Need time off work to attend a job interview? Here’s how to approach it

Need to take time off for an interview

Landing a job interview is always good news, and could lead to an exciting new step in your career. But balancing it with your existing professional responsibilities can be tricky. Even though many interviews are now increasingly being conducted remotely, you will still likely need to somehow manoeuvre getting time off to attend the interview, and potentially reorganise your work schedule completely. So what should you do?

What to consider when trying to take time off work for a job interview

Although this may indeed feel like a tricky situation, it is one that many jobseekers will inevitably face. Once you’ve secured an interview, the next immediate conundrum is how to get the time off work so that you can attend it.

If you are working flexible hours or on a predominantly remote basis, getting time off to attend an interview is usually relatively straightforward. However, if you are often workplace-based or if you are required to be in the workplace on the very same day as your scheduled job interview, it might be trickier to book the time in without worrying about the ramifications of doing so.

To ease any natural anxieties you might be experiencing, and to allow you to focus fully on preparing for your interview, we’ve put together several simple pointers that could help you arrange the time off required for your job interview.

1. If possible, try to avoid scheduling the interview during your working day

First thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or even after work are the preferable times to arrange an interview – although it might be easier said than done. So, if your interview is scheduled for a time that could be particularly difficult for you to attend, let your recruiter or the hiring manager know as early as possible. Explain the situation – and request some alternative dates and times. Most employers understand that it can be difficult to attend interviews during normal working hours, and so should be as flexible on dates and times as much as they can. Plus, by asking to rearrange to a more convenient time, outside of standard business hours, you show the employer that you are a loyal and honest employee who does not want to let their colleagues or clients down, which can only ever be a positive thing.

2. Take the day of the interview off as annual leave 

Often, the best approach is to book the day of the interview off as holiday. If this isn’t possible, could you ask for a half-day? This way, your anxieties will be significantly diminished. It will also allow you to focus solely on your upcoming interview (thereby giving you headspace to prepare and get into the right frame of mind), and not on the current projects you have on or deadlines you’re working towards.

If you’re actively and regularly job searching, it might be a good idea to schedule a couple of interviews on one day, in order to use your time most effectively.

At this point you may ask, what if I need to book time off for a job interview at short notice? Often, interviews are scheduled with relatively short notice, so holiday requests will need to be submitted at short notice too. However, it’s important to remember that you are making proactive steps to better your career, which everyone is expected to do at some point. So, if you’ve booked time off to attend an interview that could help you do that, even at short notice, you’re doing absolutely nothing wrong.

3. Avoid the temptation to invent an excuse to your manager

If you have been unable to move the interview time, it can understandably be tempting to manufacture a mythical doctor’s appointment or even call in sick on the day. However, we do not recommend this tack. If you nevertheless decide to do this, it is better to be vague and say that you have a personal appointment you simply must attend rather than lie and compromise your integrity. Ultimately, this can be a very difficult situation, but it’s not worth getting caught out in a lie.

Should I be honest with my boss about my job search?

In today’s world of work – a world in which we’re all living and working longer – it’s becoming more and more common for organisations to adopt an open and honest culture around career paths with their employees. More managers now feel comfortable having these conversations with their employees – even if it does lead to the realisation that a member or members of their team may be at risk of leaving for another job.

If you’ve already had a similar discussion with your boss, you may feel that it’s appropriate to tell them you have an interview scheduled. However, if you haven’t begun to have these conversations with your manager, it’s best not to divulge any such information until you’ve been offered the job and have the contract in your hand.

If you’ve followed this advice, you’ve helped to put yourself in the mindset for your upcoming interview. Without the anxiety that can come from sneaking around and worrying about what everyone from your manager to your colleagues will think if they find out about your job search, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to perform at your very best.

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