How to Interview While Employed
It's the moment you've been waiting for - a company reached out to schedule an interview! But wait - how are you gonna have that interview while still working a 9-5? And oh man, what if the company decides to schedule MULTIPLE interviews across multiple days/weeks? What should you do?
Trust me, most of us have been there. And honestly, most (if not all) employers understand that you have a full-time (or even part-time) job that you must tend to and work around in order to interview with a prospective new employer.
So how do you schedule your interviews? And more important, how do you schedule multiple interviews without letting the cat out of the bag that you're actively interviewing?
Have Recruiters Work Around Your Schedule
When the recruiter informs you that they would like to schedule an interview with you, it's natural to want to jump right on it and sabotage your entire life schedule just to get in front of someone's face and do an interview. However, it's ok to slow down. Rather than throw your entire life in disarray for an unknown amount of time (because who knows how long the interview process will be), consider having the recruiter work around YOUR schedule.
Before committing to an interview, ask the recruiter how long the interview process will be in addition to how many interview rounds you are expected to go through. The answer will change for just about every company in which you encounter. Once you have this information, take a moment to yourself and check out your availability. If you know for certain that you can only schedule interviews on specific days, then let the recruiter know. It won't always be so black and white when you take this approach as you'll also be working with their availability as well. However, more often than enough, the recruiter will do their best to accommodate your schedule.
In the past, I could always count on my weekly work from home day to schedule Skype and phone interviews. Therefore, I let all recruiters know in advance that my availability was greater on that designated day. I also informed them that I had some flexibility with other days, however, I would need to know 2 days in advance so that I could make adjustments to my schedule.
If you don't have a work from home day, then take a look at your work schedule to get an idea of which day(s) of the week you could possibly take off or step away from work if needed. If you're unable to step away mid-day, then you may want to consider taking some time off.
Take Time Off
Whether your employer refers to it as Part Time Off (PTO), Leave or Personal Days, don't be afraid to use it! If you're already at the point where you have one foot out the door, don't be afraid to take time off to interview. More than likely, you're not obligated to provide your employer with a thesis stating why you need to take time off. And there’s honestly no need to lie either.
Just simply tell your employer: I have an appointment scheduled for <insert date> and I would like to request time off.
Some employers will request that you submit time-off requests two weeks or so in advance. If you're in that boat, then I advise that you meet your employer's request and follow protocol. Do not be afraid to inform your recruiter that you will need to push the interview out by 2 weeks so that you can request time off. It'll honestly show that you're respectful to policy. Not to mention, the recruiting and interviewing process is rarely if ever open for less than a week (unless the position has an immediate need for hire). Therefore, scheduling an interview for 2 weeks post initial contact by recruiter shouldn't do much harm.
If you're up for taking a half-day, then consider requesting half of the day off for an interview. Your employer may be willing to work with you if you request a half-day off rather than a full day. Just try to avoid jeopardizing yourself by running late to the actual interview.
Hold Phone Interviews During the Day
Let's face it, you don't have to be at home to take a phone call. You can literally be anywhere in the world. Therefore, if a recruiter requests a phone-screening or phone-interview, don't feel obligated to take time off from work.
If you happen to drive to work, consider taking the call in your car. For those who drive to work and park in a garage with poor service, drive to an area where your phone works best and temporarily park there. Years ago I found myself in the garage conducting interviews for a new job. Before hopping on the call, I would test my service with a friend by having them call me while I sat in my car. If the phone call sounded shoddy, then I would drive elsewhere. Don't hesitate to give this a try with someone before taking the call for your interview!
If you don't have the privilege to retreat to a vehicle, then find a quiet room in your office or walk to a nearby coffee-shop. It can be tricky taking such a call at your actual job so you'll want to be careful if choosing the quiet room option. I would honestly only do so as a last resort. However, you could also walk to the lobby and take the call if you're in a larger shared office building.
As for walking to a nearby coffee-shop, you'll just want to ensure that wherever you're meeting isn't distracting. The interviewer should be able to hear you loud and clear without hearing the barista call names for drink orders every 3 minutes.
So how do you avoid alluding to the fact that you're interviewing without jeopardizing your ability to interview?
This may sound counter-intuitive but the best thing that you could do in this situation is be present. If you know that you're already mentally checked out from your current job, the worst thing that you could do is slack off. Be the employee that you were when you were first hired. Continue to give it your best. Avoid missing out on meetings due to your need to interview. At the end of the day, you're still an employee with your current employer. In the event that you go through a series of interview and aren't extended an offer, you'll have to return back to the same office you've been working in and the last thing you want to do is give your employer a reason to terminate your employment all because you sunk into the mindset that you were leaving.
Finding out in advance how the interview process will be should help you with scheduling your interviews. If you have the mental capacity to do so, consider scheduling multiple interviews for one day. This helps minimize the need to continuously miss work. If possible, avoid taking time off on a weekly basis for a month straight. That'll certainly raise a red flag if you're requesting time off week after week (or worse, multiple days a week for an entire month).
I know you're excited to show off your skills and receive a new job, however, patience is truly a virtue when it comes to interviewing while employed. It can be tough balancing a 9-5 and multiple interviews. However, many of us in this industry (and honestly all industries) have been there. Make this process work for you and avoid burning bridges.