How to leave work for job interviews?
July 19, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I was just placed on a civil service test list, and canvassing letters and interview offers are coming in - which is good. Not so good is that I'm working full time and I'm having trouble figuring out how to get out of work for an hour here and an hour there to go on these interviews without raising any of my bosses' suspicions. Any tried and true ways to be out of work for an hour or so, more than once a week?

I work in a small law office - there's two lawyers (husband and wife) and two admins (I'm one of the admins).

Whenever one of the admins want to take time off, whether an hour for a doctor or a whole day, it is heavily questioned by the attorneys. It's not enough to say I'm going to the doctor, they want to know why.

I have been there for 11 months. In that time, I've had a few legitimate doctors appointments and then was out sick for a few days. I had to take half a day a few months ago to take part of the civil service test and that time I was "going to the eye doctor for a special test" and last months I was out for 2 hours in the morning "getting a cavity filled." Because the fake ones were spread out, it didn't feel particularly like my bosses might get suspicious.

However: I had an interview last week that had me in an hour late, and I have two interview scheduled for this coming week on different days, one which will likely bring me in an hour late and the other likely two hours late.

I've tried to schedule outside of work hours, or tried to schedule all on the same day, but no dice. I don't feel like I can keep having doctor's appointments, or start having car trouble, or suddenly have to take family to the airport.

I'm thinking I might cancel one of the interviews next week so that it's only one, but if the interview requests keep coming in, I don't want to have to turn them down, but I also can't afford for my bosses to fire me because they suspect I'm looking for other work.

If anyone has ideas or advice, I'd appreciate it! Thanks, gang.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you getting work done on your house? Or you could be helping your parents or grandparents out by needing to be there when some workmen come?

Also, they are not allowed to demand what the doctor appointments are for. They could ask for a doctor note but even that only says you had an appt, not why. Pretty sure.
posted by sio42 at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, this wasn't a lie, but it got me out of work twice a week for about an hour.

I was having mental health issues and trying out lots of different ways of dealing with it. On method had me go see a therapist twice a week for a while to do some intensive trauma therapy sessions. It was a small company and my boss was really nosy about why I was leaving. I said that it was private, and I didn't feel comfortable discussing it at work, but that I had a health issue that needed regular care. I stressed that it was temporary, but for two months, I needed to leave early twice a week. I offered to make up the time on other days, and did that, but my work didn't involve interacting with other people too much, so it was easy for me to stay late.

If it's too hard to just insist that it's private, I would see if you could say that you got bad results from your eye test and need some special care. This would require doing some research to come up with a plausible problem, but might be the best way.
posted by ohisee at 11:07 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you got kids? Can be a reasonable excuse.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:07 AM on July 19, 2014

Do you have personal time? Just say you have some appointments. It seems like you're making this into a bigger deal than it is.
posted by xingcat at 11:10 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whenever one of the admins want to take time off, whether an hour for a doctor or a whole day, it is heavily questioned by the attorneys. It's not enough to say I'm going to the doctor, they want to know why.

"That's private" is a perfect reason. They do not have the right to ask you these things.

Anyway, I would go with mental health situation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:11 AM on July 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's not enough to say I'm going to the doctor, they want to know why.
And your bosses are lawyers? Anyway, congratulations on your pregnancy and its attendant weekly-ish appointments, and best wishes that you're hired elsewhere ASAP.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:11 AM on July 19, 2014 [29 favorites]

I think the hard part is going to be that multiple interviews over a relatively short period of weeks or months is going to result in a number of a absences to be explained so that even the best excuses will begin to be unconvincing. That's why I'd say Iris Gambol's advice of a single medical situation that requires multiple absences to deal with it is optimal.

I googled "excuses to use when going for an interview" and found several results that might be helpful including one from that featured this list:
Picking a friend up from the airport.
House was burglarized.
Plumbing problem.
Sick child.
Sick parent.
Doctor's appointment for yourself or a family member.
Medical testing.
You have a migraine and need to go home.
You have a business meeting.
Personal business.
Appointment with an attorney to get wills.
Financial planning appointment.

That same site also invited readers to respond with their best excuses and got 74 response that you can find here,
posted by layceepee at 11:17 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Exercise accident/back injury and PT? I actually did have an old injury kick back up and needed weekly PT appointments for a while, and because it was an old injury, I wasn't actually visibly injured.
posted by Frowner at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have tried to schedule interviews towards the end of the day. I find hiring managers are understanding and will usually be willing to let me come in at 4:30 for an interview. I'm not sure if this is the best course of action, but it's what I've done since I value my privacy at work. No one at my office notices if I leave at 4:00 though. If your boss would notice, I suggest saying that you had flooding in your home and are interviewing contractors to fix the damage.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:27 AM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

One is scheduled: you have to take your SO or another family member home after a minor procedure involving sedation. The other one is by accident: omg your car's alternator went, you'll be there hopefully within an hour.

