how do you hide your job hunt when you’re working full-time?

A reader writes:

Can you tell me how to interview for new jobs while I’m still employed? I’ve been in my first professional job for three years since graduating from college and am beginning to think about looking for another job and moving on … except that I can’t figure out how to interview without tipping off my boss that’s I’m planning to leave.

How do people interview when they’re still employed, without it being obvious to their current company that they’re working on leaving? I don’t think my employer would fire me if they found out I was interviewing, but it would definitely be an awkward conversation and I would worry about not getting the same opportunities for whatever time I will remain here. I’m also worried that my manager would push me to give her a date that I’ll be leaving so that she can line up my replacement, when obviously I don’t want her doing that until I’ve actually accepted a new job!

So how do you discreetly go on interviews when you have a full-time job? We do have some flexibility in our hours. Is it okay for me to flex my hours in order to fit in an interview or is that breaking some sort of etiquette rule or my commitment to my current employer? If I can’t do that, I do have a decent amount of vacation time saved up but I would hate to use it all up on interviewing. Or would the jobs I’m applying to be willing to interview me outside of business hours? Is that a thing I can ask for?

I’m also concerned about my clothes giving me away. My office is business casual, and if I come in dressed in a suit and leave early or take a long lunch, isn’t it going to be obvious what I’m doing, especially if I do that a bunch of times (as I don’t imagine I’ll get a job after a single interview)? Is it okay to just wear my business casual clothes to the interview and explain the situation to the interviewer?

Is there some secret to doing this that everyone knows but me?

It’s really common to find this tricky and a little awkward. But it’s doable, and there are some tricks that will help!

The first thing to know is, most interviews are indeed going to be scheduled during business hours. There are some exceptions to that, like in fields that work nonstandard hours, or if you encounter an exceptionally flexible interviewer, or in some cases, if you’re an extraordinary candidate who employers will bend over backwards to accommodate. But most of the time, interviews are held during business hours, since for your interviewers it’s part of their normal work day (and they want to get home to their non-work lives like everyone else).

However, you could try asking for a slightly earlier than usual morning interview, or a slightly later than usual end-of-day interview, and see where that gets you; some employers might be willing to do that. Scheduling it first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day will make it easier for you to tell your boss, “I have an appointment Tuesday morning and will be in a little late” (or, “I need to leave slightly early on Tuesday evening for an appointment,”) rather than leaving in the middle of the day. You could try a similar excuse for lunchtime interviews — but make sure you know how long the meeting is supposed to take, so you don’t find yourself trapped in a three-hour interview when you’re expected back at work.

You’re in an easier position than some people because your work hours are flexible. If you’re allowed to flex your hours, you can absolutely flex them for an interview! There’s nothing unethical about that; you’re still putting in the work your employer expects from you, just shifting the hours in which you’re doing it. If it’s normal for people on your team to flex their hours, by all means, do that to make this easier!

If you expect to be out for a lot of interviews (like, if you’re actively interviewing with multiple companies), it can help to let your manager know early on that you’re going to have a bunch of appointments coming up. Say something like, “I want to let you know that I’m probably going to have a handful of appointments coming up for something I’m dealing with outside of work. I’m trying to schedule them for early or late in the day as much as possible.” That way, she’s more likely to mentally lump them all together in her head rather than wonder what’s up with you suddenly being out on a slew of separate occasions.

Now, some managers make it difficult for people to take time off at all — insisting on knowing what the time is for, or discouraging you from being out at all. If you have a manager like that, you won’t have much choice but to use white lies. “Dentist appointment” is a popular choice, especially since dental work often requires multiple appointments. That’s not ideal, obviously, but your employer forfeits the right to expect transparency if they make it impossible for you to give it.

As for the clothing dilemma: If you’re in a field where people normally interview in suits (which is most professional fields, but not all of them), you really should wear a suit — don’t show up in business casual and explain that you didn’t want to tip off your employer. Some employers would be fine with that, others will be very judgy, and still others will say they’re fine with it but will subconsciously think you’re less polished than other candidates. So wear the suit! You could try wearing only part of the suit to work, like the pants and a shell top, and add the jacket when you leave your office for the interview. Sometimes that will dress the look down enough and you’ll be fine. If not, duck into a public bathroom on your way and change clothes. (I once changed for an interview in my car in broad daylight, but I don’t recommend doing that.)

This all probably feels more overwhelming because it’s your first time searching for jobs while you’re employed full-time. Just know that after you go through it once, you’ll see it’s very doable. A bit of a hassle, but doable.

Good luck!

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara*

    I always attempted to do it during lunch hours or take a half day with ‘errands’ or an ‘appointment’. If your hours are flexible, I would take advantage of that! As for clothing (and as a woman!) – if you want to wear a suit to your interview, you can wear black pants and a nice shirt with a cardigan, and then switch it for a blazer/suit jacket later. Or dress down your nice dress with a cardigan or scarf. Worse time I ever had, I changed in a starbucks bathroom before my interview – you’ll be fine!

    That being said, my boss at my last job did figure it out (there’s only so many appointments you can have before they start asking if you’re ok!) but she didn’t hold it against me at all, just asked me how it was going from time to time. But she might not be the norm.

    1. Washi*

      Yeah, I always have scouted out a McDonalds or other such establishment to change in on the way, and luckily in my field, I don’t need to wear a full suit, so I wear the part that’s most likely to wrinkle, and put the rest in my bag to pull out when I am changing. (For example, wear my blazer with jeans to the office, then put on a non-wrinklable dress and have the blazer over it for the interview.)

      1. Kimmybear*

        I’ve done the McDonalds change as well as the car (not recommended). One time I forgot my casual clothes so actually ran to Old Navy to grab jeans and a sweater after an interview.

      2. Jess the Kat*

        I’ve always found that I’ve needed to pop into a public place with a restroom many times before an interview, usually because I’m too early (better than late). I think it’s good to be prepared to buy something at the establishment (bottle of water, etc.) if you need to use their restroom for a clothing change, lest they give you a hard time about coming in just to use the restroom, or even refuse you. I’ve found in downtown Boston, you can’t get into a restroom without punching in a code given only to customers. If you can find a public library to use a restroom, score! They are the best.

        1. Hermione*

          In downtown Boston, the best bathrooms for changing are hotel lobby bathrooms! If you look like you know where you’re going, the front desk usually doesn’t even try to stop you.

    2. ANon.*

      During my last job search, I scheduled all my interviews for one day: one in the morning, one mid-day and one in the late afternoon. I was able to dress up once and use just one vacation day. It required less explanation for my (super paranoid/always suspicious) manager. It was great – if you can swing it, I highly recommend scheduling as much as you can on the same day.

    3. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I second the tip about dressing down a dress! It’s the easiest thing. My jobs have typically been casual, so I wear a dress + sneakers + hoodie to work then throw on the jacket and a nice pair of shoes for the interview.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Brilliant idea — a hoodie & sneakers will flag everything casual.
        “So simple like the jitterbug it plum evaded me.” -Jimmy Buffett

        One thought I had in my 20s was to schedule interviews late on Fridays so I could say I had a date after work and wouldn’t have time to go back home to change first. “I have different shoes in my car.” Technically true — the date just wasn’t a romantic one, and the shoes in my car were sedate pumps.

    4. n*

      The problem with changing before the interview is… what do you do with your change of clothes? I’m assuming if you have a car, you’re fine. But if you take public transportation, that means carrying your change of clothes in a bag. Which means, interview clothes will be full of wrinkles and then what do you do with your non-interview clothes while you’re at the interview?

      I’ve just resigned to having to take a full day off of work, which is not ideal at all.

      1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        You can probably bring a courier bag (most people seem to use those in lieu of briefcases these days) and put your change of clothes in there. If you look up how to fold clothes for travel (there are varying techniques) you can reduce the wrinkling and probably fit in a notepad or something along with copies of your resume. It won’t seem odd.

