I am seriously looking for a switch after a year in a company. I have very limited annual leave. I also don't want to use fake medical leaves. In that situation, how do I appear for interviews without giving any hints to my current employer that I am looking? I can ask for telephone interviews, but if the interviewing company asks for a one-one discussion, how can I politely explain the situation to them?

  • Is the potential new employer in the same area as your current one, or is it so far that it's at least 1–2 days time to travel there and back?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 13:27
  • Is leave without pay an option?
    – Blrfl
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:41
  • 4
    I've always just asked my boss for a half day (or full day) of vacation for "personal business". Never had any problems or reprecussions from doing that.
    – The Photon
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 4:33
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How to interview for a new job when working full time?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 6:27

7 Answers 7


Be forthright with the interviewer, they are supposed to work with you. You should be able to find time after work, between 5PM and 9PM sometime. Or even a Saturday morning.

Bottom line: you do have time for the interested company, even around work-hours. If they are interested enough, they will make time for you, on your terms!

It is really important to be stealthy, since the job you currently have is in your hand. When you show the potential empoyer that you really take your current position seriously, that is a good sign!

See also, this article : Interview Preparation How to Interview Without Your Boss Knowing . One key point from it is:

Harvard Business Review warns against scheduling the interview during your work hours and trying to get away from the office unnoticed.

  • 3
    For a lot of places this won't work because candidates need to be interviewed by a few people on their prospective team. Forcing employees to come in on Saturdays or staying late all the time for interviews is a bit cruel.
    – MrFox
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 15:31
  • 1
    @MrFox on the other hand, some companies have flexible hours to the point where the people you're interviewing with will be at the office after 5 PM anyway, because that's their normal schedule. You never know until you ask.
    – Tacroy
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 18:40

My take on most interviewing is that you want to treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. So just about anything that you'd be willing do once or twice is less ideal, you want to get some patterns going that you can repeat, without causing issues at work...

Phone Screens & Triage

The best weapon in your arsenal is to not have to waste time with interviews that are no where near your interest range. I call it "triage" - spend the most time pursuing the best opportunities. It's easier said than done. Tips include:

  • Apply widely, but book carefully - when you get a "hit" on your resume - calls or emails from recruiters, response to a posting, etc - carefully review details and be sure that it meets your basic interest - for example, job description, title, location, and potential salary range (if available). Send the most minimal response you can. "I'm sorry, this doesn't meet my needs, I wish to (single statement about need that isn't met). Thank you for the opportunity" - isn't abrupt, abrasive or wrong - it's respectful of both your own time and the reader's.

  • Use phone screens to triage - a phone call with the company and/or recruiter is never out of line. Use that phone call to get a better sense of the job. If you aren't asking enough questions to know if you are a good fit, you aren't using your time well.

You want to get to a point where the only on site interviews you do are a good bet - they are likely to be happy with you and you are likely to be happy with them.

Managing Your Work

Regular communications

One of the biggest giveaways is the employee who's cell suddently starts ringing constantly, or who always seems distracted at work. Couple that with a company in crisis, or a known bad job/person fit, and you can reliably predict the job hunt.

Be aware of your distraction level at work. Turn off the sound on the cell phone, take breaks and check mail, but not obsessively. Do what you can to keep distractions minimized. I found in the last hunt that there was a reliable pattern - posting to a job forum in the evening would generate a response from 9-12 the next work day, and further calls would trickle in for 3 days later. Knowing this, I could plan never to update the posting on a day that would also be high-pressure at my current job. And I'd know to turn off the sound on the cell.

Work Resources

Mileage certainly varies, but with the current availability of cell phones, smart phones, and wireless everything/everywhere - it's hard to argue that you need to take job search related calls and emails on any of your work resources. It's the best example of the right time to separate work life and home life.

Shifted Schedule

If possible, figure out a work schedule that does allow some flexibility to take interviews on site. Figure out a predicition for what an onsite interview will take. For example, many on site interviews can be a half day, although some may be only an hour. Plus travel time (varies heavily by location). The three best options are: - find a regular time to take a long lunch - find a way to come in late - find a way to leave early

The creativity that may be required largely depends on your situation. The goal here is just not to leave your work without the support it needs. Many people shift their schedules for family reasons, and you don't have to go into detail most of the time. I agree with the idea that taking medical leave is really tricky here - it tends to be non-repeatable.

That said, in a job with rigorous attendance requirements, you may have to commit some personal paid time off or time without pay. That said - trying to coordinate interviews is a win, but not easy in every industry.

It Never Hurts to Ask

It never hurts to ask. Asking for an early morning/late evening on site interview is totally acceptable. For the most part, a candidate who has a job already (and who is loyal to the needs of that job) - is fairly enticing. So being honest about a need to meet during non-standard hours is quite OK.

