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Calling out of Work? How to Go on an Interview Without Getting Fired

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XtockImages/Getty Images
  • Limit the number of in-person interviews you're going on to minimize your boss's suspicions.
  • The reasons you give your employer for taking time off don't always have to be a doctor's appointment. Be vague or mix it up.
  • During the interview process, ask if you can schedule your appointment before or after work.
  • Keep all job search information off your work computer and phone.

Looking for a new job when you already have one is a balancing act. There is nothing wrong with trying to find something different, especially when your current job doesn't give you the professional and financial support you need.

Studies show that having a job can help you land your next one. Unemployed people spend seven times more hours per week applying to jobs versus employed candidates. Employed candidates are more likely to receive unsolicited contact from a potential employer or a referral, according to the Survey Consumer Expectations Labor Market Supplement.

However, being employed doesn't make the job search process easier. Employed candidates face different struggles, such as getting time off and staying engaged at their current jobs. Here's how to juggle your present responsibilities and potential opportunities. 

Interviews are tricky for many reasons, but when you're an already employed candidate, there are a few extra things to keep in mind.

Your interview isn't over until you're hired, so maintain a positive attitude, said Sara Menke, founder and CEO at Premier Talent Partners.  

"I feel that positivity is a key and critical factor in determining success within an organization," Menke told Business News Daily. "Given that you are interviewing for a new opportunity, there is a fine line you walk when comparing past jobs to an opportunity you're interviewing for."

How you speak about your current boss shows your potential employer what they're signing up for. Avoid bad-mouthing your employer or expressing indifference for your current position. It casts you in a negative light. [Read related article: Your Complete Guide to a Successful Job Interview]

Don't assume that your potential employer understands that your job search is confidential. They might assume you've quit or been let go. Mention that you are currently working and that you do not want your current employer to know that you're looking.

Remember, you can be legally fired if you are caught looking for another job. Only 34% of American employees are protected by some type of "just cause" contract, which sets an objectively reasonable requirement for termination.

Most U.S. hires are under "at-will" contracts, which grant employers the right to fire you for any reason, with or without notice. These are legal in every state, except Montana. It never hurts to make sure your potential employer knows you're currently employed and that your job search is confidential. 

Sometimes the best way to get off work for an interview is to work around your job schedule, so you don't have to call out sick. Consider asking for an appointment in the morning or early evening to cut down on work absences. Some prospective employers may be willing to meet with you outside normal working hours, and they'll respect your dedication and work ethic.  If you can work flexible hours, consider using that option to ensure you aren't missing work. Alternatively, see if you can take a day off and line up more than one interview on the same day.

It also helps to limit the number of in-person interviews you accept. Be choosy about which companies you're giving your time to, and do not interview in person unless you've had a detailed phone call and you know you're a semifinalist, said Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group. Not only does this keep you from using all your sick days (and excuses), but it also keeps you from wasting your time.

When securing time off for your interview, ambiguity is your friend. Use words like "appointment" or "commitment" that don't invite a lot of questions but aren't untrue. 

The problem with citing doctor's appointments is that after a few times, they become less credible, especially when you're looking fit and healthy. The time off you take for an interview doesn't always have to be a sick day ‒ don't be afraid to be vague in your reasons or mix it up a little. 

Looking your best for an interview is important, but if you're a T-shirt and jeans person, and strut into work in a suit, this may raise a few flags. Bring a change of clothes and get dressed in a nearby bathroom.

Don't announce on social media that you're looking for a new job because even if you're accounts are private, it only takes one screenshot to expose you. In addition to not telling your online friends, don't tell your co-workers either.

Posting your resume on a job board is arguably the easiest way to put yourself out there as a candidate, but it can backfire if your boss stumbles across the public platform. Also, be wary of replying to vague job postings as the position could be at your company.

Finally, do not, under any circumstance, use your company computer to apply or look for jobs. The same goes for phone interviews on your work phone. Print your resume at home or someplace else outside the office. You want to keep it off your work printer. The last thing you want is your boss finding your resume or portfolio in the shared work drive.

According to a recent Monster study, health-related issues are the most common excuses job seekers give for missing work to attend a job interview. Specifically, 44% of those surveyed said they have a doctor or dentist appointment, while 15% said they are sick. In addition, 12% blamed their absence on childcare issues, while 8% said it was because they were waiting for a delivery or a repairman.

"You should be focused on making a great first impression and learning more about your potential new job, not on playing secret agent," said Mary Ellen Slayter, career advice expert for Monster.

During your job search, LinkedIn can be your best friend, or it can shoot you in the foot if you're not careful with your settings. LinkedIn's stealth job search is designed for employed candidates. This is its way of helping employers know you're looking for a job without your current employer being the wiser.

When applying, you want your LinkedIn profile to be polished and complete, but don't update everything at once, especially if you're connected to co-workers or your boss. Odds are, they'll get an update about changes made to your profile, which will seem suspicious.

Before you make any updates, go into the privacy and settings area, and click on the Turn On/Off Your Activity Broadcasts link. Make sure you uncheck the box, so your connections no longer get updates about changes made to your profile.

Let employers know you're interested in new opportunities by clicking the Manage Your Account and Privacy tab. Click on Job Seeking Preferences, and then turn it on by clicking on the Signal Your Interest tab. Within this Open Candidate feature, you can include a friendly note that explains what you're looking for in your next job opportunity and what you bring to the table.

We know this goes against everything we've said so far, but in some workspaces, your boss may recognize that it's time for you to move on. This is, of course, uncommon and depends entirely on your relationship with your employer.

If you have a close bond and feel comfortable having this potentially awkward and career-ending conversation with them, there may not be any blowback. They may respect your honesty and volunteer as a reference. If you're true friends, they may have even seen it coming. Keep in mind that even if your employer is okay with you looking for a new job, this doesn't mean they have to accommodate you or give you time off for interviews.

Being transparent can benefit your mental health and reduce anxiety during your job search, Menke said. The bright side is that you won't have to worry about hiding anything. But, remember, this is a very case-by-case situation. This shouldn't be a risk you're taking. You should be completely confident in your relationship with your employer before revealing that you're looking for a new job.

You've reached the last round of the interview process, and you feel positive that the job is yours. However, don't be overconfident. You never know what an interviewer is thinking or what can happen. A job isn't yours until you have the offer, and even then, job offers can be retracted, Menke explained.

"Sometimes it's not even about the candidate, but there's been a shift in the team or company," Menke said.

Confidence without confirmation is dangerous. Don't slack off at your current job because you feel that you may soon be leaving it behind. Maintaining the right attitude and a strong work ethic isn't only about respecting your current employer, it's a reflection of your character, Menke said.

"Our circles are small. Paths cross over time, and people remember," Menke said. "Make the decision to leave on top, and don't be the person who teeters out." [Read related article: 9 Things You Should Never Do After a Job Interview]

Simone R. Johnson

Simone R. Johnson was born and raised in New York City. She graduated from the University of Rochester in 2017 with a dual degree in English language media and communications and film media production. She has been a reporter for several New York publications prior to joining Business News Daily and business.com as a full-time staff writer. When she isn't writing, she enjoys community enrichment projects that serve disadvantaged groups and rereading her favorite novels.