        1. Artemesia*

          Having a blazer or dress made of a non wrinkle poly is also useful. I have a jacket that can be wadded up and still be unwrinkled and dressy; I use it when traveling and needing to go out to the opera or dinner at a nice place — just throw it over the basic black. I suspect there are work appropriate dresses and jackets with these features. And throwing a cardigan over suit pants or skirt and blouse really makes it look business casual so it is only the jacket that needs changing out. And a hoodie and sneakers, even better; jacket and shoes magically transforms it as does adding a scarf or necklace.

          1. n*

            Hmm, that’s a good point that I could just be working with the wrong fabrics. I’ll have to do some research on the best non-wrinkle science fabrics before my next interviews.

        2. n*

          That’s a good idea, but it’s always the shoes that present a problem. If you work in a casual office, wearing nice interview shoes (which, for women, usually means some kind of heel, even low heels) is very conspicuous. Trying to fit a blazer and heels (and later a cardigan and sneakers), notepad, and a folder full of resumes in a reasonably-sized, professional-looking bag is a challenge I haven’t figured out yet, sadly.

    5. WoodswomanWrites formerly Woodswoman*

      My office was business casual. For my interview, I wore a typical casual sweater and put a nice top and blazer in the car in the adjacent parking garage. The garage was private enough that I changed my top in the car.

      I also said I had an appointment and that was fine. I had the added benefit in my position that I could work from home, so for my current job that would have been a long drive from my last workplace, I told them I was working remotely that day because I had an appointment. Good luck for your interviews!

  2. Linda Evangelista*

    It helps if your current job is toxic and you stopped caring a long time ago. :)

    In all seriousness, this is a great question and I’m glad it was asked. Flex time helps a lot (didn’t have that at my last job, but again, didn’t super care at this point!)

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Hee hee. Back when I was at Toxic Job I always wanted to dress up in a suit and take a long lunch when I didn’t have an interview, just to see if they’d freak out.

  3. CR*

    No long explanations, apologizing, or making up some big story. Keep it simple. You have an appointment. The end.

    1. mark132*

      Exactly, it is far more suspicious (and stressful) to make a big long story, than to just to tell the truth. You have an appointment. And if they press, then you use the Dentist line.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        The dentist excuse makes me think of The Office
        “What’s his name?”
        “Your dentist is named Crentist”

        Seriously though, all the advice from Alison and the community are spot on! Good luck in your search!

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I second the dentist line. I have terrible teeth. Cleaning + root canal + post-root canal assessment+ crown fitting + crown installation + 2 small cavities that also need filling can get you a good six appointments before anyone notices. It can even get you the six months to the next cleaning, at which point you can start all over again.

        Also, boring physical therapy. I’m going to physical therapy now because I have incorrect posture. You can always tell people you pulled your boringligament or jammed your boringbone playing intramural Marco Polo in college or something. Bam, that’s 12-15 appointment excuses a year.

      3. Tisiphone*

        At my old horrible job at Horrible Incorporated, the code word was “dentist appointment”. Everyone knew what it meant except the horrible managers, and team leads would always approve your day off for it.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      +1 – the more you try to explain, the weirder it’ll sound. If you keep your tone casual, like this is a totally normal and reasonable thing, your boss/coworkers is more likely to figure it’s no big deal.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        Yes. Tone is huge – just say it matter of a fact and like there is nothing weird or noteworthy about your appointment and you will be fine.

      2. Krabby*

        Or you could opt for what one of my old coworkers did and start a giant prank on your CTO by getting all of your coworkers to dress up in suits on any day that they had an appointment booked in the calendar. It went on for a month, and I thought our CTO was going to pull his hair out by the end of it.

        But as an HR person who sits next to the ‘privacy’ phone booths in my office, my other piece of advice would be to make sure that any space you are taking calls in is /actually/ private. You never know who sits under the vent for the secluded boardroom, or who is walking up the fire escape stairs that you ducked into to take a quick call.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Especially stairwells. Anyone on the stairs up or down can hear you clearly. One time my boss stopped me from telling him something on the stairs because of this.

    3. Smithy*

      In theory, I’m very pro “appointment” – but during my last very long job hunt I found it too vague. With that in mind dental work was helpful as was “apartment stuff”. So needing to be available for an exterminator, plumber, electrician, cable guy, etc. all of that was really helpful. Especially for “I need to arrive late”.

      One place I interviewed did accommodate an 8am interview and for phone/Skype interviews, I was able to do a lot of those at lunch. I will not that if you’re doing those out of the office and not at home, so some test runs to control for audio. I also recommend seeing if you can get one work from home day which can also help adjusting for interviews.

      That being said, I worked for a place that was very toxic and disclosing my job hunt was not possible – so I also did a mix of doctors appointments, my apartment falling apart, sick days and occasionally vacation days (those had to be requested two weeks out). For me the job hunt took almost a year (with some periods of more or less active looking), which is hopefully not what it takes you. That being said, it’s worth keeping in mind with what balance you’ll need to keep in my mind for a job hunt in your industry. Some take longer than others, and keeping that time out of the office as unremarkable as possible can require a bit of a balancing act.

  4. Kheldarson*

    I’m so glad I’m in a role where I don’t have to hide my search. Not that I’m actively searching, but a role opened up in a different department that looked interesting (and would be more money!) so I applied. And then told my supervisor I did so.

    But when I worked retail and had to step out for an interview, I kept my nice clothes in the car and changed in the bathroom before heading to the interview.

  5. FreddyLongJohns*

    Freddy’s tips to interviewing while you still have a job:
    -Don’t say nothin’ to nobody!
    -Try to do it on a long lunch break, or in the morning before coming in (8am interview)
    -Figure out some easy-to-transform work outfits. Depending on your dress code you may be able to wear part of your outfit to work and leave a nice top or jacket in your car
    -Finally, there’s no etiquette rule that says you can’t take a lunch break or PTO to interview. You don’t owe your company anything in that regard

    1. TCPA*

      I fully support and agree with the suggestion to say nothin’ to nobody! No matter how close you may be to some coworkers, it puts both them and you in an uncomfortable spot if they know you’re looking for a new job but you haven’t given notice yet.

      Also, the kind/generally expected thing to do when giving your official notice is tell your boss or manager FIRST, before telling any coworkers. I highly recommend this route and this is what I did recently! (My coworkers were surprised I didn’t tell my close work friend first, so it felt good to honestly say I told my boss first, and I know Boss appreciated it as well.)

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I used the appointments excuse as well. They never saw it coming by the look of their face when I resigned.

    I would leave my suit jacket in my car. I wore a sweater over my dress shirt. Thankfully I often wear black slacks so it never pinged.

    I also changed into my heels in my car when I arrived because I can’t drive well in them anyways!

    1. Blue*

      For women who don’t normally wear heels (which is pretty common in business casual offices, I feel), the last minute shoe change makes a huge difference.

      1. Ama*

        I have found that wide-legged dress pants in particular look completely different if you pair them with a tailored suit jacket and heels (even small wedge heels) than with a cardigan and flats (the latter being my normal work day wardrobe).

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I can’t recommend a nice pair of basic black slacks enough!!! They’re casual but super easy to dress up for an interview w/easy swaps.
      Start wearing black slacks w/sneakers or black flats for work occasionally. People won’t even notice.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Dress pants in general tend to go unnoticed unless you’re in a true blue jeans or GTFO kind of office!

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I can’t say enough good about basic black clothing. So easy to dress up/down.

        I have at last count (like last week as I was trying to thin out my closet fifteen, yes fifteen pairs of “work pants.” Every single pair is black. It was never anything intentional but…apparently whenever I buy work pants I always end up buying black. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Me too! I wear then all summer as well.
          I have been trying to break it up with some charcoal, gray, brown and navy though.

          It doesn’t have to be black. Any neutral dark color dress pant is pretty easy to dress up or down.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      Did you have your suit jacket in the trunk? Or hanging in the backseat?
      If it’s hanging or otherwise visible, other coworkers might notice it. Even if it’s in a hanger bag, they might still wonder.
      I’m thinking of the woman last year who got written up for having maxi pads visible in her car. People can be unbelievably nosy.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        Someone comments on my jacket – “oh! I swung by the dry cleaners to pick it up this morning.”

        Can also add “Didn’t realize people were looking in my car!” in a bright, cheerful but you-know-what-you-did tone.

  7. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    If you have to take time off and if it is possible, I would take as much time as needed to go home and change. I have changed in my wife’s office, in public bathrooms, etc. and I am not nearly as polished and relaxed if I go home to change. It means I have to take 1/2 of the day off often but for me it is worth it.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, I would often take a whole or half day off for interviewing, if I could swing that. It was less stress for me and I felt was a worthwhile investment (and I tried to do something more fun with the rest of the day so it felt like less of a PTO loss).

    2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      When my aunt was looking for work, she would change in my house, as I was located near a lot of her interviews. Going home is ideal, but changing in someone else’s home is definitely a step above a gas station bathroom!

    3. Maggie*

      Agreed. I once raced to an interview that was only a few blocks away during my lunch break. It went well, and I felt great! Just hop on the train to go back and I was going to pull this off! Then it went so well that they asked me to just pop down the hall and provide a writing sample. My heart sank. I hadn’t planned on that. I raced through it but was still suspiciously late back to work, and I never got the job (as they surely thought I had no writing skills and ran out of there in embarrassment, when that wasn’t the case). Looking back, I should have been honest and asked if I could come back the next day to complete the sample, but I was too panicked to think straight. If it’s a job you really want, take the whole morning or afternoon off so you can give the interview your best.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I definitely prefer doing them in the mornings and going into work late. Late afternoon interviews make me feel rushed, and it seems you can’t get out of the office.

  8. mugsy83*

    I like and have used Alison’s suggestions about wearing part of a suit and then adding the jacket and different shoes later (things that are easy to swap out in the car). Also, I occasionally like to get dressed up for no apparent reason at my business-casual job, particularly when the weather is nicer (I’m not wearing heels and a skirt when it’s freezing rain outside, for example). My boss always jokes around when I dress a bit nicer with “You look nice today- job interview?!” and I laugh and just respond with “I just felt like it” or “I have after-work plans” but my real reason is that my coworkers get used to seeing me snazzier occasionally and don’t think anything of it when I do interview.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, black dress with cardigan and flats for work, switch the cardigan for a jacket and the flats for heels during interview – that was my go-to.

    2. Lurker*

      I was just going to write a similar comment. If you normally wear khakis, throw in black pants every so often. If you always wear pants, throw in a skirt/dress every once in a while.
      Second the wear pants/skirt and the top but instead of the suit jacket use a cardigan until the interview.

      I schedule interviews for our company and try my best to give morning, lunch time, or late afternoon times so it’s easier for people to get out of work. Managers will sometimes meet with candidates slightlybefore or after work hours if there are no other times that work, but it’s rare.

    3. mark132*

      In the past when I was thinking about interviewing, I would actually upgrade my wardrobe for a couple months prior to interviewing. Get people used to seeing me dressed up. And like you said it worked. In fact I would actually even make the joke. “Got an interview after lunch”

    4. R.D.*

      Yeah, I have been at my current job three years and after about a year, I started wearing blazers occasionally. It does help to have set a tone where sometimes I’m just more formal for no reason.

      Of course that doesn’t help the OP now, and frankly the only reason I could do that is because I was finally at a job that paid me enough to update my wardrobe.

      I have changed in Starbucks. I have changed in McDonalds. I have changed in the public restroom of the office building where I am interviewing. Like Alison, I have changed in broad daylight in my car. The problem that time was putting on pantyhose in a confined space. Thank god, I now live in an area where I do not need them for any occasion.

      Also, I don’t normally wear makeup to work, but wouldn’t interview without it, so keep that in mind, too. I generally start wearing just concealer and blush, then add more right before the interview, or if I expected to be interviewing regularly, I’d suck it up and start wearing makeup every day.

      1. mugsy83*

        When I had a gym membership at a large gym with many locations throughout the city, I’d locate the closest one to where I was interviewing and change there.

        Bless you for putting on pantyhose in the car! I can’t even fathom trying it!! I can barely get those darn things on in my bedroom :)

        1. R.D.*

          It was poor planning. I should have put them on under my pants. I could have then slipped the dress on over my shirt, taken the shirt out the arm hole, a la middle school gym class, slipped off the pants, and been fully changed in under 2 minutes.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          I spent a good chunk of yesterday morning arguing with a pair of tights. On the upside I won…eventually.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      I had a co-worker who started ‘Tie Tuesday’ and he always dressed up once a week. It got so it was normal to see him dressed nicely sometimes, and thus, no-one would notice. I have no idea if he was interviewing.

      Start dressing nicely on a regular basis now, and then there is no need to change clothes when you start getting interviews.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        I had a coworker who started Dress Up Wednesday after he went to Men’s Warehouse to buy a suit for a wedding and ended up being talked into several dress shirts and ties by an attractive saleswoman.

    6. epi*

      I think the advice to get a little more dressed up occasionally is so essential. Especially for people in very casual environments, where there would be a big difference between work and interview clothing. And for those of us who don’t drive to work– no using your car as a locker!

      People who work in more casual environments will also want to do it for another reason: it forces you to own formal clothing, that you know fits and looks good on you, and that makes a complete outfit. You’ll also be glad you did this when it’s time for a conference, big presentation, headshot, funeral, etc.

      I have needed interview-appropriate clothing at the last minute before, and it’s the worst. Or I believed I had an appropriate outfit ready to go, only to realize too late that it was damaged/didn’t fit/just didn’t look right to me anymore. I never felt good in what I ended up wearing.

    7. Madge*

      This is what I was going to say. Start wearing your interview clothes right now, especially on days when you don’t plan on leaving the office. You can always say you were cleaning out your closet and realized you haven’t worn those things in a while.

    8. Jo*

      Yeah I was going to suggest something similar – dress up a bit now and again, such as a smart blouse/shirt and skirt or trousers, or a smart dress, on days when you’re in a full day (so therefore unlikely to be going to an interview!) so your coworkers get used to seeing you a bit more dressed up. If you do have to take a change of clothes, bear in mind some types of fabric tend to wrinkle more easily so might be an idea to schedule the interview in the morning so you change out of your interview clothes rather than into them.

    9. Dagny*

      Years ago, I heard the advice to wear a suit (or suit-like apparel) to the office at least once a week. That way, your co-workers get used to seeing you dressed up, and quickly think nothing of it.

      If you have a big meeting, that just happens to be the day you wear your suit.

      If you have an interview, it’s a suit day.

    10. Shirley Keeldar*

      I used to work in a very casual office, and I still remember the day when a colleague came by my desk to drop something off wearing a full suit, tie and all. “Job interview?” I asked. He thumped the papers he was delivering down on my desk, said grumpily, “For the tenth time, nothign else was clean!” and stalked off.

      I still think he had a job interview but I learned not to ask that question anymore.

    11. jam*

      Bingo! When my partner decided to move on from his old job, he was worried about the suit giving him away. Luckily one of the ways his old boss was a jerk was picking on people’s clothes. So one day when Boss went on a rant about one of the junior employees looking sloppy, my partner announced that he was going to start stepping up his game. After that he come in wearing a suit one day every week. The first time it happened everyone was curious, and he just said “I’m trying to impress Boss” and everyone laughed it off. By the time he started having interviews everyone was over it. Very satisfying to have turned that boss’ stupid comments back on him!

  9. CristalBall*

    It’s funny now that I’ve been in my job for 12 years, but early on I started wearing suits regularly to work for just this reason. So even though my office is “business casual”, people fully expect me to dress a bit more professionally than the norm and wouldn’t bat an eye if I looked like I was dressed for an interview because that’s how I always look.

    Highly recommended if you can swing the investment.

    1. Annette*

      Might work for you but hard to see why OP should bother. No good reason to wear suits in a business casual office. Unless you love them. Even then you are “the suit person.”

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, that is actually a tip I think I’ve heard Alison mention before – start gradually upping your dress formality all the time (you can do this slowly) so that it’s less obvious. People will notice if you go from jeans one day to a suit the next, but if you go from jeans to khakis to dress pants, it will be less noticeable later.

      1. ANon.*

        Alternatively, dress up some days for other reasons. Every so often I come in to work much dressier than normal because of whatever I’m doing after work (going out for a fancy dinner, going to a networking event, meeting with an old colleague, etc.). If I were to dress up for an interview, my boss wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

        1. Sabina*

          I’ve come to work dressed up and when asked said “I’m going to a funeral”, which was true, and put a damper on co-workers asking in the future.

          1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

            Hahahaha funeral is my go to excuse as well. It shuts everyone right up!

        2. MtnLaurel*

          I’ve also used the excuse “time to do laundry!” In that case, i was interviewing for a different position in the same company, so it was harder to hide, but I still wasn’t ready for it to become common knowledge till after I got the offer.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      A former supervisor and I did this when we worked at Toxic Job. (Supervisor was awesome, and remains so, even though we no longer work together. Big Boss was the toxic one.) We both wanted out, and we both knew Big Boss would pay way too much attention to our clothing if we started “dressing up”, so we made A PLAN.

      I’d been working there about six months, so the plan was that at my one year mark, I’d start interviewing. Once I had a new job lined up, Supervisor would start interviewing. (He was actively trying to shield me from the worst of Big Boss’ toxicity.) When the PLAN went into action, one day a week, we would wear suits. On a different day, we would wear dressy-not-a-suit outfits.

      As expected, as soon as we put the PLAN into effect, we started getting comments. A passive-aggressive “You look nice today,” was met with a cheerful “Thank you!” A more direct “What’s the occasion?” or “Why so dressed up?” was met with an explanation of how dressing well boosted confidence, leading to better work performance.

      The only flaw in the plan was when we both got laid off around my nine month mark.

  10. CurrentlySearching*

    As someone with flexible hours who is currently searching, is it possible for you to just adjust your hours? At my office it wouldn’t be uncommon for people to work 8-4 one week and 11-7 the next. If you were able to regularly come in at 11am, it would be easier to fit in 9am interviews. Then, if you had to schedule an end of the day interview, you could just plan to come in for your “normal” 9-5 and if asked, say something like “Oh, I have an appointment at the end of the day, so I wanted to make sure I got in early enough to get all my work done before I needed to leave.”

    1. Fried Eggs*

      One of my coworkers did this when she started interviewing. She took tennis lessons and would come in at 10:30-11 a few days a week. When we caught up after she’d started her new job, she told me that when she had interviews she’d just try and schedule them on days she usually had tennis and cancel the lesson.

  11. Steve*

    Without knowing your gender or industry, I would just wear business casual and add a tie and sport coat after leaving. That would be formal enough for some industries.

  12. AdAgencyChick*

    It’s freaking hard, OP. You’re not the only one who hasn’t figured it out.

    One thing I’ve done recently, even though I have no immediate plans to interview, is to make a New Year’s resolution to start wearing more of the fancy stuff in my closet. (I work in a super-casual field; jeans and T-shirts at work are routine.) I really am doing this to get more use out of the clothes I’ve spent so much money on, and everyone I work with is, like “Oh, you’re doing KonMari!” But it also has the nice benefit that if I do decide to interview, people will be used to seeing me in a fancy outfit a couple of times a week!

  13. ANon.*

    If you have a nice/dressy interview dress, you can wear a casual sweater over it (so it looks like just a skirt) or a more casual shirt (so it looks like just a top).

    And on cold days where you’re feeling particularly sneaky, you can wear both so your nice interview dress isn’t visible at all!

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      This this this!!

      I’m in my 40s and only in the last 7 or 8 years have I begun to wear dresses, having finally discovered Skimmies so I don’t get chub rub. Once I found the right dress shape for me, I started building up my dress wardrobe. (I already have enough black pants to get through a week-plus without a re-wear.) They’re easy to dress up and down. Opaque tights, sheer stockings, flats, cardigans, etc. A basic, black swing dress can be a casual afternoon lunch dress or a fancy dinner dress depending on what you pair with it.

  14. nnn*

    For the wardrobe issue, if you want to play the long game, you could occasionally level up your style of dress for a regular work day when you’re clearly not leaving the office to interview.

    Whenever someone asks me why I’m dressed up, I say “These are the clothes that work best when I’m feeling bloated and gross.” I very rarely get asked a second time.

  15. Combinatorialist*

    Growing up, I would always change (usually for dance stuff) in Taco Bell restrooms. They are big, single-stall, full-door, and the obligatory purchase is cheap

  16. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I left early due to “migraines” or came in late because I needed to “be home for a plumber/electrician/etc”. Unless you routinely go out for long lunches, I would think early morning or late afternoon appointments would be less of a tip off for people.

  17. 8DaysAWeek*

    This was challenging for me because for the job I have now, the employer wanted all day interviews — out of town.
    For the first round I called in sick to my current job the morning of. My manager was really strict and I couldn’t plan a vacation day with that short of notice so a sick day was the only choice.
    The trickier part was when I got called back for round 2 — also all day interviews out of town. I honestly forget what I did in that case — maybe another sick day? I used a migraine as an excuse the first time because I do get them from time to time and you can recover from that in one day and not look sick the next day.

    For the phone interview, I was able to arrange that during the normal lunch hour and drove my car to another part of the parking lot and took the call from there.

    The wardrobe part can be tricky and sometimes you have to get creative and pull off some Superman moves getting changed in phone booths or whatever :)

    Good luck!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      All day + out of town? Yikes!
      Nothing to do there but vacation or sick day and hope for the best. But a lot if places won’t grant a vacation day without at least a week notice. I think that sucks, like it’s to prevent interviewing.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        Yes! Thankfully it was only 2.5 hours away by car and my parents happened to live 45 min from the interview location. So the night before, I traveled down and stayed at their house.

  18. MissDisplaced*

    I always tried to get early morning interviews that can be easily explained as dentist or doctor appointments. And there has been many a time I’ve changed my shoes or blouse in my car after an interview. It helps to wear something simple, such as a black or gray pantsuit, so you can swap the blazer & blouse for a tshirt or sweater, and the heels for flats.
    I’d also suggest dressing up a bit more often in general if you typically wear jeans to work. It will make your interview day clothing choices less noticeable.

  19. Anonymouse2*

    I’m a big fan of wearing a sheath dress for interviews whilst being full time employed. At the office, you can wear a cardigan over it. When you leave for the interview, take off the cardigan and switch it for the suit jacket. Esp if you have your own office, it is super easy to just hang a suit jacket there just in case. I work in law so it’s really common for people to just leave a suit jacket in the office.

    Also my office interviewed an intra-organization candidate and my Crazy Toxic Boss made everyone, including our intern who was on his last week, stay an extra 1.5 hr after work because he insisted on panel interviews. So it is not inconceivable for some interviewers to make that arrangement.

  20. Valegro*

    I’ve moved across states for my last few jobs (common in my field, especially with non-compete clauses that extend 25-30 miles). One employer tried to ban me from ever taking Fridays or Mondays off which was just another symptom of the toxicity of that small business. To complicate matters, working interviews are really common and you want to spend at least two days at the business before accepting an offer. For the control freak I told the office I had to go to a wedding out of state and implied I would quit if they didn’t let me off. They desperately needed me so it went fine except the witholding of commission when I quit (not legally worth it to fight and they had a free lawyer).
    For my local job search I made up some doctor appointments and took off a couple late afternoons. The company was very flexible with scheduling which I appreciated, but they really needed someone with my skill set. The employer I was leaving was extremely difficult to schedule around and expected me to work hours late with no notice on a regular basis plus on call. That was extremely challenging and nearly gave me an ulcer. I had to change at a truck stop for those interviews.

