How to get time off work for a job interview

8 min read | Mark Staniland | Article | | Interview advice

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Attending job interviews while working full time isn’t always easy. Here are our top tips on how to approach it.

Landing a job interview is always good news. Every interview could lead to an exciting new step in your career. But balancing interview schedules with your existing professional responsibilities can be tricky. Even though interviews are increasingly conducted remotely, you will still likely need to arrange some time off work or potentially reorganise your work schedule completely. So what should you do?


Taking time off work for interviews - what you need to know at a glance

The key to guilt-free interviews and a smooth recruitment process while working full time is to avoid lying to your employer. In practice that means: schedule your interviews outside of your usual work hours, or book annual leave for the day. If your current employer isn’t receptive to short-notice requests for time off, speak to your recruiter. Negotiate for an interview slot at a time that doesn’t overlap with your existing job.

We know that finding gaps in a busy schedule is not always simple. That’s why our experts have compiled guidance for how to balance work with interviews, side by side. We also share our top tips to help ease any anxiety so you can focus fully on interview preparation.

If you’re considering your next step and would like some expert guidance, get in contact with one of our recruitment consultants for a confidential chat about the career options available to you.


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 work flexible hours, or on a predominantly remote basis, getting time off for an interview is usually relatively straightforward. If you are required to be in the workplace on the same day as your scheduled interview, the situation becomes a little trickier. Here are a few tips to avoid worrying about the ramifications of the interview process: 


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. 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. They will likely be as flexible on dates and times as they can. As a bonus, asking to rearrange to a more convenient time, outside of standard business hours, shows the employer that you are a loyal and honest employee. Clearly you don’t want to let your 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 a holiday. If this isn’t possible, consider asking for half a day. Booking agreed leave should significantly diminish any anxieties. It will also allow you to focus solely on your upcoming interview and not on your current projects or deadlines. Arranging time off either side of your interview will give you headspace to prepare and get into the right frame of mind.

If you’re actively and regularly job searching, it might be a good idea to schedule a couple of interviews on one day. This will help to use your annual leave most effectively.

At this point you may ask, what if I need to book time off for a job interview at short notice?

It’s common that interviews are scheduled with relatively short notice, so you will need to submit a holiday request 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. Remember: if you’ve booked time off to attend an interview, 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 an interview appointment, it can 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 do decide to take emergency leave, it is better to be vague and to say that you have a personal appointment you simply must attend. We would never recommend lying or compromising your integrity. Ultimately, leaving your current job 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 nowadays feel comfortable having frank conversations with their employees. Managers would usually rather know if 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 that 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 received a job offer and have the contract in your hand.


What you need to remember about taking time off for interviews

If you’ve followed our advice and scheduled your interview outside of work time, there is no need to feel guilty about interviewing for new positions. Everyone has the right to further their career in the way that they wish. By planning your calendar carefully, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to perform at your very best. Planning ahead can alleviate the anxiety that comes from sneaking around and worrying about your manager finding out about your job search.

As your lifelong career partner, we are with you every step of the way and will be updating this site regularly with new guides, blogs and information to support you. 

About this author

Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant. In 2000, he launched Hays Education with just six recruiting experts. By 2007, it had become the market leading education recruitment consultancy in the UK with a turnover of £70m, and employing 250 staff.

He was appointed as Managing Director of Hays Midlands in 2011, and in 2015 was also appointed Regional Managing Director of Hays City of London business, based in Cheapside.

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