I guess everyone has gone through this conundrum some time or the other: How to appear for an interview with a prospective employer in between a busy schedule at present employer - lie about the interview and take time off from work to appear for the interview or be honest about the interview with your team and manager? Professionalism dictates that we be upfront and honest.

Common sense suggests that we first first finish the interview and then evaluate the opportunity. What do most people do in this situation? I do not want to have a bad relationship with my team and manager, and have a slip in my work deadlines, if the prospective employer make a bad offer. However at the same time I also want to make sure I explore every opportunity worth looking into and keep myself acquainted with my value in the job market. Thoughts?

  • I was in the other side of the question more than a year ago, one of our employees came to me and my partner and asked us for an early leave (a week in advance) to showup in a meeting of a big government agency. We said yes of course. Also, we discussed later with my partner about the situation and we agreed that we were not paying him the market price and here everyone knows that this government agency pays very good, who can blame him?. We did not take it bad at all. We even wish him luck the day of the interview. Truth is (thankfully), not far from that he switched from 4hs to 8hs and today – Valor Oct 5 '12 at 3:35
  • I'd like to bring attention to this question: How Should I Schedule Phone Interviews While Employed; the community may vote to close as a duplicate. – jcmeloni Oct 5 '12 at 13:47
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    @jcmeloni, The previous question was about phone interviews. This one is about in-person interviews where the candidate must take time off from the current employer to go to the interview. – Angelo Oct 5 '12 at 15:03
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    @Angelo Time off for an interview is the same no matter how the interview takes place, IMHO (as a manager). One might be longer than the other, but the point and how to handle it is the same. – jcmeloni Oct 5 '12 at 15:10
  • @jcmeloni So then change the title of the previous question to reflect your statement and then label this as a duplicate. – Mechaflash Oct 5 '12 at 15:51

You are asking several different questions here.

In regards to being honest with your current employer:

You are under no obligation to tell them about interviewing elsewhere - not until you have accepted a position somewhere else.

At the same time, you shouldn't lie since if you do get caught lying in a situation like this, you might end up getting fired or mistreated.

You need to figure out how to interview without letting on that you are and without having an impact on your current job. If this is not possible, you will need to talk to your manager and see how to make this possible.

There are several ways forward:

  • Interview out of hours. Either before you work or after. Many companies will understand current working constraints.
  • Take some time off. You probably have vacation time - use a day to go to the interview. This is your own time, so your employer doesn't have to know. Will a day (or half a day) make such an impact on the work?
  • Start the process on the phone or online, during your lunch time or out of hours. It is possible that all it will take is a short phone call to find out that this is not a good match.

The answer to this depends a lot on the specifics of your situation.

On one occasion a few years ago, I basically told the other company that I had tight time constraints in my current job and couldn't get away for a three or four hour long interview loop, so I'd like to keep it very tight and then schedule something later if there was mutual interest. That worked reasonably well for them, and I was invited back that evening for another round a couple days later. It also probably reduced some of the potential for wasting time on their end, as either one of us could have cut off discussion after the first round after one or both of us came to the conclusion that it wasn't a good fit.

On the other hand, I don't really see anything wrong with a little white lie about going to run an errand, see the doctor, wait for the cable guy or some other typical visit with a professional that keeps the same kind of hours your day job normally requires. This gives you plausible deniability for up to a few hours out of your day.

More recently, I've enjoyed enough professional clout that I can schedule a quick phone call, meet someone from the other firm over a series of coffee or lunch meetings, things I'd be doing anyway at least on occasion with coworkers or friends who work nearby, and both sides can gauge whether we're meant for each other or not on a quick but manageable timeline.

There's really no convenient time for a job interview when you're gainfully employed, and many firms accidentally or intentionally rank people who don't need them more highly than people who are out of work, so it's actually really not a terrible problem to have; most companies are thrilled to work around the schedule of someone they suspect may be a perfect fit.

In terms of your own current work, as long as you have a plausible explanation for a brief absence and, if you are on a tight schedule, you make up for lost time, I wouldn't worry about hurting anyone's feelings while you're meeting with the firm that's pitching you a competing opportunity.

The dynamics change a bit if you're interviewing for a gig that's out of town, but you can adjust to those situations too; I've scheduled phone calls and videoconferences off hours or during lunch before determining whether it was worth the trip to meet in person. Most companies are ok with these arrangements because it's far too expensive to fly you out if you're not really interested. If you actually go out of town to meet the other firm, you schedule it around a weekend so that it doesn't need any explanation other than you're flying out of town for a quick visit with family or friends.

It's possible you may not feel like you're so powerful as to be in control of a job negotiation, so there's a chance you may feel like my advice is meant for someone of unusual professional status, but don't fall into this trap. By being gainfully employed, you are in a position of power with both your present and potential future employer, because you have the luxury of choice. If you get a competing offer, you are suddenly in a position to have two firms make a judgment on your value to them, and then you get to think about whether you're going to learn and develop more at one firm or the other. This is an incredibly nice position to be in.

  • "... as long as you have a plausible explanation for a brief absence ..." The only explanation you should need is that you're taking a day off. Does your employer insist on knowing what you're doing on your day off? – Keith Thompson Oct 8 '12 at 8:52
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    There are social reasons to leave some sort of explanation. I don't have a "boss" per se, I have coworkers who take some interest in my life. Being obnoxiously private can also have detrimental consequences. – JasonTrue Oct 9 '12 at 16:51

What's worked for me at times is trying to schedule the interview for after work hours. If they're seriously interested in you, they'll agree to that. Also, it indicates you're taking your current job seriously and aren't going to sneak out of the office when it's convenient, but try to find alternative options.


I'm going to answer the "how to do an interview when my current work schedule is conflicting."

First thing to do is try to find other means of communication to perform the interview. I.e. after-hours, phone, skype.

If that's not possible, there's this thing called "Personal Days Off" that most companies allow for their employees. Find out what your company policy is on taking personal days off, specifically the part about how far ahead you have to give notice of taking a personal day off. Then schedule the interview accordingly.

If that isn't available to you, then ask for an extended lunch period to run errands. Every company I've worked for usually gives a little flexibility for this. You can ask your boss, "I have some personal errands that I must attend to on X day. May I have an additional hour to do them from my lunch period?"

In some cases, companies are not flexible at all with this, and some may even be hostile to their employees for cases of taking any additional time away from their job for any reason (even for medical reasons!). In cases like these, your only real choice is to call in a sick day, or take the lashing for being late coming back from a lunch period.

EDIT: If you have vacation days and are willing, you can use those in place of personal days. However, I like actually spending my vacation days taking a vacation ;)

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