  21. AnonyMouse*

    Not sure of the gender of the OP, but something I’ve started doing is wearing professional dresses for interviews instead of a pant/skirt suit. It’s amazing how easy it is to dress it down/up going from the office to an interview. I’m also in a pretty casual office where being overly dressed up would look out of place. So my current go to is to wear my solid blue dress with a cardigan, tights, and boots (sometimes a scarf) into the office (when it was warmer, I don’t wear the tights and swap the boots for sandals or flats). When it’s time to interview, I ditch the tights, switch my boots for heels, and swap the cardigan for a blazer (if I wore the scarf, either ditch it or swap for a more professional necklace). I literally do all of this in my car! My employer (unfortunately) knows I’m looking, but I’m also not trying to tip off the whole office at this point. If I’m able to (or need to) take a full day for the interview, then I’ll usually do the traditional pantsuit.

    1. Competent Commenter*

      Every time Alison mentions the need to wear a suit for interviews, some of us (maybe it’s usually me!) pipe up with with “Not in my state/industry it’s not!” So for me, coming up with interview clothes wouldn’t be a big deal. I already wear dresses or a nice shirt/slacks combo to work, and it’s easy enough to put on nicer shoes, more jewelry, nicer cardigan, etc. if necessary.

      I know that the “almost always a suit!” advice makes sense in lots of places but I work in a public university on the west coast and some men wear suits but it’s generally a more formal faculty member or a person in a leadership position. I’m pretty sure some of the higher-up fundraising women do too, but I’m straining to remember if I’ve seen that or just think I’ve seen that. Before that I was in nonprofits and again, maybe the executive director, if it was a man, would wear a suit? Otherwise…nope. I once worked in a nonprofit in the medical field and the joke was that if someone was in a suit, they were either coming in for an interview or they were the drug sales representative.

      Obviously Alison’s advice stands, but I’d encourage the OP to scope out whether prospective employers in their area are likely to expect interviewees to wear suits. Significantly overdressing doesn’t always look good.

  22. AliceBD*

    Some things for clothing, all of which is easier if you have a car but not impossible to do walking/biking/using public transit.
    – If you wear different shoes with a suit (such as switching from suede to polished leather for men or wearing heels for women), wear the more casual style to work and the more polished style for the interview
    – Ditto for jewelry
    – Wearing a cardigan instantly dresses down most outfits, so doing that with a top and pants and then switching to a jacket later can help
    – If you wear more/different makeup/do your hair differently/wear nicer shirts with your suits than with your everyday clothes I like to do that randomly on days when I don’t have appointments and if questioned just say you feel like it, so there is not an automatic makeup + appointment = interview connection made

  23. KTB*

    Definitely opt for the beginning/end of the day interviews if you can, since those are vastly easier to plan around. My trick for my last interviews was to use a small locker room at my old office to change clothes and put on makeup. If you have access to a gym or anything like that, definitely use it! My last two office buildings had bike commute facilities/locker rooms, so scout those out if you get a chance. Worst case scenario, use the ADA bathroom stall on a different floor, since they’re bigger and easier to change in.

    I also totally agree with the other commenters who have recommended stashing a pair of heels, and a blazer in your car. And be vague about your appointments, which is a good practice even when you’re actually going to the doctor. Good luck!

  24. De Minimis*

    I always just say I have an appointment.

    I had a difficult time at my previous job—I ended up calling in sick for three days because I had interviews at different places three days in a row. I lived quite a ways from my job, and the jobs I was interviewing for were located about 50 miles in the opposite direction so coming in a working a half day wasn’t an option. I guess it falls under the “good problem to have” category, but it was difficult especially when I ended not getting any of the jobs. I know it’s easier to find a job when you already have a job, but interviewing for a job when you already have one can be a major PITA.

    I had a lot of phone interviews/screenings around the same time, for one I was able to arrange to use a coworker’s office while she was out.

    I’m in a casual job search now, but will just say I have an appointment and take a half day of leave.

  25. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    It’s been over a decade since I was last looking for a job, but I always tried to stack as many interviews into a single week as I could and then take several days off for “vacation”. It’s less noticeable than leaving for several appointments. I did notice back then though that if you get a first round phone interview, being somewhat upfront that you are being discrete in your job search, and have (reasonable) limitations on interviewing in person, I found most potential employers to be at least sympathetic about scheduling, and the ones who weren’t, I wasn’t really interested in working for.

  26. Blossom*

    I have normally taken annual leave, either a half day or a full day (depending on time of day and distance to travel). Personally I feel it’s worth it – then I’m not flustered and hurried. That said, I’m normally the kind of person who has to rush to use all their remaining leave at the end of the year (and tbf I am in the UK and get 5 weeks a year).

  27. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

    Be careful updating your LinkedIn and other social media sites too quickly or if you do be sure to turn “broadcasting” off. If you boss suddenly gets a ton of emails from LinkedIn saying – your employee has updated their summary, changed their status to looking for work, and updated their work history … it’s going to suggest. Try updating regularly like every Friday just one thing.

    Also depending on factors this is a KYO type of thing but I have taken phone interviews in booked conference rooms, empty office, or barring that my car parked across the street in a shady spot.

  28. Cheesehead*

    I worked in a toxic but very casual office. When we weren’t meeting customers, jeans were fine. So anything remotely dressy would get looked at. Owners were very paranoid and as I look back on it now, I’m sure that several things they were doing were illegal. So this place was one of those “they’re going to go ballistic if they find out I’m interviewing” places that Alison talks about, where all bets are off as far as being candid and telling them the truth. Luckily for me, there was a hotel with a convention center about 3 blocks away from the office. I just ducked into their (very large) bathroom in the Convention Center. And hey….hotel! Walking in with a garment bag was nothing out of the ordinary! And b/c it was big, it was nowhere near the front desk and the bathrooms were right by an entrance and there was generally hardly anyone around.

    So look for a nearby hotel, preferably a convention center. And just plan a little extra time to change.

    1. Smithy*

      Depending on where your office is, hotels can also be great places for lunchtime phone/Skype interviews.

      I used to work near the Mayflower Hotel in DC which had much better internet and had a better noise level on their upper level lobby. Enough noise no one notices you, but quiet enough to not be bothersome

  29. Murphy*

    I’m lucky that my boss pays no attention to me (and is also quite busy himself) so I could pretty much come and go without it raising any suspicion.

  30. Person from the Resume*

    I do have a decent amount of vacation time saved up but I would hate to use it all up on interviewing.

    You may not want to use your vacation hours for job interviews but other than flexing your hours, I think taking vacation is the fairest thing to do to your current employer. this time off is wholly for your benefit, not theirs. Reasons: You have a non medical appointment or something in the evening that you want to leave work early to prepare for. An old friend is passing through town and can only meet you to catch up for a few hours on a week day. That said, if your employer makes this hard or impossible to do white lies like medical appointments are sometimes necessary. But in companies where vacation is separate from sick days, it is a misuse of what the sick days are there for. My organization is very clear about the separation. We have a limited carry over of vacation, but unlimited carry over of sick time.

  31. plant lady*

    Story time:
    A few years ago, I was interviewing while employed full-time. I’d made it past the phone screen and was on to a video/Skype interview with a panel of three people. The only times they offered were right in the middle of the workday, and my boss would have freaked if she knew I was interviewing. We had a company blood drive that day, in an outside location, so I figured I’d do the Skype call in my car, parked a good distance away, and schedule the interview for ~30 minutes after I finished giving blood, because it was normal to take some time after giving blood and have some snacks etc, but I’d never had an issue feeling woozy after donating.

