Avoid Getting Axed for Interviewing

Follow these tips to keep your search a secret.

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | January 2009


Should employees be fired for interviewing with another company? Sports pundits were  buzzing last week when Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo fired head  football coach Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets. While the practice might be a revelation in the sports world, DeFilippo’s actions probably didn’t surprise many in the private sector, where employees regularly risk termination if  they’re caught interviewing for another job. In fact, some managers start recruiting for a successor if they happen to overhear an employee talking to a recruiter on the phone or spot an employee’s resume posted online.

Considering the lack of job security and growth opportunities these days, it hardly seems fair to be let go simply for interviewing. But if you think you might be laid off or your compensation has changed for the worse, you may have to take the risk. If you do, follow these tips to keep your search a secret.

  1. Don’t change your attitude: Employees often disengage once they decide to look for another job. Leaving early, coming in late, or participating less during meetings are all tip offs to your boss that you’ve all but quit. Maintain your  momentum and your regular behaviors, because it could be several months  before you land a new gig.
  2. Conduct search communications outside the office: Return phone calls outside the earshot of fellow employees, use your personal computer or PDA – not your company-owned hardware – for e-mail, and avoid using company accounts for job search activities. Adjust your lunch schedule so  you can catch recruiters and hiring managers before or after their lunch break.
  3. Interview at a neutral site: Don’t assume that your co-workers will protect your secret, or that word won’t get back to your boss through the inter-company grapevine. If possible, try to schedule interviews in a neutral site, like a hotel lobby, recruiter’s office or restaurant, and don’t confide details about your search to co-workers.
  4. Use a confidential resume: Use a professional alias, instead of your name, and only list your city and state for your address. Don’t list company names in your work history, just a business description, such as “Fortune 500 technology company,” and don’t supply your references until you receive an offer. Give the interviewer a paper copy of your resume containing your full contact information and detailed work history, so you can exercise as much control as possible over the information.

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