I'm on my third software engineering job in the two years I've been out of school. At each job, no one has been allowed to take time off for any reason whatsoever. People have been fired in the afternoon for going to the doctor in the morning. I have coworkers at my current job who come in with the flu or pink eye, because sick time and work from home are banned. I haven't been able to take a vacation, nor has anyone I've worked with in my career. So at each job I work until I'm entirely burned out and quit, and take a month off before the next job. I really don't like this, and for my second and third jobs I've asked tons of questions in interviews trying to see if taking time off is allowed. I'm not good at knowing if a recruiter is lying so I've believed them each time.

I currently very much need to see a doctor, so I'm interviewing for a new job. How should I address that I haven't wanted to job hop, I've just had to?

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    Which country are you in? Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 22:41
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    United States. I've read a lot about how we're legally required to have this and that time off, but that just doesn't mean anything with at will employment. Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 22:50
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    What's wrong with what you've said in OP?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:08
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    What sub-sector of software engineering is this? (games, finance, operations, web service, app development, or particular industry it serves?). Knowing that will influence good answers. Are both these companies startups? Is the whole industry in which its serves serves known for its grueling workplace practices?
    – selbie
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:44
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    OP, are you some special category of person that might be more prone to exploitation of this nature? Are you in the USA on a visa (or lacking in work authorization), in a crappy job market, being farmed out by a temp agency, etc? You are either exceedingly unlucky or there is some factor that led you to have all these crappy employers. Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


At each job, no one has been allowed to take time off for any reason whatsoever.

That's highly unusual and also illegal in most states. It's also unsustainable: a company that behaves like that would never be able to retain any talent. One bad apple might be possible but three in a row is rather unlikely. Either you have extremely bad luck or you do something wrong when you choose employers.

I haven't been able to take a vacation, nor has anyone I've worked with in my career.

That's even harder to believe.

Your whole story will be difficult to explain, since the story is simply not credible. Some advice

  1. Make sure that your next employer is "normal" and offers standard benefits. Make sure you talk about benefits during your interview process and that you weave in a few cultural questions that get to this.
  2. Carefully examine your past career. Are you really sure that no one was allowed to take vacation or did you miss something there ? What other things were good or bad that you could talk about.
  3. Don't go into the no-vacation story. That's simply not credible and if you can't come with something better, use "personal" reasons. That's not going to make a great impression, but it's better than your original story.
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    +1. Even if this is true it is hard to believe so definitely best not to go into it.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:45
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    And don't even interview at places stating "unlimited vacations".
    – Jeffrey
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:47
  • Why no? Just curious
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 6:54
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    Because "unlimited vacations" often means "no vacations", or at least "you can take as much vacation as you want, but only with permission, and we never give permission". Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 18:32
  • I worked at a software company with truly unlimited vacation. As long as taking the time off won't put you behind on projects or otherwise impact your work, you put it on the calendar so everyone is aware of it and you don't come in. I took 3 weeks off for Christmas and nobody batted an eye.
    – WillRoss1
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 22:44

Be direct about your reason for seeking a new job. Perhaps you could say something like:

I'm very dissatisfied with my current employer's benefits and policies, especially about taking leave. It's important to me that I can have reasonable allowances for vacation and sick time, and that taking time off won't negatively impact my progression. That hasn't been the case in my current role, so I'm searching for a new team to join.

You might also consider raising your concerns inside your current organization to a trusted leader. The behavior your describe is unusual and troubling. If you're already making a plan to leave, you might also try to resolve the issues on your team in parallel.

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