Or physical therapy for both.
posted by skyl1n3 at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2014

I was in this situation a few months ago. I am a bad liar and do not like to lie, so the things I used were partial truths (i.e. i scheduled a real thing to coincide with the interview). They included:

- picking up a friend/relative from the airport or train station

- allergy treatments (these are usually weekly or more than weekly, and ongoing)

- landlord emergency (plumbing, fixit/cable/electric company guy coming over)

- family member in town/sick family member or pet

- car problems

- migraine (obviously I did not schedule these on purpose, haha, but they happen to me and can necessitate my coming in a few hours early/leaving a few hours early)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:41 AM on July 19, 2014

Might you be helping someone (family/friend/neighbor/church member/etc.) make it into radiation/chemo treatments? You may be one of multiple helpers who covers the occasional session; it seems reasonable enough for the schedule to be inconsistent, and then there may also be things like MRIs, blood tests and general assessments, transfusions, and so forth.
posted by mr. digits at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2014

I would be careful about being dishonest; in some workplaces that can get you fired on the spot if caught. Better to say you have a personal/private appointment. If they pry you can always ask why they need to know.
posted by TedW at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2014

In a small workplace, as wrong/illegal as it is to pry, "Why do you need to know?" can be as much of a challenge to pull off as lying.

Given where the OP works, it's probably best to avoid excuses that involve attorneys, like will preparation. Also: No one should use jury duty, as real jury duty generates documentation that employers can request.

Recent real excuse I had, that could work for tight turnarounds: Doctor needed to reschedule an appointment I'd set outside of work hours to inside of work hours, I had a prescription that was running out, so I had to take what they could give me.

Also: If you can, staggering the interview times a little might not be a bad idea, and it opens more possibilities (car crapped out coming back from lunch, have to sign for registered mail at the post office/clear up something weird on your bank statement in person before closing time, pick up your neighbor's kid from school and drive them to somewhere because he has severe abdominal pain and is in the emergency room, etc.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:35 PM on July 19, 2014

Make all of your interviews. No sense in jeopardizing an opportunity to get a better job.

Here are some things that may work for you:

1. Physical therapy, preferably a family member's because you can't get documentation for someone else. Someone's knee replacement is a good one.

2. Shrink appointments.

3. Severe anemia resulting in massive amounts of blood work at weird intervals. It's done with an Oncologist-Hemotologist. Ultimate recommendation, eat more meat.

4. Narrow angles that may result in narrow angle glaucoma, laser surgery is how it's fixed and it's an outpatient procedure so you go in, do it, and go to work. You do one eye one day, another eye about a week later, and you're in and out for pre-op assessment, and post op follow up. Good for about 5 absences of 1-3 hours every week or so. Again, ascribe this to some mythical family member who's too freaked out to go alone or to drive afterwards.

I'd go in to the attorneys and say, "I've got an issue and I'm going to need a few hours off every week or so to deal with it. It's a private health issue I'd rather not get into, but I'll be happy to make up the time during the week, or to take it as PTO."

If pressed, bust out one of the above:

"My aunt was diagnosed with this weird glaucoma thing. It's no big deal, but she's freaked and she needs someone to pick her up and take her to appointments. You know how it is, family, whatareyagonnado?"

Hopefully, that'll be the end of it, and they just know that over the next month or so, you'll be floating in and out.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:01 PM on July 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Excuse 1) Your water heater was leaking and water was slowly creeping away from and spreading so you needed to wait for the maintenance people to come to fix it. This really happened to me once. Half of my bedroom had a soggy carpet. And if they didn't stop it, the whole bedroom would've been soaked and my stuff ruined. Excuse 2) They had temporarily stopped the leaking thinking it was resolved, but it started again so they had to come and replace it. And you wanted to be there when someone was in your house. This happened to me, they just bring in a new water heater and hook it up, and haul the old one away.

Another one I've used 1) I have an appointment with (cable company) to come fix my cable. I can't get online without it. 2) They were taking too long/they missed their window so I had to reschedule.

The key to lying is remember something that had happened to you before, and just saying it happened to you now. Per George Costanza: "It's not a lie if you believe it." Since you're trying to get out of there anyway, who cares what these asshats think. They will never really know why you weren't at work.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:03 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is pretty staggering that *lawyers* would be so keen to violate people's privacy in such a clearly illegal way as asking about people's medical details.