    Unfortunately, the blood drive was way backed up, so by the time I got taken to the table it was way later than it was supposed to be. I was staring at the clock, willing the blood to drain faster out of my arm. As soon as they took the needle out, I basically leaped out and ran out of the building, without having any snacks or even drinking any water. Terrible idea. Also it was 90 degrees with high humidity outside.

    So I quite literally sprinted across an enormous parking lot to my car, which unfortunately was no longer in shade, as the sun angle had shifted. I’d figured out how to perfectly prop my phone for the call on the dash if I was sitting in the passenger seat, so I leaped in and made the call, without turning on my car or rolling down the windows. We started the video call, but I immediately started feeling super woozy and faint, and it felt like two hundred degrees inside the car. I politely asked the interviewers to give me a moment to turn on my car (I’d explained I was doing the interview from my car due to the restrictions of my current job), so I leaned over from the passenger seat and clicked the key – and SUPER loud country music immediately flooded the car – I tend to listen to music too loud when i’m driving. I hastily turned off the radio and rolled down the windows, apologizing to the interview panel – but thirty seconds later, my phone turned itself off, flashing a warning that it was dangerously hot and had to turn off until it cooled down.

    So I ran around the car, jumped in the drivers’ seat, started the car, turned the a/c on full blast, and held my phone directly in front of the vent. After about three minutes, I could turn it back on, and I called the interviewers back, apologizing profusely. We finished the interview, but I still felt weird and woozy from the blood loss as well. As soon as we ended the call, I ate basically an entire package of Oreos and drank a liter of water.

    Needless to say, I did not get an offer for that position.

  32. Kes*

    I wrote almost this exact letter a couple of years ago when I was planning to leave my last job, although I don’t think I actually sent it in the end, just posted in a Friday open thread. I think this is a typical conundrum when you start thinking about leaving your job for the first time.

    As it worked out for me, I ended up getting a job at the first place I interviewed, where I was referred by a former coworker from a work term during school (yay networking). I did three interviews – first I met the recruiter for a chat in the morning, and just came in late, second was a phone screen for which I took off slightly early from work with the excuse of an appointment, and third was the in-person, and I just told work things had come up and I needed to take the day off (I deliberately booked the interview on a Friday, too, so it looked more like a long weekend).

    I think most people just use appointment excuses, including an implied series of related appointments if needed, with the occasional day off if needed.

  33. Anonforthis*

    When I was interviewing a couple of years ago, I picked up a few tricks. Changing in the car is not easy, so if you can swing it, wear something simple that you can dress up or down by changing accessories, from a cardigan to a jacket, etc. My go to interview outfit was a simple black dress that I could pair with a cardigan and flats for my office, heels and a jacket for an interview. I’d also keep my makeup bag and extra jewelry in my car so I could freshen up my makeup prior to the interview, if I wasn’t going first thing in the morning – but I would typically try to get the interviewer to schedule either first thing in the morning or later in the day. Phone interviews were tough, as I worked in a very open environment and Crazy Toxic Boss thought nothing of just barging into whatever conference room I had booked for privacy. I ended up doing a lot of phone interviews in my car as well.

    Best of luck with the job search!

  34. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    I always appreciate a manager I once had; after our company got bought out and it was only a matter of time before we all were kicked to the curb, she told us to feel free to job hunt as long as we spent a reasonable amount of time in the office and kept up with the work. No hiding, no lies about appointments, no subterfuge. She even wrote letters of recommendation for us. Best boss I ever had.

  35. Meredith Brooks*

    I remember a colleague once telling me the best way to get away with wearing interview clothes to work (in a casual environment) is to wear nice clothes randomly every once in awhile – say you wanted to look nice or going out after work – this way when you wear nice clothes on the day of an interview, no one would think twice.

    1. Meh*

      I’ve changed in Uber Pools! Not for an interview but running between gigs with different uniform requirements.

  36. DCGirl*

    I’ve used the excuse of “I have a college alumni gathering after work” for being dressed more nicely than usual at the office.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      Haha, I’ve kept going to real college alumni events secret, because I was afraid my boss would think if I was networking it must be to find a new job.

  37. Jerusha*

    Another possible explanation for being dressed up, either on an interview day itself or during the “getting them used to seeing you dressed up” run-in phase: funerals.
    You can’t use it too frequently, and I’d suggest it being for people who you wouldn’t have been emotionally invested in (so you don’t have to field condolences or try to seem grief-stricken), but you still want to go to the funeral.

    Some examples from my own life:
    Parent of a friend (I’d never met the parent; I was going solely to support the friend)
    Member or former member of an outside organization/activity, or spouse or other relative of someone you know from there. (Example: founding director of a community chorus I sing with; I never sang under him, but his son and daughter-in-law were current members, and the chorus got a delegation together to sing at the funeral service.)
    Relative of a colleague of your spouse/partner. (Example: When my grandfather died, several people who work with my father came to the visitation, some with spouses in tow)

    Family member of your spouse/partner (whom they weren’t close to and/or you’ve never met), or family members of your other relatives, could work too. (e.g. your sibling’s or cousin’s in-laws)

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I once wore a black suit to my casual office. A supervisor asked, lightheartedly, if I had an interview. I answered honestly, “No. Funeral.” Never got asked why I was wearing a dark suit again.

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I am definitely adding this to my excuse repetoire! :)

      I hadn’t thought of using funeral or memorial service, and it would be such a good cover.

  38. Polymer Phil*

    Why the hell did two rounds of interviews become a standard thing recently? My most recent job hunt, almost every company made me do this, which meant double the number of fake doctor’s appointments. I only got away with it because I had a frequently absent manager; there’s no way I could have pulled off that many phony excuses if my manager was paying attention.

    I honestly don’t see a good reason on the hiring company’s end for making candidates come in twice. The only time it ever made sense to me was when I was asked to meet people at two sites, and the company indicated their seriousness by paying my travel expenses for the visit to the faraway site after an initial interview at the local site went well. Aside from this situation, I always felt that my time was being disrespected.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve never been hired from only one interview, and I would feel kind of weirded out if I were. Most jobs I apply for involve a phone screen, an interview with the hiring manager, and an interview with the hiring manager’s boss (if there is one) and/or an interview with other members of the team. In my experience, it’s far easier to justify two or three 90-minute appointments than one random day off, though I have done it both ways. Even when I was flown to an interview (which, of course, required a vacation day), there was a phone screen, a phone interview, and an in-person with the heads of the department I would be servicing. That’s pretty typical for people in my industry, for various mid- to senior-level positions.

    2. Can I see a doctor's note?*

      I’ve found that Round One can be HR or immediate supervisor(s) and Round Two is “you’ve passed my test, now my boss wants to meet you too.”

      However, I’ve also been hired by two rounds of interviews in one day. First interview was with Immediate Supervisor, next with CEO of company. I received an offer the same day or the next day.

    3. londonedit*

      In my industry and in the UK, it’s really common to have two rounds of interviews. Phone screens aren’t really a thing (or certainly not as much as they seem to be in the US, from my reading of the comments on posts here) so the first stage of the interview process is usually a face-to-face first interview. You’ll usually meet the person who would be your direct manager, as well as maybe someone from HR or another member of the team who’s involved in the decision-making. That’s a general competency interview – talking through your CV and job history, all the usual ‘So what interests you about this position?’ and ‘Talk me through a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation’ questions.

      A few people are rejected after that, and then the second round of interviews usually involves meeting someone higher up – you might meet with the same direct manager as before, but also meet the head of the department, or in a small company maybe the owner or CEO. They’ll ask some of the same competency questions, but also ask more about how you’d fit into the team, why you want to work for the company, etc etc. You might also have a walk-around of the office, or more of a general chat about the working culture.

      The only time I’ve been hired after one interview was when it was an internal promotion – I’d usually expect two rounds of interviews (if I manage to get through the first!)

    4. Powercycle*

      I find the two rounds of interviews bizarre as well.

      I changed jobs twice in the past two years. Every job that I interviewed at only had one round.

