If you’re trying to find a new job while still employed, there is one situation that can cause a problem: job interviews. On the one hand, it’s great that you’ve got an interview, but on the other, the company wants to do it when you’re supposed to be at work. It’s time to get sneaky and come up with an excuse.

But not all excuses are created equal. You need something that is an acceptable reason for missing work and not an obvious lie. Here are some factors to consider when crafting your story and sneaking out for an interview.

The no-risk option

If you don’t want to take any risk, use vacation time to have the interview – take either a full or a half day off. That way, you won’t have any stress about getting caught, which is a good thing when you’re already nervous about the interview itself.

If you do decide to take time off for a job interview, try to schedule a few interviews on the same day in order to make the most use of the time. Of course, you might not want to take a “holiday” for a job interview or may not be able to book time off for other reasons. For example, you might not have enough holiday allowance left, or you may not be able to book time off at short notice (depending on your company’s policies).

Be careful with how you dress

Wearing something smarter than usual can be a clue that you have an interview, so it’s an easy way to get caught out. Try to find somewhere (other than your office) where you can change before the interview (and after, if you are going back to your office) instead.

Choose the right alibi

It can be tempting to go big with your excuses, citing the sickness or death of a relative. You can be sure an excuse of this kind will be accepted, but it definitely has downsides, too.

For starters, there’s a limited number of times you can use it. If you are serious about your job search, you will have a whole bunch of interviews. Your boss might get suspicious after the first few grandmas kick the bucket. On top of that, even if you don’t feel guilty, there are potential repercussions. Your colleagues will probably express their sympathy, and you will have to be careful not to appear too chipper (you’re grieving remember). You’ll also be a bit stuck if you end up in this unfortunate situation for real and have to explain why your aunt is having a second funeral.

Excuses like this will also make you look far worse, if you are ever caught out, than a more innocuous one would. It’s better to stick with something understandable but on the vague side, which is probably why dentists or doctors appointments are the most popular excuse (according to a Monster.com survey).

You can start out by faking a simple checkup. Then, if you have more interviews to go to, you can claim there are follow-up appointments, such as having a filling done. The more complicated your make your cover story, the more chance is there of you getting found out. A boring, everyday excuse also means there will be less scrutiny on your absence.

If you want know know more about the results of that Monster.com survey, by the way, here they are. The respondents were asked “If you had to pick one, which is the best excuse to leave work for a job interview?”

  • 44% said a doctor or dentist appointment
  • 15% said they would pull a sickie
  • 12% said childcare
  • 8% said they would claim a delivery or repairman was coming to their home
  • 21% said other

It seems like a case of the wisdom of crowds here, as the other excuses have some potential pitfalls. Claiming to be ill is all very well, but your miraculous recovery the following day might be a little suspicious. Both the childcare and delivery/repairman excuses can make you seem a bit disorganised, and even if you end up leaving, you want to be seen in a good light at your current job.

Don’t leave it to the last minute

Don’t let your boss know at the last minute that you won’t be at work. That adds leaving your company in the lurch to already dubious behaviour. You know you’re not going to be in the office on the day of the interview; it’s only fair to share that knowledge ahead of time (if not the reason).

Think about timing

There are two timing elements you need to consider: when to have the interview and how long it will take. Wherever possible, try to schedule your interview first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. Coming in a little late or leaving a little early is much less conspicuous than going missing for a chunk of time in the middle of the day.

You should also make sure you allow enough time for the interview. Don’t assume it will be an hour. If things go well, you could run over. So leave yourself plenty of leeway (and don’t forget travel time) when figuring out how long you will need to be away from the office.