “doctor” too much your colleagues might assume something is seriously wrong with you (this happened to a friend). I never understood how people say they use a normal lunch break for an interview – though I did this once when the place I was interviewing was in the same building one floor down, which hardly ever happens.

    1. Tony in HR

      This is funny, because at my last job, my IBS flared to the point that I could have used appointments with a GI specialist as an excuse for interviews (which I guess could have been the truth- it was a specialist in reducing my stress from my current job, which would decrease the flare-ups). I didn’t though, because the company was unethical enough that they would have check on insurance claims from me to see if it were for real the moment they suspected something.

        1. Tony in HR

          They were self-insured. They got reports monthly for what they paid for.

          The legality of that always made me feel squicky.

  17. HAnon

    I had a boss one time who was out of the office on a business trip and I took an hour in the afternoon (I think between 2-3) to go to a doctor’s appointment (a real one). I worked through lunch to make up for the time. Somehow she found out that I was out for an hour and texted me from a cab to say “You can’t take appointments during the day! your time is mine when you’re working at ___ Company!” I’m not exaggerating, that’s what she actually said. That was when I started looking for another job :p

    1. Not So NewReader

      “No dying on the job allowed around here! Death is not an excuse to not be working!”

  18. Me

    I went to an interview Monday. I made it for first thing in the morning and afterwards I went home to change out of interview clothes and into work clothes. Then went into work a couple hours late. I used the dentist excuse and I will make up the time this week. But what happens now if I really need to go to the dentist? Might start looking suspicious.

    1. Ruffingit

      I don’t think it looks so suspicious. About a year ago, I had several dental appointments in a row to fix things that could not be done all at once. Totally believable that someone would have that kind of thing so I think you can use the excuse.

  19. Miss Displaced

    I run into this all the time too! It’s never easy and I dislike lying, but what can you do? You’ll never find another job if you don’t take the time off to interview.

    That being said, yes do what you’ve been doing… doctor, dentist, take a vacation day and try to schedule interviews that day, and schedule things as early in the morning as possible. It’s hard to do though and I feel your pain.

  20. Not So NewReader

    I have done the household emergency thing, the sick animal thing… and the SO’s car broke down about an hour away from home. That last one covered A LOT of time.

    I found that lying like that really puts knots in my stomach. And I am on edge before the interview even starts. And a problem comes in if you have good attendance and suddenly you need a day or part day off every so often.

    So I focus on using time after work. I seem to have some luck with saying “I owe my employer an eight hour day, that is what he is paying me for, eight hours of work.” Some companies actually get this – “Hey if she is treating current employer this way, then she will probably treat me this way.”
    This is my plan A. It saves my stomach some hassle.

    In a pinch, I do have my little list of plausible emergencies that I can draw on. So that becomes my plan B.

  21. Cassie

    One of my coworkers, who normally wears pretty summery dresses, once came to work wearing black on black (black top with black pants). One of my other coworkers commented on how she looked like the Dean of the school, being dressed all formally. It wasn’t exactly corporate wear but it was more muted than normal.

    That, coupled by the fact that she had a “meeting” for 2 hours that afternoon, led me to guess that she had something related to a new job – maybe an interview or a follow-up interview or something. I was right. She gave notice shortly afterwards.

  22. ProcReg

    I had a crime scene of a boss (read: tyrant) several years ago.

    I told her I needed a doctors appointment. The doctor was a PhD in Accounting, for an MBA interview.

  23. soccermom

    Ah yes. This is familiar. I went through a pretty tough time trying to covertly interview while searching for another job. It wasn’t easy. Get a load of this…

    After several years at a job that I grew to hate, I began to quietly search for a new position. Due to the economy and difficulties trying to come up with legit ‘excuses’ for appts, it took me 8 1/2 months to find a new one even with several interviews each month.

    Difficulties:
    1. My job required a phone call to the boss if we were going to be late or out sick. Not an email. Not a text. A phone call.
    2. We were also required to give almost a week’s notice for scheduled doc appts etc. So this did not allow me the ability to accept interview requests for the following day, in two days etc. I had to schedule interviews for at least a week out most of the time.
    3. My office was located in a part of town that was at least 35min-1hr away from most of the firms I interviewed with. (Big city, traffic, distance).
    4. It was extremely difficult for me to interview during business hours due to the strict environment. Add the 30-45min drive to the interview, 1hr interview, then drive back, it was hard to pull off a 2 1/2 hour ‘doc appt’ without raising suspicion.

    So naturally I had to get quite creative with my ‘excuses’ and wardrobe changes. Here’s how I did it – I hope this helps:
    1. I interviewed as early or late in the day as possible. That way, any drive time or interview time that went over could be done before or after hours, cutting down the amt of time spent out of the office and therefore easier to pull off an ‘appt excuse’. Not all places will be this flexible, but that leads me to #2.
    2. I let potential employers know that I was searching discreetly and needed to be flexible when scheduling interviews. All my interviewers completely understood and were willing to work with me as best they could. Most had been in this situation before anyway. It can never hurt to ask!
    3. I did end up using all my ‘doctor appointment’ excuses. (This was a place where a regular ‘appt’ excuse could raise suspicion. Small firm, rumors spread etc). So when my dentist called to schedule an appt, I had to explain my situation & that I had already used them as an excuse so I wouldn’t be able to come that year. That sucked, but fortunately they were so cool that they even offered to write me a fake doctor’s note if I needed! hah! Anyway, I had to start making up excuses – picking up someone from the airport, visiting a friend in hospital, husband’s car broke down etc. (Tread lightly with these and don’t get TOO elaborate).
    4. The boldest move I did was, I am ashamed to say, fake sick in order to go to an interview that was the next day. It was either that or the next MONTH. I had no choice. Having used up all ‘appt’ excuses, I called the boss and faked flu symptoms. He bought it and I got to go on the interview, but I honestly felt kinda bad. (*I would NOT advise doing this unless it is your last resort. If you must use this tactic you better sound 150% convincing, and be sure to avoid places you may run into bosses or co-workers for the rest of the day).
    5. As for wardrobe changes, I could not walk in the office in simple pants and a shirt one day, and a dress and panty hose the next. Again, it would arise suspicion. (Yea, it was that crazy). So I’d wear pieces of the outfit to the office (panty hose under pants), leave the rest in the car, then change in the car after I drove away. I’d throw the pants off, throw a dress and heels on, finish makeup in the car (never while driving!) and boom. Done.