      I can recall having two rounds of interviews only once, almost a decade ago. (And the 2nd interview was rather informal over coffee.)

  39. Katelyn*

    I had a bizarre allergy a few months before I started looking and had to go on a bland diet. Afterwards whenever I said I had an appointment people assumed it was for that and never asked questions. So that’s one strategy.

  40. Earthwalker*

    How do you know how long an interview will be? I’ve always figured on a couple hours, but the last time I was interviewed for hire for a non-managerial position, it was 9:00 am-2:00 pm with no break for lunch. They hadn’t warned me it would be so extensive and I hadn’t asked because I’d never heard of such a long interview at that level. I was out of work (downsized) so my time was my own, but if I’d been working and trying to disguise such an interview as a doctor visit or a long lunch break, I’d have been hosed.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh my god!

      I always ask ahead of time, because although I’ve never been hit with a 5-hour interview like you were, it has happened a couple of times that things went longer than I expected. I also tell interviewers when I walk in what time I need to leave (if I do). I realize that I’m senior enough, and there is a small enough candidate pool for any job I’m interviewing for, that I can get away with the latter in a way that I might not be able to if I were interviewing for an entry-level role with a lot of competition.

      Also, 9 AM-2 PM with no lunch break is really obnoxious.

      1. Earthwalker*

        If I had been reading AAM back then I would have seen this as a red flag. The company had a culture of “good employees don’t stop for lunch,” and I should have seen that coming.

    2. Polymer Phil*

      I’ve been advised to never plan any other commitments for the rest of the day after an interview in case this happens. That said, it’s disrespectful of your time if you weren’t told it was going to be a full-day interview and you expected to be spending an hour or two (and told your boss you’d be in by noon).

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If the length of time is not offered up front, I usually ask how many people I’ll be meeting with. That generally gives me a good idea of time because I budget about an hour per person if it’s individual meetings. I have also been known to say something like, “I have to be back at my desk by 1pm, will that work for you?” if that is indeed the case. For my current job, my boss offered a specific date and I said, “That will work, with the caveat that I have to be at my job by 2pm.” He scheduled me relatively early and kept his eye on the clock for me.

      I have sometimes been asked to meet with an extra person or to stay longer, and then it’s on me to agree or refuse. I can’t remember a time when I’ve refused, though. I imagine if that were the case, I would offer to come back another time.

  41. Auburn*

    It’s always driven me crazy that this is even a thing. I friend of mine was fired when her boss found out she was interviewing which makes no sense at all to me. Employers are so quick to let you know you are “at will” on every document you sign but if you act that way it’s like you’re cheating. So strange. It’s not a marriage!

    I’ve never tried to hide when I was looking for a job. But my boss is great. And people on my team seem pretty open about it too. I actually encourage them to interview and keep an eye on the market. I’d rather have people who are unhappy leave for a job that’s a better fit than get disengaged. And for the superstars, it makes it clear I need to do more to find challenges for them or figure out how to get them that raise. And I figure everyone should know what they’re worth on the market and know what else is out there. I want to work with ambitious people and that comes with the territory.

  42. D*

    Something I used to do when I used the “appointment” excuse for an interview, while working in a business casual office. On the days I had an interview, I would wear a casual dress with a long coat to work. I would then slip off to the bathroom right before leaving and change into a skirt suit (just the skirt) and blouse, and when arriving at my car, change from my long jacket to my suit jacket. It did involve carefully folding things and taking them into my office, but it worked well for several interviews. Good luck!

  43. AmethystMoon*

    If you have PTO saved up, you can schedule multiple interviews on the same day. Leave an hour or two between them in case something unplanned comes up, like a tour of the building or something.

    1. Rockhopper*

      Well, that assumes that all the companies you are talking to are willing to accept your schedule. I know as soon as I set up an interview Friday morning, the next call would be setting up interviews for Tuesday or Wednesday only, as the decision maker will be out of town after that for the next two weeks. And as an introvert who really has to get my energy up for interviews, I would not be able to do more than two (different company) interviews in a day or I would definitely not be putting my best foot forward.

  44. MLB*

    A good and reasonable manager will help and encourage you to look for a new job when they see you’ve done all you can in your current role and have no room for growth at your current company. But as we’ve read, there are plenty of bad managers out there.

    Stick with “I have an appointment”. Don’t embellish or provide a long drawn out explanation. If you’re makin something up and provide too many details, you risk getting called out for not telling the truth. If your manager won’t accept that, go for the “dentist appointment approach” as Alison suggests. I would stay away from saying something about having a bunch of appointments coming up as that leads to more questions. Plus you never know how these future interviews will work out – they could be spread out or all at once. For phone interviews, I would try and schedule them close to lunch time, and go out to my car. If you work with nosey nellys, drive somewhere so your co-workers don’t see you.

  45. Claire*

    The classic excuse is that you have a dentist appointment. Then you give yourself enough time to change, if necessary, before you head off to the interview.

  46. Existentialista*

    In my experience, companies were always willing to schedule phone interviews after 5:00 pm, so definitely ask if that’s possible.

    Definitely wear a suit jacket, even if you throw it on over your casual outfit. I had a candidate once use that “This is what they wear at my work” excuse – I hired him anyway, and he was a great employee, but it always bothered me that he couldn’t have thrown a jacket on for the interview.

    And finally, at every job, always, no matter what you’re leaving the office to do, write “Appointment” on your calendar and the office In/Out board, so that it won’t seem strange.

  47. Can I see a doctor's note?*

    Oh man, the “doctor’s appointment” excuse was used at Old Old Job too often by everyone, to the point where I was told by a former coworker that Upper Management started requiring doctor’s notes for any doctor’s appointments. Thankfully this was after I had already left this particular job. Old coworkers told me this because there was this mentality of “do this for now and get out ASAP” among pretty much every employee.

    I was also very particular about what jobs I applied to in that job search, because I wanted to specialize in my particular field, therefore limiting the amount of interviews I took. I had some freelance experience in Specialty Field but the job I wound up getting and accepting wanted who had experience doing the kind of stuff in tangentially related Old Old Job. OP’s experience and the experience of others may vary.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I can’t believe they “required” a doctor note for routine medical or dental appointments. I would’ve told them to go pound sand even if I did really go to the doctor! None of their business.
      I’ve never had an employer ask for a doctor note unless you were out sick the whole week or more. I would never provide for anything less.

      1. Can I see a doctor's note?*

        I don’t agree with their actions whatsoever but I think they finally noticed that all these people who had “doctor’s appointments” seemed to be putting in their two weeks soon after their medical appointment. See a trend there? :)

        My old coworker also mentioned that they had to be careful about what kind of doctor’s note was asked for due to what’s “legal” to ask of employees in terms of their medical health. You can ask for a note to say “Dear Employer, I am Dr. Smith at Doctor’s Office and I can confirm that I saw Jane Doe for medical reasons on Tuesday, February 12, 2019” which should suffice. It doesn’t need to state a specific medical reason or condition and they can’t ask.

  48. Lygeia*

    Any thoughts on answering the question about using up all your PTO? Not an issue for me anymore, but when I interviewed with my current company, I was at a company with very little PTO (10 days vacation, 3 days sick), and I had used all the accrued time I had for the year already (I am a chronic migraine sufferer so definitely needed more than 3 sick days to accommodate that, had to use some of my PTO for missed days, and I’d taken a short vacation earlier in the year).

    I managed, but I wonder what advice there is in similar situations?

  49. AKchic*

    For me, I lived close to my job, so I could always run home and change if I needed to. However, I also had a lot of leave time and worked (and lived) centrally, so any interviews I had didn’t inconvenience anyone should I need to go. I also had four kids in school (convenient alibi) and volunteered for a few things (another convenient alibi) plus towards the end of my time there, an increasingly sick grandmother.

    So, it was simply “I have an appointment” or “I have a meeting”. No explanations. If anyone tried to pry, it became “it’s not work-related, it’s personal”.