But be prepared to be told "no". Some opportunities will do it, some won't. It largely depends on the market and how flexible the employer needs to be to get the talent they want.


Schedule interviews before work or after work.

Most companies are more than willing to work around your schedule. Schedule early morning interviews or late afternoon appointments in order to keep red flags down.

If the organization you work for has a casual dress policy, keep your interview clothes in a gym bag and change off-site before your interview.

Change in the fitting room of a nearby retail store or if you have a friend that works in the area, change at their office and leave your gym bag with them. Should you change in a fitting room, be sure to give the fitting room attendant a heads up.

Take a vacation or personal day and try to schedule as many interviews on that day as possible.

If you are able to schedule an interview a few days in advance, immediately give your employer a heads up that you would like to take some time off.

Take phone-interviews away from the office in a quiet place, not at your cubicle or in your office.

While looking for a new job you don’t want to sacrifice a chance at losing your current one. You do not want someone walk by and overhear your conversation so have them off-site.

If need be, use simple excuses such as a doctor’s appointment in order to sneak away for an hour or two.

Elaborate lies or excuses can possibly cost you your current job. Should an interview take longer than expected, be sure to stay back in the office to make up the time missed.

  • 6
    ... keep your interview clothes in a gym bag and change off-site before your interview. A friend of mine got a $5000/year raise once because he decided to wear a suit to work (he had no other clean clothes!). He came in late because he was drafting his own progress report, and that afternoon when his boss called him in for the review, the boss said, "I hear you've been interviewing...we want to keep you here and are willing to give you a $5000 raise." :) Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 9:47
  • @ChrisGregg: LOL. But do people clothe up for an interview? Well, ok, I always forget this is a general site not just programmers.
    – Balog Pal
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:38
  • 1
    I'd be wary of changing in a store's fitting room - if anyone who works there recognizes you afterwards, they may think you're trying to steal the dress clothes.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 16:51
  • @BalogPal It may be culture-dependent, but generally in the US one dresses one "level" above the interviewers/corporate culture. A suit or blazer & tie are considered standard for most interviews, except at startups and "trendy" companies.
    – alroc
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 1:22
  • @Izkata I have in there give the fitting room person a 'heads up' Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 7:19

Do you have any flexibility with your hours at work? Perhaps you could shift your hours so that while you aren't working less hours, you do have some time during the day to take in an interview here and there. This presumes that the interview will require the same attire as your normal wear or that you add additional time for the trip to change clothes.

  • 1
    my working hours are fixed.Any time off I ask in the current situation will look suspicious to my employer.
    – jingli
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 2:34
  • @jingli Taking an afternoon off to attend to "personal business" would be suspicious? It should be a fairly common occurrence - doctor's visits, meeting with a bank/lawyer for an important financial transaction, etc.
    – alroc
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 1:24
  • @alroc. once is fine. If I get more than two interviews in a period of two weeks?
    – jingli
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 2:12

I think a lot depends on your geographic location and industry.

If weekend interviews and interviews outside of your working hours are out of question, then telephonic interviews seem to be the only solution for you.

For the face to face bit, a lot of interviewers will accept skype interviews. I usually make clear early on that I may or may not be available for a face to face interview. But I can always make time for a skype call. The best way is to install skype on a phone and give the interview. Or if you live close to work, you can have a more 'stable' skype call. But again, this depends on your profession too. For ex., if you are a chemical engineer and mixing chemicals in a lab is your job description, a skype call could kinda get complicated, yea ?


This is one advantage of driving a 'junker', cars that break down have to be put in the shop periodically.

One thing I've noticed is that prospective employers seem to like to hire people that are presently working - as compared to someone that's been out on the street for 18 months. Therefore your 'problem' is much preferable to the alternative. My usual approach (as of, say, the 1990s) was to identify an errand that had to be done over lunch, and therefore I would be gone an extra hour. Or I had to make a cross town drive and needed to leave at 4:00 PM in order to get to a professional association meeting at 5:00 or 6:30. If you need to visit the dentist anyway, take the afternoon off for both.

Some employers allow people to take 'half days off' although these come out of vacation. Failing that, see if you can interview after 5:30 or on weekends.


I like the accepted answer, but I think something often overlooked for short-ish first string interviews is simply getting lunch with the interviewer. If it's only going to be a 15-45 minute interview anyway, why not do it over lunch? It will be more natural for both of you.

The bonus there is you can earn extra points by picking up the check.

  • Might that be considered bribery?
    – Burhan Ali
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 7:52
  • Bribery, courtesy, tomato, tomahhto. Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 13:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .