How to conduct your Job Search like a Secret Agent

Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible photo

How to conduct your Job Search like a Secret Agent

Perhaps the best time to search for a new job is when you don’t really need one. If you’re already in a job, the pressure isn’t as great for you to take just anything that comes along. You can take your time and find the right position to suit your lifestyle. Searching for a job when you are still employed can be problematic. Here are some suggestions from our veteran recruiting team about how to keep your search confidential at the office.

Don’t tell your co-workers
You may be tempted to share your plan to make a job change with a colleague, or a mentor at your company. Word of your intentions could spread to other employees, or even your boss. When others discover that you are searching for another job, they may start to perceive you as disloyal or unreliable. You could be passed over for long-term projects or special assignments. If someone in the company happens to be gunning for your job, they may reveal your secret in an attempt to win over your boss. To ensure that your job search stays confidential until you receive a job offer, it’s best not to share your intentions with anyone at the office.

Don’t use work computers or company email in your search
According to data from the American Management Association, nearly 80% of major companies monitor employees’ use of e-mail, Internet or phone. You do not want your employer finding out about your job search before you are ready, and ideally, you want to be able to tell them on your own terms. Whether the company is monitoring your activity or not, your intentions could still be discovered. A co-worker may catch a glimpse of something on your computer monitor, or overhear a phone conversation. The reality is that most people, maybe even your boss, are usually open to new and better opportunities. Your employer may not harbor any ill will about your desire to move on to other endeavors, but you still shouldn’t conduct your search right under their noses, or make it obvious that you’re not happy. In some cases, you could risk losing your job if your search plans are exposed. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), some employers may have policies and procedures in place to terminate an employee if they discover that he or she is looking for another job. Those employees who are privy to confidential information, trade secrets or proprietary data may be asked to leave, possibly with pay, if it is discovered that they are searching for another job. This is often the case if the employee is leaving to work for a competitor.

Don’t conduct your search on company time
Obviously your employer is much more likely to discover your intention to leave your job if most of your search is taking place during your work day. Another good reason not to conduct your job search activities on company time is that it doesn’t look good to potential employers. The last thing you want is for a prospective supervisor to picture you someday using their company time to conduct a new job search. Another good reason not to do it: It’s just disrespectful. You owe it to your current employer and co-workers to do the job you were hired to do until you no longer hold the position. Instead, use your lunch time for things like phone interviews or scheduling in-person interviews. Pew Research shows that 1/3 of all U.S. adults (77%) own a smart phone, so sending and receiving emails, applying to jobs and scheduling interviews is more feasible today. Spend your weekends and evenings gathering research about companies that you are interested in. Don’t use your company email address or phone number as your contact information. Make sure that you have a professional, personal email to provide on your resume and for any correspondence with a potential employer. You may wish to take time off in advance for job research, phone calls and interviews. Vacation days, which can be scheduled in advance, are an easy way to make sure that you have ample time to dedicate to your search that won’t result in red flags at work. Unscheduled time off may create suspicion, whereas vacation days can usually be moved around to accommodate interviews with little or no real interference in your current office environment.

Don’t Draw Attention with Your Wardrobe
If your office is business casual, but you have an interview during the course of the workday, you may have a dilemma. Your colleagues may take notice if you’re suddenly more dressed-up than what your office environment dictates. This one difference could be enough to spark questions or rumors. Unless you want to invent a fictional relative whose funeral you must attend, you may need to get creative. If you are able to schedule time to make a wardrobe change prior to your interview, we recommend doing so. If you run the risk of being late for the interview by stopping to change clothes, you should consider being honest with the interviewer. Tell your interviewer that you would really prefer to be dressed in business professional attire, but that you are coming directly from your current employer and have a very tight schedule to adhere to in order not to arouse suspicion. First impressions are paramount when it comes to prospective employers, and you should make every attempt to dress in business professional attire for your interview. Our team recommends a professional, pressed, contemporary business suit with matching shirt/blouse, and a tie for men.

Don’t use your current employer or co-workers as references
This may seem obvious, but many applicants don’t realize that even if you don’t list your current boss as a reference, a prospective employer may contact them anyway to confirm employment, title and salary information. According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, more than eight out of ten human resource professionals said that they regularly conduct reference checks for professional (89 percent), executive (85 percent), administrative (84 percent), and technical (81 percent) positions.  You should specifically ask them not to contact your employer or co-workers if you need to keep your search confidential. Those employees who may have entered the workforce more recently will not have as many options for solid references about job performance. An article in Fortune explains that prospective employers will often accept other types of references in the event that you need your search to be kept confidential. You should consider contacting a supervisor that you reported to earlier in your career with whom you made a good impression. If it’s been a while since you worked together, you should reach out to tell them that they may be contacted as a reference and remind them about a specific project or assignment that you worked on together, and how it relates to the position you are seeking. If you’re asking potential employers not to contact your boss, you may need to provide some very compelling alternate references that will portray you in the best possible way. You can choose to provide other references other than your boss within your current company, such as a manager who is a familiar with your work, a subordinate, peers or clients, or an HR professional. However, this should be someone that you trust completely so that they will not reveal your intentions to your boss or other co-workers.

Don’t be too present online
We understand that this may seem like a bit of a mixed message. We’re always telling candidates how social media plays a larger role in the jobseeking and hiring department than ever. According to Capterra, nearly 95% of companies are using social media for recruiting purposes. In the case of a confidential job search, however, it’s best to remain low-profile. Don’t post anything about your job search or interview activity on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Even if you have privacy settings, this information can get back to your co-workers and colleagues quite easily. Posting your resume on job boards also creates a greater risk that your employer may see it. If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure that it is complete. This is the first place that most recruiters and hiring managers will go to verify information about a candidate, Don’t indicate that you’re in search of another job on your LinkedIn profile, since this can also be viewed by co-workers or your boss. Be cautious about communicating with recruiters through LinkedIn messages or other forms of social media messages. Instead, converse with recruiters and hiring managers directly via phone or email.

Don’t check out too soon
If you’re thinking about leaving your job, chances are that the people around you are reading the signs. If your energy or level of enthusiasm has changed at the office, people around you may pick up on it. Do your best to stay engaged and involved at work until the time comes for you to make your exit. Even after you give notice, remember that it is important to leave a good impression on your former employer and co-workers so that you will always have them as potential references. While it is illegal to give a poor reference, you should do your best to make sure that your fellow colleagues and your supervisors have nothing but the best things to say about your performance and commitment during your tenure, and long after you’ve moved on.

A reputable recruiter or staffing agency can be a valuable asset when it comes to confidential job searches. Familiar with both the candidate and client sides of these searches, a veteran recruiter will be able to act in your best interests. They can schedule interviews and calls on your behalf, limiting the amount of time you would need to be actively involved in your search during the work day. A trusted recruiter can explain your need to keep your search private, and offer alternative ways to demonstrate how your skills and experience make you the right fit for a position.

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike.

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