onsite job interview and missing work
April 28, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Amazon is apparently interested enough in me that they want to fly me to San Francisco to interview in person with members of the team I'd be working with. Great! The problem is, I'll have to take several unplanned days off from my current job. What is the best way to do this?

Because of travel complications, I'm going to have to miss three days of work. I live in the Eastern time zone, they want me to fly in the day before the interview, and there are no red-eye flights from SFO to my hometown after the interview without an overnight layover. So I'd have to fly out on day 1, interview on day 2, and fly back on day 3. There's no way around this.

Because of their timeframe, I'm not going to be able to ask for the time off in advance. There's no official policy saying I have to ask off x weeks in advance, but it would be highly suspicious to ask for so many days off so near in the future.

So it sounds like I'm going to have to fake an illness. I've done this before (one day only) for local interviews, and I've got the PTO to cover it. There was a big wave of sickness that just swept around my office, so I might be able to tie into that. But I just... don't feel that smooth. I'm not a good liar, and I'm already sneaking around some PTO to go to OB/GYN appointments with my wife (I haven't told anyone at work that she's pregnant, and I don't plan to for a while). I just have a bad feeling that they're going to find out and I'll get in trouble, and possibly fired. On top of all that, if I do call off, I'm going to have to wake up at 4am Pacific time to do so.

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips? How can I pull this off? Any advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest asking for time off for an 'unexpected personal matter', which is true.
posted by Mogur at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]

No, what you need to do is to invent a family emergency. Here is the email you send that morning.


Due to a family emergency requiring me to travel, I will be away through date. I have updated my outgoing voice and email messages."

If anyone asks when you return, look slightly dismayed and say, "Man, family, what are you gonna do?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

Taking personal time off for an interview is fine - if you get "caught" it's a little embarassing but you didn't do anything wrong.

Faking an illness to go to an interview is not fine. If you get found out you might well get fired.

See if you can push the interview back, and/or do more research, you might be able to get it down to 2 days with some work. If you can't push it back, think of a plausible reason for the time off. Do NOT offer it unless asked, imo.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

You could fly out on a Sun, interview on Mon, and fly back as early as possible on Tues (could you make it in for a partial day on that Tues?). Alternatively fly back on a weekend day, and have the interview on Fri, flying out late on Thursday after putting in some work hours.
posted by cubby at 12:10 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't fake an illness; go with "unexpected personal obligation."
posted by samthemander at 12:10 PM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]

Yes. "Personal emergency that I'd rather not discuss." is not a lie but don't fake an illness.

My policy is to provide as little information as possible when I need time off. They don't get to decide what is a valid use of my time.
posted by bondcliff at 12:12 PM on April 28, 2016 [14 favorites]

I wouldn't even call it an emergency per se, because then people want to know if everything's alright. You have personal business to take care of on short notice, or something like that.
posted by cabingirl at 12:25 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're taking things too personally. They are your earned vacation days and are part of your compensation. You can use them however you see fit and do not need to justify yourself. Just say you need the time off. Unexpected personal obligation seems perfect.

In general, don't feel bad about your company when you are looking out for yourself. The company is trained in how to replace people and will get by fine without you if you do end up leaving. You are not doing something evil or underhanded. This is the way the world works, especially in software where people move around every 3-4 years because its the only way to get a decent salary bump. You don't need to sneak around and lie about what you're doing. You need the time off for something unexpected.
posted by cmm at 12:26 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

"Something's come up at home, and I'm going to need to take vacation days next week. I'm sorry to spring this on you." "No, it's nothing awful, but I can't come in. I'll make sure to get all the X done by Tuesday, and I'll be back Friday."

Reasons I have taken vacation time that involved about a week's notice:
Waiting for the repair/cable/etc guy or major delivery, having home remodeling done, moving house (knew what weekend it was, but decided at the last minute to take an extra day off to unpack), helping a friend prep for her wedding, staying home with my husband after his surgery, sudden decision to drop everything and go surprise my mom on her birthday, father-in-law in the hospital... and yes, job interviews.
My point is, it's not illicit, and it's not suspicious to take vacation days, especially if you don't act furtive about it.
posted by aimedwander at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

My policy is to provide as little information as possible when I need time off. They don't get to decide what is a valid use of my time.

This. Your boss is not your mother, and you're not thirteen.

"Hey, boss, I need Monday-Wednesday next week off. I'll take it as PTO; I've got twelve days banked. I've arranged for Stu to cover these two meetings, and I should be available intermittently via email if anything huge comes up."
"Oh, what's going on?"
"I'd rather not say. Thanks."
posted by Etrigan at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

I may be making some unwarranted assumptions but I agree with cmm and Etrigan. If you're seriously contemplating a cross-country move to work for Amazon I'm assuming you're a white collar professional of some kind. PTO is PTO. Just say you're taking a few days off. Nobody needs to know why. People will ask out of social interest ("Oh, doing anything fun?") and you can just say you're taking some personal time or something else innocuous like that.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, second/third/whatever-ing the "you need no explanation" answers. Personal time is personal time.

