Part 2 of a series on planning your confidential job search
Like the classic submarine movie, Run Silent, Run Deep, a stealthy job search involves staying undetectable from friends and foes.
As we discussed in our intro to this series, in most cases it is better not to tell anybody at work that you are looking for work unless, of course, it’s already public knowledge, such as with a division closing or sale. If your boss lets you know of upcoming layoffs, obviously he or she will expect you to start looking.
This silence runs counter to most job hunting advice, but it applies only when you still have a job and don’t want your employer or colleagues to know that you are looking. Only you can weigh the pros and cons of secrecy. If you have colleagues who can and will keep your job search a secret, and they have lots of connections with your target companies or with job openings in your field, you need to decide whether to break the code of silence.
When you are working and job hunting, go ahead and be fussy about which positions and companies you want to investigate and network into. You have a job, so don’t try chasing down every lead. (That way madness lies. – Shakespeare)
If you are in a confidential search, don’t give it all away by being obvious.
Here are more ways to preserve your confidential job search.
Dressing Up, or Not
- For a man, if you show up for work one day with a new haircut, beard shaven, piercings removed, tattoos covered, and wearing a new suit, you might as well send up a blimp announcing that you have an interview scheduled. Try to make changes gradually.
- For women, sudden changes to hairstyles, dress, makeup, and shoes can also be signs.
- Try to avoid breaking your routine at work. If you usually dress informally at work, don’t show up in a suit for a “secret” interview later in the day. Better to leave the suit in your car and change elsewhere.
Do not ask your current colleagues or supervisors to be references if you are in a stealth job search. Do not list them on a reference list. If you have doubts that a reference will keep your search private, even if they don’t work for the same company, better not to ask them at this time. Stealth or not, do not list your references on your résumé.
When you apply for a job, it is OK to say you are doing a confidential job search and ask the them not to contact your employer or your references unless they are ready to hire you. Most savvy employers should respect that. Most also shouldn’t have a problem if you say you will share references with them after an interview, rather than before.
However, if they are preparing to make you a job offer, they probably will want to check with your current boss. It might be better to prepare him or her in advance rather than let them find out from a competitor.
Always check with potential references in advance if it is OK to share their contact info with your potential employers. Respect their privacy, too.
Also ways let your references know when they might expect a call from an employer or a reference. It’s OK to remind them which of your former successes you think are relevant for the current application.
There is much debate about whether listing résumés publicly is a good way to hunt for a job, stealth or not. Many job hunting coaches advise you to always customize a résumé to reflect your experience with the needs for that job. It is often better to network into a company to find hidden job openings than to advertise your availability publicly. When in a stealth job hunt, you probably should avoid using public résumés.
Rather than putting résumés out for all to view, consider using saved searches on Monster, Career Builder, Indeed, LinkedIn, and more narrowly focused sites. Bring the job listings to you rather than just hope an employer will find and read your résumé. There is evidence to suggest that the only people reading publicly posted résumés are people who want to sell something to job hunters or scam them.
Another option is to find a recruiting agency that will keep your search confidential.
However, in spite of this advice, you decide you must list your résumé publicly, here are some tips you can use whether or not you are in a confidential job search:
- First, register a private email address on one of the public services, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Outlook.com. Make it descriptive like “WonderfulAdmin@gmail.com” or “QAexpert@outlook.com,” or simply “JobHunter222@yahoo.com.”
- Replace your name on the résumé with “Confidential Candidate” with only your new email address in the contact information. Prominently display, “Confidential Search, please only use this email address to contact me.”
- On your public résumé, include your qualifications, but not your current position or company name.
- Even a phone number can give away your privacy, so don’t list one unless you are in that rare career where the use of burn phones is expected. Only use your special job search email address.
- Never use your business email address or phone number for a stealth job hunt.
- Describe your current employer in general terms, “software design shop,” “high tech manufacturing,” “fine arts nonprofit,” etc. Avoid titles or target market keywords that might give away your employer.
- Check your footers, headers, the file name and the document Properties dialog box! Make sure neither you nor your employer’s name show in the document metadata.
- Go ahead and use key words that describe the work you do, but be careful not to focus them so accurately that your job and employer would become obvious. (If you are a nuclear engineer experienced in electrical power production, for example, keywords might make it obvious which power company you work for and where.)
- Be sure to not include other people’s contact info or web links on your résumé, too.
- If somebody contacts with you after seeing your résumé, confirm that there is a real job available, ask what the caller’s association is with that company, and check to make sure the company is real. Scammers often use fake job openings to steal your confidential information. (Another reason to avoid public résumés.)
Do not schedule interviews during your work hours. Most potential employers, when told you are in a confidential job search, will try to schedule interviews during breakfast, lunch, or after hours. If you are due time off, you can try to schedule one or more meetings on a personal day. However, trying to schedule vacation days on short notice might raise a red flag. Taking one vacation day off every two weeks (or more) in the summer might be acceptable with some employers, though.
Don’t change your workspace decorations before you land your new job. Removing your photos, plants, and decorations could be a very visible sign that your commitment to work has changed and that you are thinking of moving on.
Attending networking events can be a part of business as well as part of job hunting. But sudden changes can make it obvious you are job hunting instead of just networking.
However, if your employer attends monthly Chamber of Commerce or other local functions, you can offer to help represent your company. After you attend a few, volunteer to help organize the next event.
In networking events, often the best way to meet the most people is to volunteer to work registration. If the group sponsors an annual event, that’s a great volunteer (and networking) opportunity. If it’s a job fair, volunteer to recruit or help the presenters. In addition to helping with networking, volunteer work looks great on the résumé.
Always have personal business cards handy. Even if you have company cards, you can add a personal one that includes you LinkedIn profile link and/ or your website or blog. Never hand out résumés at a networking event. That will blow your cover and the purpose of networking is to build personal relationships, not to ask others directly for a job.
Discretion is the Better part of Valor.
A stealth job search may make you feel more like a secret agent than like a job hunter. It’s more complicated than a normal job hunt. Ditch the public résumés, avoid sending out oodles of applications, and only ask those you trust for a job lead. Let the jobs come to you if you can. And network carefully.
Next in the series: Keeping Your Confidential Job Search A Secret on LinkedIn
Run Silent, Run Deep was a 1958 film released by United Artists, starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. It was based loosely on the novel of the same name by Commander Edward L. Beach Jr. which depicts the running of an American Submarine in Japanese waters during World War II.
“Loose lips sink ships” was a phrase used during World War II to remind servicemen and others not to discuss military matters where they could potentially
be overheard by spies.