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3 rules to follow if you have a job interview during work hours

14 Oct 2020

There are three important things to remember if you need to take time off for a job interview during the workday, writes Hays’ Jane McNeill.

Even though many interviews are now increasingly being conducted remotely, it can suddenly dawn on you that you’ll need to somehow manoeuvre getting time off to attend one. Although this may feel like a tricky situation, it is one that many jobseekers will inevitably face.

If you work flexible hours, or often work remotely, getting time off to attend an interview is usually relatively straightforward. However, if you are primarily office-based or if you are required to be in the office on the very same day as your scheduled job interview, it might be trickier to book the time off without worrying about the ramifications.

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. Try to keep it outside of work hours

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 – for example, you have that all-important client meeting scheduled – 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 days off for interviews during work

Often, the best approach is to book the day of the interview off as a 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 or deadlines you’re working towards.

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If you’re actively and regularly job searching, it might be a good idea to schedule a couple of interviews on one day 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. Be honest about it

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, I 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 you tell your boss?

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.

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.

By Jane McNeill

Jane McNeill is director of Hays Australia. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint Blog.

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