But since that's the people you're dealing with, I really hate dentist appointments. You go once, and then they want you to come back within a short period for multiple follow-up appointments. Just don't use Dr. Crentist.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you considered just quitting? I know this might not be feasible financially, but if you can, it would be easier. Tell them you're giving two weeks' notice but are also going on interviews, so will have days where you are late/leave early. It sounds like you are moving to a different field from admin work, so it's not like you're interviewing with other law offices (presumably).

Whatever you do, try not to cancel your current interviews--don't jeopardize your better future! If you can't give notice, sit down with whichever is your direct boss and say, hey boss, I've got some medical appointments and tests that have to be done next Wednesday and Friday that will make me run a little late. I'll be happy to make up the time, though.

They ask "What tests?"

You say "I don't feel comfortable discussing my medical issues; it's nothing life-threatening but it is important and I can't reschedule."

And then say nothing else. If they really press, well, you are dealing with some serious over-the-line behavior and can just repeat "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable talking about this with anyone but my doctor."

If it goes farther than that, i.e. they threaten your job or yell, just react calmly and remind yourself you're getting out of there. More likely they will grump about how you're causing problems and why can't you reschedule. All you have to do in either case is hold your ground. "It's just not possible and I need to do this. I will get my work done."
posted by emjaybee at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rather than lie to your employers. why not just take a vacation day or even a day without pay? Can you schedule more than one interview a day?
posted by Ideefixe at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2014

You could also go to the doctor for some swelling or pain in your leg, and then need to get an x-ray a few days later, if you think you aren't pushing it with medical excuses.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:06 PM on July 19, 2014

Do your interviewers know that you're currently employed and discreetly interviewing? I ask because I was doing this and I never had a real problem getting a prospective employer to schedule me in ways that didn't make me late to work or cause me to have to jump through a ton of hoops... because I made it clear that my circumstances would not allow that. Have you tried that?
posted by sm1tten at 2:13 PM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dental is good. Try crowns as an excuse.

I had porcelain crowns done and one of them had to be made three times - once the bite was off, once the colour was wrong. That buys you four appointments - crown prep, failure one, failure two, then success.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2014

This is probably an overabundance of caution, but you may want to have the mods anonymize this question. At the very least, you might want to strip some of the more identifying info out of your profile until you leave your current workplace. If they're the kind of people who will ask inappropriate and/or illegal questions about needing time off, I wouldn't put it past them to snoop online.
posted by katemonster at 2:35 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm against false excuses. I just try to be as noncommittal as possible. I'd probably just say I wanted to take advantage of some of my accumulated time off (which is part of my compensation) for errands. You know, this and that. I've got some car maintenance I need to do sometime. (But not: I have a car appointment at such and such time.) Maybe no reason. I'm just feeling tired and would enjoy a half day off to re-energize, that's all.
posted by ctmf at 2:41 PM on July 19, 2014

Maybe you have insomnia and some mornings you just can't even. That counts as "sick" to me, as a boss who has to listen to all the outlandish excuses.
posted by ctmf at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've also not ever understood the idea of firing someone for looking elsewhere. Why trade a potential loss for a guaranteed one?

I told my last ex-boss that while I enjoyed working for him, I'd be a fool to not keep looking for ways to do better for myself, so I was going to keep an eye out and sometimes check out an interesting idea. I told him that if it ever became a matter of being unhappy, that I would let him know. No hard feelings ever came of that arrangement, even when I did get sniped for a better spot, because he knew I was doing what was best for me and it wasn't about him at all.

Maybe he was unusual, but that conversation, if it works, sure beats having to sneak around like you're doing something wrong.
posted by ctmf at 3:00 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm very pro- false excuses, especially to bosses.

You're basement's flooded, and you have to wait for the plumbers. Don't have a basement, or you're not a homeowner? You blew a tire on the way in, and the "doughnut" had no air in it. You had an appendix scare. The dog got out accidentally and you've been frantic about it. You had a dizzy spell, hit the floor, and had to go to the med center to have it checked out.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2014

Oh, hey -- while I love a good single-issue medical excuse, if you have insurance through this job and it's administered in-office (making your own appointments easily verified) you might want to avoid that route in favor of a spiel like one of the ones already mentioned. Your aunt needs a ride to her physical therapy, it's definitely a short-term thing, she is trying to arrange her sessions first thing in the morning or at the end of the day for convenience, and offer to make the time up if that's do-able for you. Emphasize the short-term aspect, so you don't get drawn into any uncomfortable "formally filing for FMLA" conversations.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:31 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have a routine blood test one week, and something comes back a little high or low, so you have to go back for a second test a week later, and maybe even a biopsy the week after that.

Cable guy is a classic.

Your neighbors or apartment complex recently found termites or bedbugs (depending on where you are), and you have to get your place inspected; the exterminators want you to stick around during the inspection to answer some questions and in case they need to move your belongings
posted by kagredon at 3:37 PM on July 19, 2014

Excuses I have used in a similar situation.

