Looking for a Job Quietly. Shhh!
Psst! Are we alone? Anybody looking over your shoulder at the computer screen? Are you using your employer’s computer or phone to read this? No? Good, because we’re talking about stealth job searches today!
Whether you call it a stealth job search, a confidential career search, secret job hunting, a passive job hunt, or prefer the euphemistic “lateral job move,” lots of people are doing silent job searches these days. What? You don’t know anybody doing a confidential job search? That’s because it works!
What Is a Confidential Job Search?
Basically, a confidential job search is what you do when you don’t want your employer (and the people in your office, particularly your boss) to know you are looking for work elsewhere.
Why Would I Want to Do a Confidential Job Search?
Today, layoffs are common, companies are sold, merged and shuttered, and many employees are considered temporary by their employers. A confidential job search may be what you need to do to prepare for a layoff or to advance your career someplace else.
With the lack of employer loyalty, even the most enthusiastic employee should be keeping his or her eyes open for their next job. Yet, managers still expect full loyalty from their employees, even if they will not offer loyalty back in the form of guaranteed employment or even a reasonable notice of a layoff.
It only takes one sudden layoff, when you are given five minutes to pack up all your personal effects into a cardboard box and then escorted out to the parking lot, to realize why your career objective today is not to hold a permanent job. The job hunt is permanent. It’s employment that is temporary.
One of the frustrating ironies of job search today is that employers prefer to hire somebody who is currently employed over somebody who is unemployed. If you have a job, you are seen as more attractive to hiring managers. This vision rankles if you are laid off and still have all the same skills that you had when you were employed, but you are seen as less valuable by some employers.
Even if your company poaches employees from others, your own boss may get upset when others recruit you. Some managers view your looking for work as a betrayal, no matter how many years you’ve worked for them or how good a job you do.
As a result, some bosses, discovering that you are looking for work elsewhere, will try to help you put your job search front and center by firing you immediately. Unless you have a union or other contract, you might not have any recourse as an “at will” hire.
Are There Other Reasons to be Stealthy in a Job Search?
There are several other reasons to keep your job search confidential:
If your current job gives you access to confidential info, planning, or secret research, your managers might not want to let you continue in that role for fear of what you may reveal to a competitor.
If you might work for a competitor, there might be legal implications involved in the move. You may have already signed nondisclosure, noncompete or other agreements, or be asked to.
Even if your boss appreciates your good work and supports your career goals, if she is directed from above to make staff cuts, the easiest person to lay off is the one she knows will likely be leaving soon, anyway.
Your workmates may also feel betrayed if you say you may leave. Or they may start competing to get your job. Rumors could also start flying about why you want to leave.
When learning that you are looking for work elsewhere, even your trusted office mates likely will find the news to be too juicy a bit of gossip not to share. Others may just want to “rat out” a competitor.
Likewise, if your supervisor, or the head of HR finds evidence online that you are looking for work, that can bring up some awkward questions at the office.
Finally, another good reason to keep a job hunt secret is that you, after looking at other companies and managers, may discover that you actually LIKE your present job and company. If you already announced you are trying to leave, staying might just be a bit more difficult, and the trust you had with others might be harder to regain.
Be Ethical to Your Employer and Your Colleagues
Continue to offer a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. Going out on a high note will help with future references and recommendations. Slacking off from your usual work quality may make your supervisor suspect that you are looking elsewhere.
When you are working 40-50 hours per week (not including commuting time), you will be tempted to use your employer’s computers and equipment during work hours for job hunting. Avoid this temptation, since many employers now track Internet browsing and phone calls, use keystroke capture software, and otherwise monitor employees. If your IT manager notices that you are spending a lot of time browsing job sites, or sending out copies of your resumes to other companies, or they track your actual email or phone communications, a quick note to your supervisor is likely to follow.
Do’s and Don’ts of a Stealth Job Search
- Do not use your workplace email address or company phone number for your job search and don’t put them on your correspondence or rèsumès.
- Don’t spend company time working on your rèsumè or your LinkedIn profile.
- Don’t make copies of your rèsumè on the company copier. Not only is it unethical to use your employer’s resources for personal use, it’s also too easy to leave a copy of the rèsumè behind (or jammed inside the machine), thus letting the cat out of the bag.
- Avoid using your employer’s Wi-Fi, even if you use your own phone or tablet.
- Don’t fax from the office’s fax machine for your hunt. It keeps records of where every fax goes and it may store the page image in memory or make an archival copy.
- Never send a job application using your company email service. Your IT department may be keeping copies of every attachment as well as the message. Many offices also use keystroke capture software to see what you type, and monitor which web sites you visit.
- If you have a company cell phone or tablet or laptop, they may monitor what you do on that device, too. If they notice you are frequently calling a competitor, that can lead to an uncomfortable meeting, whether you are job hunting or not.
- Never ask a colleague to lie or cover for you to protect your job hunt. You could both get fired for it.
- Never bad mouth your current employer if you are looking for work. It could get back to your colleagues and it will never help your job application.
- When away from home, use your own cell phone, tablet or laptop for your job search. (A smart phone or tablet is almost essential for a job search these days.)
- Create a new job search email address on one of the public email providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo! or Outlook.com. Make it professional sounding. (Don’t use a stodgy old service such as AOL, though, which might hurt your search.)
- Only job hunt during your lunch hour or during breaks. Never phone a potential employer from the office; it’s too easy for others to hear part of the conversation. Nothing will doom a silent search more quickly.
- Have a professional sounding voice-mail message. Then turn off your personal phone while working. Check for messages a couple of times per day when you can call back.
- These days it’s not that unusual to go outside to take a personal call, unless of course you work on the 45th floor or you’re employed by a national security organization.
- Although faxes are not common, they are still used in some workplaces and government offices. Instead of using your business’s fax, see our Frugal Guidance 2 article on fax services.
- Take precautions to protect your LinkedIn and other personal social media accounts from your employer. See our articles on Frugal Guidance 2.
- Do come back to Frugal Guidance 2 as we continue our series on Confidential Job Searches.
Top Secret Stamp image courtesy of “digitalart” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Shushing Woman image used courtesy of “imagerymajestic” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.