A coworker of mine was in a similar situation (had to fly to SF for an interview on short notice), he just got the days off. Had anyone asked, he was planning on saying "eh, just needed some personal days" but no one ever asked. Good luck!
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:37 PM on April 28, 2016

Can you make day 1 a Sunday, or day 3 a Saturday?
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:58 PM on April 28, 2016

My coworker is basically a god at this. Everyone likes him, and he always gets away with it.

The correct answer is "I'm gonna have to take off early on friday".

His trick is that he almost NEVER provides a reason unless it's something he would be compensated for, so no one is used to expecting one.

I hope to one day be as good at this as he is. The sentences he uses would fit in a one line preview of a text message.

On preview, a big part of what makes this work is that it's never ever "Can i" or "I need to", it's "i'm going to" or "I will be". It's something that's already happening, like going to get paper towels because something got spilled on the floor.
posted by emptythought at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]

There's also the super vague "have a bunch of stuff I need to get done." I've used that for finally taking care of pet immunization + sitting at the DMV to replace a lost drivers license + returning clothes to that one store with sporadic hours, etc. But it would also apply to flying to Amazon.
posted by salvia at 1:02 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

It is not sneaking around to take off time that you have earned to go to a doctor's appointment, even if it is not your own. It is not sneaking around to take time off that you earned to do anything you damn well please. If this is earned vacation time, you owe them very little notice and no explanation. You don't explain why you are taking vacation time, you just take it (making sure everything is covered) and remain vague about what you are doing in your time off because it is not their business. If anyone presses you as to why you didn't give much notice, say that something urgent came up and it is all taken care of now. If they keep pressing, let them know it is a private matter.

If this is sick time that you are only expected to use when unwell, don't lie about it. That is sneaking around. If they roll it all into one, this is time you would have used for vacation if you had not used it while sick, so treat it as vacation.
posted by soelo at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ditto not lying directly. A lie of omission is fine. Also ditto that if you never provide a reason for taking time off, nobody will question it. I don't even tell people when I'm going on vacation anymore, I just say I'm going to be out of town, send a reminder before I leave, and if anyone asks me about my trip I am vague with the details. Don't train your coworkers to expect to know your activities when you're not in the office.

Keep it vague. Like in so many sitcom plots, if you try to craft an elaborate cover, you'll inevitably be unable to keep your story straight or you'll seem nervous and suspicious whenever questioned about it. Finally, don't feel too guilty about interviewing. People do this all the time. You may not even want the job, as far as you know. You're just doing your due diligence to look into career options in your field.
posted by deathpanels at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't lie. Tell them you have an urgent personal matter and you're sorry for the short notice, but you really need to go.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:01 PM on April 28, 2016

As a boss: If I find out you're interviewing, I'm not going to be that upset. If I find out you lied to me about something, I'm going to be pissed. And if you tell me you're sick, or there's a family issue, I'm worrying about you and your well being.

Go with the generalized, "Something came up and I need to take a few days off next week" line. You could even say, "It's last minute, but I got the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a few days to see someone, and I'm hopping on it."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:16 PM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Also, if you have a non-insane boss, they're going to understand why you would want to interview with one of the biggest, highest-paying companies in the world for your position. In fact, it might make you look better in their eyes -- "wow, Bob is interviewing with Amazon? I guess we should consider promoting him." Not saying you should gloat over it, and being discrete makes sense, but it's pretty good if your worst case scenario is that your employer finds out that you're being wooed by a big fancy company and you've chosen a tactful and professional way of doing so discretely. Not so great if your worst case scenario is that your boss finds out you lied about your great aunt Mildred passing away.
posted by deathpanels at 2:40 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree, "personal obligation" is much better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2016

Just wanted to add one thing that I don't see mentioned here: Some bosses or colleagues will try to hit you with a direct shocker at an unexpected moment to see how you respond. For example, "how you doing today?" "Great!" "Awesome. Hey, are you interviewing for another job?"

I know someone who was caught in one of those and while it didn't make the employer look good at all, you might want to prepare a response.
posted by circular at 3:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

cmm is so right!

I recommend asking to adjust the interview date so you miss fewer days, though. "Cool" companies have done that for me when they were seriously interested, and I'm nothing special. If they refuse, maybe take that as a yellow flag? (Not trying to scare you -Amazon is a massive company with probably dozens of mini-cultures- but I'm assuming you've read this? Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace)
posted by jessca84 at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2016

> one of the biggest, highest-paying companies in the world

Um. I like Amazon. I've done the interview thing with them and they even offered me a job. But I wouldn't describe them as "highest-paying"[1]. In short: if finding the time to fly out there is going to be an issue, I'd make an effort to reach some kind of basic understanding with the recruiter person about salary and benefits before going to all of the effort.

[1] I'm sure not everyone will agree with me, but I've discussed this with a number of people and I'm not alone in my thinking.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:42 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, if they are willing to fly you out for an interview, they should be willing to wait a week or so so you can fit it into your life. I worked there. I would never have worked for a team that balked at a candidate who pushed back on flying out asap. Candidate experience is important. Never mind explaining it to work: not everyone can leave their family for three days without arrangements.
posted by R343L at 2:49 AM on April 29, 2016

(By week or so I mean they are trying to get you to schedule for a week or so out. They can wait another week so you can more orderly arrange travel. It takes months - sometimes a year - to fill positions. An extra week is nothing.)
posted by R343L at 2:54 AM on April 29, 2016

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