The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

November 06, 2012

How to Conduct a Confidential Job Search While Employed

A major challenge for an employed job seeker is ensuring that the search remains a secret until completion. Given the time and discretion required to work and look for a new job simultaneously, it’s easy for professionals to consider premature resignation.  As we have previously discussed, though, individuals are more marketable to prospective employers when they are presently working.  Sacrificing a stable job in exchange for a commitment to a full-time search for a new one does not reduce the risk of long-term dissatisfaction.  While being out of work does provide additional time to pursue new opportunities, unemployment will not guarantee an offer’s faster arrival; in fact, it may prolong the process.

As such, the best approach brings about the original problem: How can professionals best conceal job hunting from their current employers, given that it is in their best interest to resign after they receive job offers?  Unintentional disclosure to a colleague or supervisor often has disastrous repercussions.  If your manager finds out, “[t]hey will assume that you’re unhappy and worst case scenario, may start taking steps to terminate you. Supervisors want employees who are committed to the job, not to a job search,” explains Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes. To ensure that searching for a new role does not destroy your security in your current position, we recommend reviewing the following related challenges and corresponding solutions – because no one can afford to jeopardize their career by accidentally divulging their plan to resign.

Challenge: Bound to work 50-hour work weeks and two hours of commuting daily, I find that the only time I can search for jobs is while I’m at my desk, such as while I am eating lunch or during another small break throughout the day.  How can I effectively balance my time?

Solution: No matter how little free time you have during the week, never use your office computer or other company resources to pursue your job search. The majority of employers monitor staff Internet activity, and your supervisor will surely be displeased if your browsing history displays endless visits to Indeed, CareerBuilder and similar sites. Not only is such Internet activity unproductive, but it will be interpreted as blatant treason to your present employer.  Aside from limiting your perusal of job boards to weekends, you can use your commute or lunch break to examine opportunities via your personal smartphone, as long as you don’t allow for interference with productivity.  Also, consider partnering with a recruiter to reduce the burden of the search when your schedule simply will not permit full-scale commitment to the process. On a related note, refrain from using your work email address to correspond with recruiters and potential employers; instead, designate a personal account for such communication.

Challenge: I want to update my LinkedIn profile to improve my search, but I don’t want my employer to notice the changes and become concerned about my desire to leave.

Solution: Hide your activity from your connections on LinkedIn by visiting Settings and selecting “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” under Privacy Controls. Additionally, you can restrict particular connections from viewing your activity by choosing “Select who can see your activity feed,” available directly below the activity broadcasts setting.  Another useful strategy for stealthy LinkedIn usage is to modify “who can see your connections,” a feature that is also available in Privacy Controls. This is especially helpful for concealing new connections to recruiters or other individuals who might generate suspicion.  Unless you are unemployed, there is no need to amend your headline to include “actively seeking employment,” “looking for new job opportunities” or a similar phrase, as this is an immediate red flag to an employer. Recruiters will not discount your profile simply because it lacks such wording. The best strategy for LinkedIn, then, is to maintain a profile with 100% completion at all times – clearly displaying skills, position descriptions, and mentions of professional certifications. If your personal profile is always as current and accurate as possible, you can safely bypass the need to drastically alter your information when commencing a job search. 

Challenge: I’ve been offered an interview, but the employer’s availability conflicts with my own work hours.

Solution: The answer is dependent on the amount of exposure you have to your manager or other superiors on a daily basis. If your office is small, you will need to be especially careful in crafting an excuse for being away from your desk or out of the office for part of the day.  On the other hand, if you work in a larger organization, you’ll have a bit more flexibility, but should still be wary of impromptu meetings or gossipy colleagues who may suspect your intention to resign.  Either way, you should aim to schedule the interview first thing in the morning, during lunchtime or at the end of the day, citing a personal or medical appointment as the reason for your absence. The potential employer will understand and respect your preferences for interviewing at such times of the day. Another important consideration for interviewing during the workday is your style of dress. If your current workplace tends to dress fairly casually, the best solution is to bring a change of formal clothes specifically for the interview. 

Challenge: A job application asks if I’d like my current supervisor to be contacted. If I select “no” because I want to keep my search confidential, will the employer think that I have something to hide?

Solution: A reasonable prospective employer will understand your desire to conceal the search from your current supervisor for the time being. An acceptable compromise in this situation is to ask the employer to wait to contact until a final decision has been made regarding an offer.  If pressed for an explanation, tell the employer that you do not want to tarnish your strong relationship with your manager by letting him or her know about your decision to resign.  By asking the prospective employer to delay communication, though, you’ll enjoy a win-win situation. You’ll assure the new company that you have nothing to hide by granting permission to speak with your current manager and (hopefully) receive glowing reviews. Simultaneously, you’ll already have new employment guaranteed before your manager learns of your intended resignation.

Challenge: My colleague’s close friend is employed with an organization that I’m actively pursuing. Should I reveal my interest as a networking tactic, or does telling a fellow employee pose too large of a risk?

Solution: Networking via a coworker for a new job is typically dangerous and should only be attempted on a case-by-case basis. If someone you work with has a potentially beneficial personal connection to someone, you should decide whether or not you completely trust the person before disclosing your desire to leave.  If you can depend on the individual to keep your plan a secret, there’s still good reason to remain cautious. Be careful that you don’t declare that you are desperate to leave, or that you hate your current position or organization; you’d never want that type of sentiment to somehow reach your manager’s ears. As an alternative, casually initiate a discussion with the colleague in which you mention your passive desire to explore new opportunities in a particular industry.  Ideally, the coworker will not get the impression that you are immensely eager to find a new job, will keep his or her mouth closed and will refer you to friend. If this optimal outcome seems unlikely to achieve, remain quiet until an offer has been made.

Add Your Comment


Remember me?

Shoot me an email when someone responds?

Enter this word: