How to Keep Your Employer from Knowing You’re Looking for a Job

headhunterWith all the various methods for instant communication available today, keeping your job hunt a secret from your employer is more difficult than ever. And keeping it a secret is probably exactly what you need to do. In many companies, you can be fired for even attempting to look for another job. It’s often referred to as disloyalty to employer, which is a firing offense.

While it isn’t possible to guarantee complete secrecy, there are a number of steps you can take that will minimize the likelihood of your employer finding out that you are looking  at least until you are ready to let them know.

Use a headhunter, but not too many of them

One of the best ways to conduct a job search in secret to use a headhunter. A lot of people do this when looking for a job, but there are additional steps you need to take in order to cloak your effort.

Only work with one or two at a time. By working with only one or two headhunters at a time, you will be better able to maintain some control over the number of contacts they make. If instead you’re working with half a dozen recruiters, there is a very good chance that news of your search will get back to your employer. You simply cannot control that many people.

Be sure to emphasize that the search must be done in private. We often assume that a headhunter automatically knows to keep your search private. But never overlook the obvious let them know that it is private, and that they are not permitted to release your name to a prospective employer unless that employer has first expressed interest in your skills. In the recruiting industry, this is referred to as providing blind resumes. These are qualification-only resumes that provide no identifying information.

Let them know that the search must be very specific. Unless you are desperate to find a job, any job, instruct the recruiter to introduce you only to a very narrow range of employers and jobs that you would consider interviewing for. The last thing you want have is for them to blast your resume out to 100 or more employers at a time. That’s like announcing your search in the newspaper!

Keep your applications to a minimum

We just talked about keeping a recruiter from blasting your resume out all over the place. You need to follow the same advice. In most communities there are only a limited number of employers in a particular field, and most people who work in the industry know the major players. If you let every employer in town know that you are looking for a job, it may be just a matter of time before your employer catches wind of what you’re up to.

Network – but don’t ask for a job

When you network in the hunt for a job, try to do it from a different angle. Instead of being blunt about your desire to seek employment, instead try to establish common ground with someone who may be likely to hire you.

The idea is to build up a working relationship with other people in the industry by talking shop, and to get them to solicit you rather than the other way around. Since the prospective employer will have a specific interest in you, they will be careful not to disclose your exchanges back to your employer.

Never search on company time or on company equipment

It’s always tempting to conduct a job search on company time. After all, it’s always easiest to contact prospective employers during normal working hours. Since you are at work at the same time, you might want to make phone calls from your job. But don’t! In most organizations, someone always has a glass to the wall and is listening in. And nothing in an office moves quite as quickly as gossip!

Make any job hunting phone calls on breaks, on lunch hour, and after hours, and always outside the office.

Likewise, don’t ever use company equipment to help you in your job search. That includes company telephones, email, or word processing. Employers increasingly monitor the traffic on the systems, and you should always assume that someone is either listening or watching what you’re doing on company equipment.

Don’t discuss it with others

Have you ever heard the term loose lips sink ships? When it comes to searching for a job, discuss it with as few people as possible  and with no one in the office.

It’s very rare that work friends fall into the category of true friends. You often don’t find that out until there is some point of conflict. A friendly coworker might resent your decision to leave the company, or might even conclude that he can improve his own position in the hierarchy by ratting you out.

If you are planning a job search, you’ll want to engineer the entire process on your own terms. But spilling your guts to too many people, or to the wrong person on the job, could turn the job hunt from a choice to a necessity in short order.

Have you ever had an employer find out you were looking for a job before you were ready to tell them?

photo by thetaxhaven