    Now, I was headhunted for this position, and nobody knew I was leaving until I turned in my notice. I took my tests and did my interviews without anyone knowing anything. I even did a phone interview in my cubicle next to my extremely nosy officemate who, had she known I was interviewing, would have told our gossipy drama hound of a boss and both of them would have been all over me for information. She thought I was discussing something related to my volunteer work (I had two volunteer gigs at the time, one that was encouraged by the company because it benefited them, the other is completely non-company, both were in full swing at the time).

    Dressing down your interview clothes can help, and keeping your blazer in the car will help.

  50. anon today*

    Ditto with wearing the bottom part of your suit to work and then throwing on the jacket for the interview. For the top that goes under the jacket, you can wear anything that will coordinate with the jacket, so that you don’t have to find somewhere to change your top. I always tried to schedule around my lunch hour, so that I could just say I was taking a slightly longer lunch that day.
    The biggest problems were if the interview was on a Friday. We always did casual Fridays at previous job, so I would wear nylons under my jeans, then change to a skirt and different shoes in the car. I had shells that were casual enough to work with jeans but nice enough to wear under a suit jacket. To dress it up more, I added jewelry or a scarf and sometimes put my hair up or added a clip on the way to the interview.

  51. Amylou*

    I had a very nosy manager plus actually several other colleagues were also nosy about any time off. All of them would ask what I was going to do.

    As I was interviewing for jobs 2.5 hours away, I had several sudden appointments (couldn’t be really sick, as I needed a doctors note (legally mandatory in my then location) to get sick time), feeling under the weather/contagious or errands and working from home, some long weekends “just because”, comping weekend time worked with a morning off during the week to rest…

    Such a puzzle sometimes… luckily my interviews were not that frequent, so the absences were a bit more spaced out.

  52. anonforthis*

    I’m lucky that I’m someone with a weak immune system who gets colds once a month or so, so whenever I have an “appointment”, it sounds believable.

  53. Nacho*

    My boss is job hunting right now. We know this because she took a personal day with no explanation (not that she’d need one), and then posted on her Facebook that she had an interview and asked her friends to wish her luck.

    So I don’t know how to hide your hunt, but I know that posting it on Facebook isn’t a good way.

  54. Avocado Toast*

    I lucked out and got the first job I interviewed for while at my old job, so I only had to do this once….but with a crazy boss once was enough. I seriously thought I was going to puke on the ride to the interview!! I had to schedule my interview during the day so I picked lunch, and on a day when my boss had a meeting that was likely to span lunch. That way, even if it took me a little longer to get back he wouldn’t be in the office to have noted when I left (or when I came back – I forget which way it worked out). If you can keep an eye on the schedule of your boss when possible it might make things easier! I also typically alternated between desk lunches and walking around the city for lunch, so I made sure to take a desk lunch for a few days before so it was normal when I was out of the office for lunch on the day of my interview. GOOD LUCK!

  55. Quinalla*

    Yes, wear the suit pants to work and shell under a typical work shirt and with casual shoes and then change in the car or public restroom on the way into the suit jacket and dressy shoes. With a shell, you have the option to change in the car just in case! Don’t wear your suit to work if that is not typical, it is a dead giveaway.

    I prefer to schedule morning or afternoon too so you can come in late or leave early. Long lunches can work, but seem more suspicious. And yeah, if you can’t just say appointment (I couldn’t because I was always so open about what was happening, I regretted that when I started interviewing and now try to just say appointment most of the time at my current job!), then dentist or meeting cable guy, etc. at your house/apartment works. I prefer the house/apartment excuse as if you run later than you thought, it is easily explained away. I have taken half-days or full-days off to interview too, but try not to as I’d rather save vacation time for actual vacation!

  56. Greg*

    I’ve suggested this before in similar threads and had people (including Alison) strongly disagree with me, so take it for what it’s worth, but in my experience I’ve had situations where I told the interviewer/HR manager about my situation and asked directly if it was OK to not wear a suit to the interview. None of them ever pushed back, or even seemed put off by the request. Mind you, these were cases where I had a good idea that the office was very casual, and that the people I was meeting would themselves be dressed down. (I would not recommend this strategy for your interview at a bank.) In one case, I ended up getting the job, and my boss mentioned after I started that they all were amused that I would even ask, since it was such a casual office and no one cared what I wore.

    So definitely assess the situation and proceed with caution — and if you’re at all unsure how the request would go over, err on the side of dressing up — but it is possible to pull off.

  57. Liz*

    Like others here, I prefer to take a full vacation day rather than a partial day off. This gives me time to relax and prepare for the interview beforehand (including finding appropriate clothes), and I have time to think about the experience undisturbed afterward, which puts me in a better frame of mind if they decide to make an offer. Also, for some reason it seems easier to come up with an excuse to use a vacation day than it does to come up with an excuse to come in late or leave early. I will usually just say “I need a break and am taking Wednesday off” and that is the end of it. I haven’t had prying bosses, though…

    I would also follow the advice of the recruiter or HR person you’re working with in terms of the dress code. My company is very casual, and we always tell candidates that we’re very casual and there’s no need to dress up. Without fail, people show up in suits for interviews. I get that the standard advice is to dress up for interviews, but when someone at the company explicitly says “we’re casual, don’t dress up,” believe them and assume a suit is overkill. :)

  58. Not Rebee*

    Luckily I work at (and interview at) places that dress business casual so I don’t need to wear a suit to interview (I wear a skirt and heels and a nice sweater over a shell top) and I come in pretty late. I’d schedule interviews in the morning for before I was supposed to be at work and wear a shell I could wear with jeans. Like Alison, I’ve definitely changed from my skirt into jeans in my car in broad daylight (though arguably it’s easier to do this with a skirt than from pants to pants lol). For the one interview I took where it was far away and making it there and to work in the same day was just not feasible, I just called in “sick” that morning (and worried and felt guilty and nervous and awful about this for the entire planning phase) (but made sure to clear my desk of anything urgent in the days leading up to this) so that I’d have the ability to drive in the opposite direction of my office.

  59. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Without having read the answers:
    Change just before I get there (not always possible).
    Say you haven’t done laundry in a while.
    You felt like dressing up today.
    There’s an event after work that requires you to be dressed nice and you won’t have time to change.
    “Medical” appointments.
    “I’m sick, I’ll be later hopefully.”
    Tack it onto a genuine appointment. Interview before or after a real visit to the doctor, bank, etc.
    And mostly, before hours and after hours. If they like you as a candidate, they’ll do it. I’ve done 7:30 a.m. interviews twice and both times got the job.

    Once, after an interview, I HAD to go to a clinic and get script for meds to prove to my boss that I wasn’t lying – she actually wanted proof. I was appalled but I did it.

  60. Actuary*

    The general rule is take the day off, or take a partial day off.

    But in my field you usually wouldn’t be going on 20 different interviews in a short time frame – there just are not that many openings usually and if you are good enough to be getting called for that many interviews in a short timeframe you probably are good enough to get a job offer after the first few.

    Usually it ends up being 2-5 instances of taking off work. Or maybe more than that but spread out over a long job search (like if you are casually looking for a year). Often one or two rounds of interviews are phone interviews, which I have been able to take from conference rooms at work (depends on your office set up) or else you can try to find somewhere to do this on a lunch break. (I also have flexibility to work from home occasionally like bad weather or deliveries so have worked from home on phone interview days too). Then I have taken a few vacation days for in person interviews. In my field an in person interview could be 3-4 hours long, and to help myself not be stressed and give myself prep time, I’ve taken the full day off. I either don’t tell my boss why (just “I’m taking next Thursday off, let me know if there is an issue”) or say it’s an “appointment.” Most people won’t ask. Even if they assume you are interviewing they usually won’t say so outright… for all they know you could have a medical issue or some other private reason you want to take off work for.

    Taking the full day off also means you don’t have to worry about changing clothes.

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