When you're employed and secretly job hunting, scheduling interviews is tricky. The best strategy – making the appointment outside of work hours – is not always an option, which means you'll need to ask your boss for time off. And you can't be totally truthful about the reason (yet) without the risk of pissing off your boss or even getting fired on the spot. So how exactly do you ask for time off, without unduly compromising your integrity or your job security?
There's no perfect answer.
Probably the most common method is taking a fake sick day. However, that method has a lot of flaws (such as having to fabricate an excuse that will pass the BS detector). But there is a less-imperfect way to get time off for an interview, without resorting to outright lies. It involves three steps:
- Schedule interviews early or late in the day.
It's less noticeable and less disruptive to arrive late or leave early than to mysteriously disappear, then reappear in the middle of the day. (Some people like lunch hour interviews, but I've always found the time limits nerve-wracking.)
- Ask for a half-day off.
Even if the interview is scheduled for a specific time slot, it might start late or run overtime. (Tip: Having extra time after the interview gives you an opportunity to write your thank you letters!) If you come back early, bonus! (It's that "under-promise, over-deliver" thing.)
- Be truthful, but vague.
Here's an example of what I mean by truthful-but-vague:
"I need to take a half-day off on the morning of Tuesday, January 27th. I should be in by 12:00, if not before. I tried to schedule it outside of work hours, but couldn't."
A good manager will not ask you for details. (Then again, if your manager was really good, you probably wouldn't be job hunting.) But if by chance the boss asks why you need time off, go with something like:
"I need to take care of some personal matters."
"I'm not comfortable discussing it."
"It has to do with my finances."
"I need to go for a follow-up appointment." [Good for 2nd interviews]
Everyone understands how the system works. You're not doing anything wrong by job hunting when you're employed. After all, you're entitled to time off, you're entitled to a personal life, and you're entitled to privacy.
When you resign, your boss will "figure out" that you were attending interviews while you were working. But as long as you handled it as honestly as you could, and didn't shirk your duties, the split should be friendly and result in a new job reference for future use!
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