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How to get time off work for a job interview

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Photo: Getty Images

You’ve been sending out job applications and finally, you get that phone call inviting you to interview for a position you really want. You know the company well, the pay is good and the office is a reasonable commute away. 

There’s just one problem. The firm has asked you if you can do the interview at 11am on a Wednesday - when you’re going to be at work. Excitement turns into panic as you realise you need time off to attend it. 

Finding a new job is no easy feat. Not only does it take time to search through job listings, there are lengthy applications, cover letters, rejections, negotiations and on top of that, keeping it under wraps from your current employer can be difficult and stressful. So how do you go about attending interviews without ruffling feathers at your current job?

“In an ideal world, you have a manager that you can be open and transparent with - one that will listen to your plans for the future and support your career goals,” says Jolene Foley, HR Manager at Vouchercloud. “Better yet you’ll have a manager who understands that you’re not going to be at your current company, or with your current team, forever. 

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“In the real world, we know that this isn’t always possible,” Foley adds. “Maybe you don’t have that open relationship with your manager, maybe you’ve seen how your manager has treated people who have resigned previously. It’s always possible that your current manager has taken staff moving on personally, too.” 

If your relationship with your employer is positive, it is best to approach the conversation optimistically. 

Be honest, if you can 

Hopefully, you are in the position where your manager knows you’re looking to move on and supports flexibility in your working hours around this. 

“If you don’t tell your employer, you have to consider the likelihood of them finding out anyway. If you work in a niche industry where everybody knows everyone, and word gets out, it could harm your reputation with your manager and potentially within your industry,” Foley says.[Text Wrapping Break] 

Lie about it 

Although this is an option, it’s not an easy one to pull off as there are just too many pitfalls. 

“It also adds to the stress of preparing for an interview, meaning you’re less likely to make the good impression you’re aiming for. This is not a tactic I would recommend,” Foley advises. 

“For anything more than a one-interview-stage hiring process, those ‘illnesses’ are soon going to make people suspicious. What if you don’t get the first job you interview for, or even the second or third? You’re going to have to make even more excuses, and it’s going to be harder and harder to keep up the pretence.” 

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Tell the truth, but not the whole truth 

If you have the option of asking your manager to take some time off without having to go into detail, then make use of that option. 

“In some cases, you can arrange an ‘appointment’, without giving too much information,” Foley says. “If you’re not in a position where you feel comfortable explaining that you’re attending an interview, this is probably your best bet.”

Avoid taking time off

Alternatively, if the interview is a shorter one, you could schedule it early or late during the working day - or perhaps on your lunch break if the new company is local.

“In some cases, companies will allow you to request interviews outside of standard working hours in the morning or afternoon around a standard work day,” Foley says. 

Use your annual leave 

 It’s painful to use up your holiday days attending an interview, but it’s one of the best ways to stay in good stead with your current employer. “Remember it’s supremely important to maintain a good relationship with the company you’re looking to leave,” Foley adds.

“A strategy I like to bear in mind is whether or not you have ‘credit in the bank’,” she adds. “It’s always easier to ask your employer for a little flexibility if you’re demonstrating the same principle - it’s about give and take. Whether or not you’re explaining why you need the time off at such short notice.”