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The Confidential Job Search: What NOT to do

Mysterious man wearing a trench coat

Does your confidential job search have you feeling like a spy? Read these tips for keeping your job search secret.

Keeping your job search a secret can feel like a spy movie full of intrigue and suspense. Will your boss discover you? (James Bond music.) Will you avoid being fired? (Jaws music.) Will you ever work again? (Psycho music!)

Don’t let your imagination get the best of you. There are a number of safeguards to prevent your job hunt from being detected. Remember your spycraft and avoid these mistakes.

Don’t attend job fairs. One jobseeker reviewed the roster of participating employers at a job fair and didn’t see his company listed. However, as he made the rounds of the booths, his current boss spotted him, leading to an awkward conversation and his departure from the company sooner than he had originally planned. Some job fairs collect résumés and distribute them to all participating companies. A few companies enter these into a database to search for their company name to identify current employees looking for new jobs.

Don’t respond to “blind ads.” On a related note, do not submit your résumé for positions where the company name isn’t listed. More than one jobseeker has applied for “the perfect job” only to find it was their job being advertised!

Don’t conduct your job search at work or on company time. This includes not making calls from your work phone or on your company cell phone, or listing either of these numbers on your resume. You may still receive incoming calls from recruiters and prospective employers on your work landline or cell phone, but you don’t want a record of you initiating these contacts using company resources. Make calls at work only when you’re on break or at lunch — again, from your personal cell phone. (If you take an early or late lunch, you’re more likely to catch the hiring manager or recruiter at his or her desk.) And make sure you make the call from somewhere you won’t be overheard.

Don’t use your company computer for your job search. First, your search history is trackable, and all your inbound and outbound emails are probably logged as well. Don’t store your resume on your work computer, and do not use company printers or copiers to make copies of your resume. It might be overkill, but also don’t connect to your company’s Wi-Fi — even when you’re conducting job search activities on your own time, using your own devices.

Don’t use your company email address on any of your job search correspondence. Again, not only is it probably being monitored, but also it looks bad to a prospective employer that you are using company resources to support your job search.

Don’t post your resume online. Not only is it likely to be found by someone at your current company, but also resumes posted publicly stay out there “forever.” Even removing contact information might not help you from being identified. When possible, apply only for positions you’re interested in, and when possible, apply directly on the company website, instead of through a job board.

Don’t schedule interviews during work hours. Schedule your interviews on your day off, before work, during lunch, or after work. You may have to be creative about when — and how — you interview.

Don’t post about your job search on social media. Also, don’t post about being unhappy in your current job on social media — no matter how locked down you think your privacy settings are. Anyone can take a screen shot of your post and share it with anyone else.

Don’t suddenly start attending lots of networking events if you haven’t regularly attended them before. However, if you do want to attend professional association or networking events, volunteer to help at the registration desk. You’ll get a chance to meet everyone who attends, without appearing that you’re trying to meet everyone.

Don’t lie if you are asked if you’re looking for a job. That’s especially important if that question comes from your current boss. If you’re asked, be honest — but you should also re-double your job search efforts. In the event of a layoff, you’ll likely be the first to be let go, “since you were planning on leaving anyway.”

If your secret job search is getting nowhere, you may be playing it too safe. Contact me right away to find out how we might work together to avoid detection yet progress to the next step in your career.


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