    So yes, unfortunately sometimes you will be required to fib a little when scheduling interviews you do not want your boss to know about. I hope you won’t have it as hard as I did. Good luck!

  24. MzDae

    This is great information if you are interviewing locally, but what should you tell your manager when you have a interview out-of-town? I have used my vacation days (mostly for interviewing) and I dont want to call in sick everytime( we dont have a sick policy here). I need some type of excuse that will not make me look suspicious to not be at work for two days straight.

  25. retailout

    What if you’re currently in a retail environment and switching to a more corporate role and the interview requires travel?

  26. Jenny

    The worst is when your boss asks if everything is okay, and you give them an honest answer, but it’s obvious they don’t even care. They are saying “Good” or “Feel better” before you even finish answering their question. It’s obvious that the subtext is (were you even out for a good reason?)

  27. Fun-&-Games

    Do all you people work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week?!?

    Just schedule interviews on your days off or before or after your normal working hours. No need to lie.

    What exactly are you going to do if the interviewer figures out you lied to get there? If that doesn’t bother them, their blasé attitude about it should bother you…

    1. Erica

      Companies schedule interviews during normal business hours – when their staff are working. They’re not going to ask HR and the hiring manager to come in at 6 am or on a weekend to interview a candidate.

  28. Stacey

    I feel your pain! Currently looking for a job in London (about 2 and a half hours door2door from current job). In the last two weeks I’ve had two telephone interviews and then four face to face interviews. Was lucky to book a friday afternoon and monday morning for two of them, so good excuse of a long weekend, then had to call in sick during the most busiest time of the office (luckily two different interviews on that day). However didn’t get any of those four jobs…so back to square one and trying to figure out how to get time off work again! :(. My office pretty arsey too – can’t book off last week of month and for the other three weeks have to be in when at least two others of same job level are in too! If it’s a job you 100% want (after a telephone interview) then you have to call in sick…

  29. Jasmin

    I thought honesty was the best policy as I work part time in a shop, when I went to tell my manager to say ” sorry I can’t work the shift tommorow can I jiggle it about and work it abit later or another day as I’ve had a really good job interview call for tommorow & they clash” Its what I’ve trained up for and it’s a great starting opportunity ! I was answered back with “sorry but you have to work !! Unless you know someone who will work it “( knowing it’s too late by this point) The interview can’t change time as it’s a group interview .. Any ideas ?

  30. Linda Balir supervisor

    I need help my supervisor denied a day off because she didn’t like the way told her I needed it, instead of asking she is retarded I know..now I need to take a day off and don’t know how to get one other than of course Ask nicely for a dental appointment ..the reason for a job interview is she has become a linda blair to work with

  31. JJ

    I drive a 15 year old car so I’ll try to schedule my interviews in the morning and if I end up late, I’ll cite car troubles as the reason. If they push me to buy a better car, then I’ll use that as leverage for a raise (since they’re the ones who brought it up.)

  32. Jessica

    My employer asks for written proof of an appointment. So it makes any time off difficult and I have to give at least 4 weeks notice of any leave.

  33. Andrew

    Just thought of a good one. You could say you have to wait for a repair man to come to your house. Dishwasher, water heater, washer, dryer or cable guy. Usually these appointments aren’t an exact time but have a range of a few hours giving a good amount of time away from the office.

  34. Lindsey

    What if you can’t say you have a doctor’s appomiment because your work asks for a doctors note? And you can’t just say it’s a time sensitive appomiment Because they won’t accept that as a reason. My work they have to know every detail of why you need the time off or they won’t give it to you!

  35. Lindsey

    Plus my work wants two weeks notice if I am going to take time off! I have had interviews before and just called in for the day or for the morning but that doesn’t look good for me either. Plus if it’s for the morning they drill me about where I was when I get in!.

    1. Lele

      It’s such a tough one. I also work in an environment where leave must be scheduled at least a week beforehand. Anyway my story: my sister passed away about a week ago, and even then it was such a mission asking to get the week off to deal with funeral and memorial service arrangements, yet they only gave me 3 days off. During that week I was also meant to have an interview with another company, which I asked to be rescheduled. They did reschedule, however in my grief and stress I completely forgot to notify my work that I’d also be away for that following Tuesday, so here I am on Sunday evening wondering how the hell I’m going to find a good enough excuse to get off work. I honestly don’t have the energy to lie, but seems like I’ll have to use the grief excuse and use their guilt against them.

  36. Josh

    What a sad world we live in where the employer is the “master”. They get to change my work hours, job duties and pretty much whatever they want with little recourse from the corporate “little people”. Especially true if you are a salaried employer. Company holds all the cards, you don’t.

    Personally, I really don’t care if my employer finds out that I am looking. After all, maybe for once they should be concerned with why I am looking. Oh, you mean all those extra hours during the week and on weekends I’m suppose to work actually bothers me? Or that pay cut or sudden change in job description? Who knew.

    For me, I really don’t care how many lies I need to tell. I lost count of the lies I was told before I accepted my job and after. I will take time off early or late in the day and cite a “personal appointment” along with using my vacation days where needed.

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