Getting Started with a Confidential Job Search

One of the best times to look for a new job is when you already have one. Employed candidates are usually more desirable to some hiring managers than those who are unemployed. Some employers have even stipulated that applicants must be employed to be considered; although I’ve heard that some states have banned this practice in recent years.

Searching for a job while employed also has practical benefits. Your current salary can help offset job search investments, such as purchasing new suits or other business attire for interviews, hiring a career coach to help you get clear about your most ideal work, or enlisting the services of a professional resume writer to have your resume and LinkedIn profile updated.

Yet there are drawbacks to searching for a new job while you’re still in your current one. The biggest concern is that your current will employer find out you’re looking. Some bosses consider this disloyal behavior, even if they themselves would have no issue with poaching a candidate from a competitor.

Some companies even have internal or unwritten policies that if an employee is discovered to be looking for a new job, they should be replaced, to avoid having to quickly fill a key position when the employee’s two-week notice is given.

So, here are some key strategies to use when conducting a confidential job search, to keep it off of your employer’s radar:

* Choose carefully who you tell. If you tell anyone you’re looking for a new job, ask them to keep the information confidential. Be especially careful with co-workers, who might accidentally let it slip, or who may see you as disloyal. When in doubt, tell no one.

* Let recruiters know you’re conducting a confidential job search. Ask to be informed before you are presented as a candidate for a specific opportunity, so that you can know ahead of time, if your boss might know the people you’re interviewing with.

* Tell prospective employers that you are conducting a confidential job search. That will explain why you’re not listing co-workers or supervisors as references.

* Set up a free generic Gmail or Yahoo email account. Choose a simple and professional email address such as your desired job title; for obvious reasons, do NOT use your name in that email address.

* Create a confidential version of your resume, starting with putting “Confidential Resume” on top:

  • Remove your name and contact information, except for your generic email address and personal cell phone number.
  • Leave off your home phone number because a reverse phone number lookup may reveal your identity.
  • Provide a generic description of what your employer does instead of listing it’s actual name.
  • Omit the dates from your education section; having your degree, school, and year makes you easier to identify.
  • Save your resume file with a name that does NOT include YOUR name, e.g. “Sales Candidate for Sales Position with XYZ Company.” Be sure you check the “Properties” box in MS Word under the File menu and delete your name and contact info.

* Watch what you wear. If you typically work in a business casual environment and you show up in a suit because you have an interview over lunch, this is likely to arouse suspicion. Plan enough time to change before your interview, preferably NOT at your current workplace or the company where you’re interviewing; better yet, use your personal or vacation time for interviews; or schedule them after-hours.

* Keep up your efforts at work while you conduct your job search. In fact, go above and beyond with what you’re doing in your current job. Companies want employees who are committed to their job, not their job search.

* Look for other ways to get found and increase your visibility, such as opportunities to write, speak, volunteer and advise in your area of expertise, through professional association or club memberships. When you connect with the right people, the right opportunities will find you.

One of the best ways to connect with other professionals is on LinkedIn. While you want to make sure you have a robust LinkedIn profile, you must also be cautious about what your employers and colleagues will see. Read my next post in this series, which offers specific LinkedIn tips for your confidential job search. 

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