The Right Way to Lie to Your Boss About a Job Interview

It’s an impossible situation, almost without fail.

You land an interview with a company you’re genuinely excited about. But you have a job, and it’s hard to break away without either raising a few eyebrows—or being flat-out grilled about your absence.

So, how do you free up a time for these vital conversations? How do you get unstuck from your desk (and accelerate your career), without sounding the alarms with your boss? How do you exit stage left without weaving a convoluted web of lies?

It’s often not even close to a breeze, but it certainly can be manageable. Here are a few tactics to consider if you simply cannot divulge to your employer what you’re really up to:

1. Don’t Have a Dentist Appointment (Over and Over Again)

It’s the oldest trick in the book: Telling your employer (and co-workers) that you have a dentist appointment when you sneak away for a job interview. Guys seriously, just don’t.

The ol’ dentist excuse is bad for two main reasons:

  1. It’s cliché as all get out
  2. Your co-workers will invariably start counting your “dentist trips” and wonder what the hell is wrong with your mouth—or assume you’re lying, and at a job interview.

If you’re going to use a faux medical appointment as your excuse, at the very least go for some originality points (e.g. maybe it’s the gastroenterologist or the acupuncturist). Just, for the love, steer clear of “the dentist.”

2. Consider Piggy-backing It on to Something Else

Let’s say you’re having some windows installed or are eyeballs-high in a bathroom remodel. Projects like these often—understandably—require someone to be home to watchdog the service providers. When possible, consider booking interviews into the same day(s) that you’ve got handymen (or women) scheduled to come to your home.

This way, it’s understandable for you to “work from home” or take a personal day. It’ll also give you time to dress and prepare for the interview without being scrutinized.

3. Weave Elements into the Story That No One Wants to Discuss

I always (only half) jokingly suggest to job seekers that they report digestive troubles or a horrible, 24-hour virus (think: norovirus) as their “Why I need the day off” story. I will assure you that you’ll receive few questions from your boss when you even tip-toe into the “I need to stay close to a bathroom” zone.

And, if you cite a fast-moving (yet ever so contagious) virus as your reason for being out? Your colleagues will be grateful that you’re not being the hero who promptly infects everyone in the office with your ick.

Just do your best to not be spotted out and about should you go with this tactic.

4. Make the Story Believable, Yet Distinct

Another “little white lie” way to free yourself up for an interview is to create a story that’s relatable, yet distinct. Going back to our dentist appointment excuse. That’s relatable, but overused and not at all distinct.

Consider instead a story like this: “So, apparently my kids were conducting an experiment called: ‘See what happens when you put a bunch of Orbeez down the drain.’ We’ve all discovered what happens at my house now. And I’m going to need a few hours off for the emergency plumber visit.”

By the way – this actually happened in my house. Not pretty.

Please. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not generally a proponent of lying in the workplace. But, when it comes to breaking away for a job interview, I recognize that you simply cannot be truthful most of the time. And, if you want to make a career move, it’s imperative that you make yourself available.

So try not to get too busted up about it if you do concoct a story or use a bit of strategy in order to get out of dodge for a few hours (or days). Just do try and come up with a good one. And then make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the actual conversation by reviewing the most common interview questions and filling out this interview cheat sheet.

(You’ll be glad you did when you’re sitting in that sweet, new job.)

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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