Interviewing while working full-time

It’s difficult to interview while working full-time. Scheduling is a nightmare, studying is tedious, and it feels dishonest hiding from your colleagues. Recruiters only want to talk during bank hours, but you still have a full calendar of meetings and a full week of tickets to complete.

Unless you have a very good relationship with your supervisor, you don’t want to make your job search too obvious until much later in the process. Keeping a secret from your peers is easy, but keeping a secret from someone whose job is to make you more productive can be impossible.

Stealth phone screens

The dialogue between you and a new company starts with a phone screen, sometimes multiple with recruiters, engineers, and hiring managers. If the company isn’t an early-stage startup, these calls will be during business hours; during each call you’ll have to set aside time during the work day to repeatedly describe how you are uniquely qualified for this position and solve trivial code exercises.

So many companies have been afflicted with the Open Floor Plan Cancer, a mutation of a good-intentioned design experiment that ultimately led to the loud and distracting work environments that we tolerate today. While great for collaboration (aka yelling at a teammate from across the room), open floor plans make taking phone calls from recruiters particularly challenging.

Depending on the size of your company, it can be hard to find a good place to take calls. Booking meeting rooms and phone booths is a great idea if everyone respects the room’s calendar. Schedule your calls a few minutes into your room appointment to give the previous tenant enough time to get out. You also want to avoid filling up your calendar with 30-minute appointments simply titled “hold”, get creative by using appointments like “call citibank” or “make dentist appointment”.

All bets off if a nosy colleague pokes their head in to remind you about a meeting while you’re halfway through your spiel about why you’re leaving your current employer.

Code challenges – do you even have time?

I’m not a fan of code challenges and skeptical of companies that rely on code challenges as part of their hiring process (I’ll write up a full post about this later), but some are still stubborn enough to ask candidates to spend 4-40 hours working on an unpaid project before investing any time on the candidate. These take-home tests were manageable when we were full-time job-seekers, but now the tables have turned and I think it’s reasonable to push back on companies offering code challenges.

Luckily, these tests can be done over the weekend so there shouldn’t be too many conflicts with your day job.

Just how many times can you get sick in a month?

You will inevitably get invited to a few onsites. This is the hardest part to hide from your colleagues. You can no longer book a phone room or take a long lunch – some companies actually spend an entire day interviewing you.

The first few times you can call in sick or schedule a dentist appointment. This gets suspicious very quickly if you’ve never called in sick before (even worse if the company just sent you a “Congrats on 1 year!” email). For this reason, you should make regular appointments with your doctor/dentist/therapist so it’s not suspicious when you suddenly need these extra days off. As an added bonus, by visiting the doctor regularly, you’ll be healthier and have nicer teeth.

If you’re in the pipeline at a few companies, it might be worth it to take a week of vacation and schedule all of the interviews during that week. This gives you time to prepare for and recover from each interview so you’ll give your best performance.


Now do everything, but four times in parallel

Companies are like toddlers – when one company expresses interest in hiring a candidate, all of its peers realize what they might miss out on and simultaneously take out their wallets. To get the best offer possible, you’ll also have to have several offers at the same time. Be prepared to get creative with your time and excuses. Here are a few OOO statuses you can add to your calendar:

  • doctor appointment
  • family visiting from out of town
  • enjoying the weather (make sure the weather’s nice or start wearing dark makeup)
  • renewing my vows
  • vegas (it’s never out of season and there’s no limit to how many times your friends want to go)
  • checking out apartments

Don’t get senioritis too early

When you’ve finished onsites and are just waiting for an offer, it can be hard to concentrate on work. Just keep in mind that no matter how interested a company might seem, offers can fall through for any number of reasons.

Don’t risk a bad semiannual review because you thought you had another job in the bag.

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