1. Developing carpal tunnel syndrome that is hindering typing; have to go see a doctor for diagnosis and referral. Then have to go see a physiotherapist at least once a week for the next couple of weeks.

2. Back strain; physiotherapist again.

3. Dentist appointment (a good one, since these are always in business hours).

4. If coming in late to work; emergency plumbing issue, had to wait for the plumber, and you know how those guys never show up when they say they will... etc.

For me, these all had the benefit of being true at other times - the easiest lie to keep is one that is mixed with the truth.

I'm thinking I might cancel one of the interviews next week so that it's only one, but if the interview requests keep coming in, I don't want to have to turn them down, but I also can't afford for my bosses to fire me because they suspect I'm looking for other work.

As others have said, hiring managers will often understand if you have existing work constraints, and can be flexible about interview times. Ask if the interview can be rescheduled.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2014

If you have multiple interviews, and can schedule them on the same day, consider just calling in sick with the flu that day, or take it as a leave day. It's far less stressful then coming up with the excuses.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you take a late lunch to run errands and then work late to cover? This only works if the interview is close by.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:14 PM on July 19, 2014

DMV or other government agency related errand that can only be conducted during appallingly narrow business hours (depends on your location/DMV hours, pick the office and task best suited to your situation). In the Bay Area, everyone at my office was superb sympathetic when I (legitimately) had to go back a 3rd time in 2 weeks to get my car registered because they were only open Monday to Thursday 9-4, and the Sacramento mainframes kept crashing the computer systems state-wide...
posted by deludingmyself at 5:59 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I worked for the same kind of attorney, who demanded to know all the details of why someone was missing work. I thought I'd prove a point and flat out say one time, "I have a lump near my vagina and went to see my doctor," and that just opened the god damned door to "I know better than your doctor!" and "it's probably a cyst; here's I popped mine!!!1!" bullshit. (Still bitter.) This was the same attorney who would scream at our admin for eating lunch at her desk instead of completing some minor task, and the same attorney who threatened to fire our admin if the admin didn't quit her holiday orchestra in order to spend more time at the office (because 14 hours a day 6 days a week was just. not. enough.). Of course small business owners aren't allowed to pry like that, or traumatize employees for eating, or bully employees into quitting their beloved hobby, but in an office of four people, there's no corporate or HR to enforce that. So, no, I don't think you're making a big deal out of this. I understand 100% where you are and how desperately awful it is to be there.

I stayed at that horrible job with that horrible boss for way too many years, because I didn't think there was a way to interview elsewhere without quitting first, and I couldn't afford to do that. I got in at 8 am--good luck interviewing before then. I never knew when I was leaving work, because the attorney would start brand new, random projects when it was already an hour after "qutting time" and then get monumentally pissed if anyone dared leave before her. I could barely schedule after-work meet-ups with my friends, let alone a company to interview with. So, all that said, I really, really wish I'd been upfront and honest with the companies that wanted to interview me about the circumstances. I wish I would have said, "Hey, I'm one of four employees at a small company; I can't get away during work hours; I need to interview before X or after Y. Or I have to come in on Saturday. This is the same courtesy and respect I would afford any employer. If you can't make that happen, then I probably don't want to work for you."

What I actually ended up doing was taking the first decent job that (1) only required one interview, (2) wouldn't look too super weird on my resume, and (3) is easy to leave, should I choose to do so. (I got really, really lucky, too.) I also tried to schedule interview(s) for when the attorney would be out all day at deps or mediation, so if I was late, the attorney wouldn't be there. And I lied, lied, lied--dentist, gyno (see above), vet, etc. If you're sure you're going to be gone soon, lie your ass off about a medical condition that requires multiple visits. Absolutely don't make it something the attorney will want to get involved in (wills, car accidents, insurance, burglaries, etc).
posted by coast99 at 6:44 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few add-ons to some above suggestions:

Physical therapy doesn't have to be about some big easily identified issue. I'm going 3 times a week because I have really sore feet (probably plantar fascitis) but you can't tell just by looking at me. While there, I see lots of people doing strengthening exercises for knees, shoulders and necks, and all of them look completely normal walking in and out of the office. So a vague "crick in the neck" or "bum knee" can get you 8-12 weeks of 3X a week PT. My appts are scattered all over the calendar as I try to mesh my work availability with appt openings, so it's also reasonable that your appts are not on a regular fixed schedule, and sometimes you only go once a week while other weeks you have 4 appts.

Related to the Crown listed above: That buys you four appointments - crown prep, failure one, failure two, then success
You also might need a root canal after the crown prep but before the success.
posted by CathyG at 7:40 PM on July 20, 2014

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